Thursday, January 28, 2010

Looking at Foam

So, one of my regulars planted an interesting question in this week’s review’s comments. The gist of it was, “What is the big deal about a beer’s head?” I was two seconds away from shooting out a reply when it occurred to me that I didn’t actually know! I mean everyone has been talking about it, so it seemed like something I should observe as well. Why should I care about head retention and size?

The head of the beer, along with it’s traits, will be determined by the malt used in brewing, as well as any additives such as honey or fruit flavorings. The beers that are going to have the largest, longest lasting heads use wheat malts, so you’ll find that pilsners (such as this week’s Old School), Hefeweizens, and their relatives will be more known for their head than, say, a good porter.

Looking around I came up with a couple answers. First off is an obvious one: Appearance. Frankly the head of a beer adds to its appearance. It adds to the aesthetic value, giving a nice contrasting color and texture, plus it’s just nice to look at.

Secondly, and this is more important, is the smell. The head is formed by all the trapped gasses rising and releasing at the surface of the beer. Your taste buds are heavily influenced by what smell you’re taking in, so you could be missing out on half the experience. You should always smell the beer to get everything out of it.


  1. It's the French Tip of Beverage aesthetics!

  2. Thanks for addressing my question. That makes a lot of sense. Now I might be able to find an actual appreciation in the head!

    Amalia- That's hilarious and will stick with me forever.