in: Featured, Food & Drink, Living

• Last updated: June 2, 2021

How to Properly Pour Beer

Man pouring beer into pint glass.

Note: This is not a sponsored post. 

Tradition holds that St. Patrick himself spearheaded converting the pagan Irish countryside to Christianity in the second half of the 5th century. Today, on the day that celebrates the revered saint (and the day which marks when he died, according to tradition), I’d like to convert you from improper beer pouring to perfection in a glass.

Why does it matter, you say? Isn’t beer a beer, no matter how it’s poured? Well, that may be the case if you’re drinking low-quality beer (I won’t name names), but when drinking a fine brew, it can mean a world of difference. When properly poured, the beer produces aromas and flavors that can only be present at the right conditions, and with the agitation of a proper pour.

In this short tutorial, I’ll teach you how to pour beer from a bottle/can/tap, as well as the special technique to employ when pouring a Guinness.

How to Properly Pour Beer from a Bottle/Can/Tap

The process for pouring beer into a pint glass is the same whether you’re doing it from a bottle, a can, or a tap. It’s also the same no matter the style of glass. Keep in mind that the process may vary slightly depending on the carbonation of the beer. India Pale Ales and Belgians will be a bit foamier than stouts or porters, so adjust accordingly to always get that perfect “head” (the foam on top).

1. Hold the Glass at 45 Degrees 

Man pouring beer into pint glass.

Make sure you have a clean glass, and hold it at a 45-degree angle while pouring.

2. Pour Beer at Midpoint of the Glass

Man pouring beer into pint glass.

Begin to pour your beer, and aim for about halfway down the glass. Don’t be shy; if you’re too slow, you’ll end up with no head, and none of those wonderful aromas that enhance the flavor.

3. Tilt Glass Upright as You Reach the Halfway Point

Man pouring beer into pint glass.

When you tilt the glass upright, you’ll notice the head start to form.

4. Finish Pouring with 1/2-inch to 1 1/2-inch Head Man pouring beer into pint glass.

Man pouring beer into pint glass.

The head had already mellowed a little by the time we took this picture, but you’ll notice it’s right at about half an inch. Anywhere from half an inch to an inch and a half of head is perfect.

5. Too Much

Man pouring beer into pint glass.

If there’s too much head, you’ve poured too quickly, or not at your correct angle. If there’s no head atop the beer, you’ve poured too slowly or at too steep an angle without tilting it upright.

How to Pour Guinness from a Tap

Guinness Master Brewer Fergal Murray pouring Guinness beer.

Guinness Master Brewer Fergal Murray

On any given day, about 5.5 million pints of Guinness are poured around the world. On St. Patrick’s Day, that number balloons to over 13 million pints poured. In fact, it’s estimated that over 1% of the world’s yearly beer consumption happens on this single day. If you’re going to imbibe in honor of St. Patrick, there’s no better way to do it than with a freshly poured Guinness.

Last fall, I had the opportunity to travel to Dublin, Ireland and visit the Guinness brewery to see how the iconic beer is made. It sits at the same location as when it was founded in 1759 when Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease at only $75 per year. (Guinness has since bought the property, but I had the honor or seeing the original lease in the visitor center.) I’ve done my fair share of brewery tours, but Guinness creates an entire experience for their visitors. It’s part history museum, part award-winning restaurant, and part bartending course (yes, anyone can learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness and even get a “certificate”). It’s a great experience if you’re ever in Dublin, and I highly recommend visiting if you get the chance.

While at the brewery, I was able to talk with Guinness Master Brewer himself, Fergal Murray, about how to pour his labor of love. They take their Guinness very seriously over in Ireland, and they have a particular six-step process for pouring the black elixir.

1. The Glass

Guinness glass illustration.

Use a clean Guinness glass. This glass is designed specifically for Guinness beer. Although you’ll find it often served in normal pint glasses here in the states, if you want to do it absolutely right, go with the Guinness glass. It also helps you in the following steps, as you’ll see below.

2. The Hold

Man pouring beer into pint glass.

Just as with other beers, hold the glass at 45 degrees. Instead of aiming for the midpoint, when pouring Guinness, aim for the harp logo on the glass. If using a regular pint glass, that’s about 3/4″ from the top.

3. The Pour

Man pouring beer into pint glass.

Fergal is giving me some tips. When pouring Guinness, slowly tilt the glass to an upright position, and finish the pour at the harp logo, about 3/4″ from the top.

4. The Settle

Two glass of beer.

This is what makes a Guinness, a Guinness. The nitrogen bubbles will cascade down the glass as the beer settles and takes on its black color.

5. The Top Off

Glass of beer and the little bubble of liquid at the top of glass.

After the beer has settled (a full minute or so), top it off by pushing the tap handle away from you. Fill the glass so you get that little bubble of liquid just above the rim. If you’re feeling creative, you can even practice pouring a clover into the head, like a true Irishman.

6. Enjoy Like a Man

Half glass of beer and little bubble of liquid.

A man never looks down into his beer glass. Instead, Fergal insists that when you drink Guinness, you keep your elbow up and out, and your eyes to the horizon. Then you’ll pull the beer up through the head, and enjoy your Guinness. When imbibed properly, you’ll see lines on the glass from each drink.

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