07/27/09

The Nose Knows: Why you should NEVER drink beer from the bottle

This is just a quick one; let’s consider it Beer Appreciation 101. Most of our readers don’t need this, in fact this is really more of a warning to the proprietors of drinking establishments.

Anheuser Busch (and all other makers of the fizzy yellow stuff most likely) have a single output from the brewery floor. All of the beer coming from the brewery is identical. Substantially identical. And yet how often do you hear someone spread the vicious untruth that beer tastes better from a keg than from a bottle or can? How can this be?

Picture yourself taking a sip from a pint glass, fresh from the keg. Where is your nose? It’s down over the beer, where it belongs. How about when you drink from the bottle? Floating in the air. The lip of a pint glass is bigger than the mouth of a bottle or can, and the latter simply will not accomodate your lips and nose at the same time. Go ahead, try…We’ll wait.

Why is this important? The human nose can detect thousands of distinct smells, often in infinitesimal amounts. The tongue can taste only five (six if you count capsaicin I believe). The rich tapestry of flavors in our food (and our beer) comes from the combination of these two senses by your brain; by not inviting your nose to the party you are missing out on all of the complexity. You can see this at work with any beer by simply pouring half into a glass and drinking the other half from the bottle. It is an astonishing difference, even with fizzy yellow lagers. Supercharge the difference by letting them each sit for a few minutes to let the aromas build up in the headspace and then breathing in as you drink (though this step is often unnecessary to see a real difference).

So I guess what I’m saying is, if you are trying to respect beer, never drink it from the bottle. EVER. If you are in a bar that serves you beer in a bottle without a glass, don’t be ashamed to ask for one,  send it back, or to walk out and never come back. Bar keeps, consider yourselves on notice. Anyone who disrespects the beer they serve is not worth our hard earned beer money.

Later this week – inspired by Mike’s discovery that the new Fremont Brewery in Seattle will be canning, rather than bottling their beer – we’ll delve into the debate on whether cans or bottles make more sense as a distribution mechanism for good beer. This was, however, a necessary prerequisite. Stay tuned.