Some call it foam, some call it head, others refer to it as froth, the collar, or even krausen. Whatever your preferred terminology the white stuff on top of your beer is super important.
You may have been taught that having foam or head on your beer is a disadvantage. You’d not bea one if you’d been shown to pour a beer slowly and carefully down the side of a glass in order to minimise any foam. However, contrary to popular belief you are not being ripped off if your glass has a decent topping of froth. So controversial has been the debate over too much foam in 1982 a British Court ruled that a head of froth was an integral part of a pint so long as it was not “excessive or unreasonable.”
While obviously half a glass of frothiness would definitely be not be reasonable, two to four centimetres (one to 1.5 inches) is generally what you should aim for when pouring a beer. No need to get out a ruler - that’s about one or two finger-widths. It will be more beers such as witbiers, hefeweizens, or other brews that contain wheat, oats or rye. And less for higher alcohol beers.
Okay, then but back to the real question here – why would you want to create froth? We are here to tell your that head retention is a sign of good beer. Here are our four top reasons:
1. Foam contains bubbles. Bubbles contain aroma. And aroma is all important to getting the full experience when tasting a beer.
2. Foam protects the beer underneath. That delicate layer of froth is actually key to enhancing the quality of your beer. It acts as a barrier to oxygen, keeping your beer fresher for longer.
3. Foam enhances mouthfeel. Mouthfeel is just a fancy way for how the texture of a beer, or literally how it feels in your mouth. Foam softens the beer on your palate. If the foam is dense (think of that creamy topping on a stout for example) it makes the beer feel “fuller”. For some styles, such as farmhouse ales, the head is a critical component of how the texture.
4. Foam makes beer sit better in your tummy. Yep, it’s true. Pouring a beer to create a froth on top ensures that some of the carbon dioxide is released in the glass rather than in your stomach. If you’ve ever had the bloaty feeling after drinking a beer you’ll know exactly what I mean.