There is both an art and a science to pouring a beer. Art because we all like to have our own technique, and science because a perfect pour allows a beer to show off all of its great characteristics. While you can of course pour a beer however you damn well please, this technique is the best way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your brew.
As a first step, select a clean vessel for the beer. A standard pint glass will do, but also feel free to get crazy and specific with pilsner glasses, stout glasses, even a brandy snifter for those more intense Belgian brews. Once you have your vessel selected, give it a quick rinse with cold water. No, you’re not making sure the glass is clean – hopefully it already is – instead your doing what all good bars do. Giving the glass a quick rinse of water makes the glass slippery, which in turn means there is less friction when the beer is poured. Less friction means a smoother pour that will result in a more fragrant head, and a fragrant head is something you very much want.
Now that the glass has been prepared, you’re ready to pour. Tilt the glass at a 45 degree angle and pour the beer slowly so that the liquid lands directly in the middle of the side of the glass. Once you’ve poured about half of the beer into the glass, straighten the glass and pour the rest of the beer directly into the center. Pouring the second half of the beer this way will allow for the half-inch to inch head of foam you want. Straightening the glass sooner than halfway would create more foam and you don’t want more foam.
But what if your beer is one of those rich, highly carbonated Belgian varieties or a hefeweizen, liable to foam over the sides of the glass if you straighten it out too soon? In this case, leave the glass tilted for almost the entire pour, only straightening the glass just at the end in order to create the head.
Whatever you do, don’t give the beer an aggressive pour. Pouring a beer into the center of an upright glass from the beginning of the pour will create a massive head, it also will deplete the beer of much of its carbonation. This might be something you prefer, since the depleted carbonation also kills a beer’s bitterness and acidity, but then all you’re really left with are the sweet, creamy, yeasty notes, and that’s not really what the brewer intended – plus pouring like this gives you a pretty good chance that more of the beer is going to wind up on the table or floor than in your glass.