A Beer Blog. Enough said.
One of the most misunderstood and underrated parts of the beer drinking experience is the foam or head that forms at the top when poured into a glass. I’m not going to get into the minutiae of head formation as that is a blog post of its own right. Instead I want to focus on demystifying it a bit.
Depending on your general knowledge of beer, you will either see beer foam as the bane to your existence or the mark of someone who knows beer and how to serve it. More often than not, foam is seen as wasted space. When paying anywhere from $3.50-6.50 per pint, you can start to see the rationale behind that view. If I’m paying top dollar for 16oz. of beer, I want that damn thing full of beer not foam. And I can sympathize with this a bit. I’m not the richest man to alive, so when I do splurge on ordering several pints of craft beer, I want to get my money’s worth. But with a little help from beer geeks like myself, we can make beer foam not only acceptable but cool.
The explanation that made all the difference for me was comparing it to a latte. The foam in a latte is thick and creamy, almost resembling airy marshmallows. The airy texture combines with the hot coffee and rolls over your tongue creating a whole new experience. The chemistry and physics behind bubble formation or nucleation also plays a big role. As the bubbles explode out of existence, they emit aromas of coffee and cream from the proteins that help create them. As taste and smell are directly intertwined, this helps create a more robust drinking experience. The same goes for beer foam. Hops play a large part in foam production along with malt proteins. So when the tiny bubbles pop, they emit all that malt and hoppy goodness straight into your nose. The foam then combines with the liquid as it glides across your tongue to soften the texture and create a creaminess and body you couldn’t otherwise achieve.
Beer foam is not only a texture and aroma thing, it is also aesthetically pleasing to the eye. In other words, it just looks badass. When nitrogen gasses (N2) are blended with carbon dioxide (CO2) it can create an out of this world experience. The nitrogen gasses help form very, very tiny bubbles. The foam that is created by this process almost resembles the texture of meringue. Not only does the head last a lot longer, the beer also takes on a different body. The beer becomes softer and less effervescent. This helps bring out different flavors that are lost in the crisp bite of straight carbon dioxide. For more information on gas blending, this website has a lot more information. If you want to understand more about the science behind head formation and retention, Craftbeer.com has this lovely article to help with that.
So I hoped this helped demystify beer foam a bit and helped you understand why beer foam is not only a good thing but a must for the full beer experience. Once you are done here, you should “head” on over to my uncle’s husband’s beer blog where he uses beer foam in another entirely creative way. His tongue-in-cheek, beer foam readings, called, Foamology.