Check out more of Jason Foster’s beer news and views at onbeer.org
I know. I know. I know. It is how you were taught to do it. Hell, the big boys’ TV commercials even do it that way. Yup, drinking straight from the bottle (or can, as it were). Your dad did it. I know you have done it. Tilt your neck back and take a good, long swig from the bottle. Seems natural, doesn’t it?
Why? If it was milk, you would get “ewws” all around. But for some reason with beer, it is not only acceptable, it is standard procedure. To be honest, it drives me nuts. Not only because it seems vaguely disrespectful – would you knock back a California merlot without a glass? – but also because there is not a real need for it. How far is that glass from you? 20 feet?
(I admit, I might not be talking to you, personally, but I know you know someone who does it. If so, forward this column to them.)
I know that shaming you isn’t going to work. Habits don’t die that easily. So, let me give you some data to get you thinking. Drinking beer straight from the glass is not just unseemly, it is wrecking your appreciation of your beer.
Beer is full of volatile flavours and aromas that are easily disturbed and morphed into less appealing compounds. That is why you shouldn’t serve beer ice-cold – none of those flavours comes out at extra cold temperatures. Nor should you store beer warm, as it speeds up that decomposition process and makes your beer old before its time.
Drinking from the bottle can be just as bad, if not worse. There are two main reasons for this. First, a majority of our sensation of taste actually comes from our sense of smell. Know when you have a cold all food tastes bland? That is why. If you can’t smell it, your ability to taste it drops off significantly.
Pouring a beer in a glass opens up the aromatics as the beer splashes down the side, and the large opening on the glass gives more space for those aromatics to release into the air – air that your nose enters as you tip the glass toward your mouth. Now consider a bottle or can. Very narrow opening and little opportunity for those fleeting aromatics to make it into you nasal passageway. Less aromatics equals less flavour.
Maybe that is okay if you are drinking some bland corporate lager (from an ice-cold cooler) in the first place. But I argue even that beer will suffer for the treatment you wrought upon it. Move to any even subtly flavourful beer and you will lose a huge chunk of your drinking pleasure.
And if that is not enough to convince you, listen to the following. And props to Ontario beer writer Stephen Beaumont (http://worldofbeer.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/what-i-learned-from-a-b-inbev-in-a-good-way/) for drawing my attention to this beer education lesson.
Take a bottle of your favourite beer. Get two glasses. Pour six to eight ounces into one of the glasses. Taste it. Now, pour the remainder into the empty glass. Repeat the transfer five more times. Taste the beer again. Odds are it will taste flat, boring and may have developed some unpleasant off-flavours. I tried this experiment myself and was appalled at how awful the beer tasted at the end.
What is this about? Well, the average drinker will consumer a 12-ounce (341 ml) beer in approximately six sips. Which means tipping the bottle and setting it back down six times, agitating the beer each time. The experiment is designed to replicate the act of drinking a beer from the bottle. By the end of all that agitation, that is what your beer tastes like. None too palatable, eh?
Sure, the experiment is probably a bit harder on the beer than actual bottle-drinking, but consider how hard it is to force beer out of a narrow beer bottle/can opening. Might come out even.
Even for me, who was already a beer glass convert, this was a revelation. I know agitation is not good for beer (hence why I let beer rest for a few days after travel), but I didn’t think the consequences would be that stark.
Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. I think you will be surprised.
I don’t care what your favourite beer is, or how quickly you prefer to drink it. If you consume beer for any tiny reason other than inebriation, then you will want to pay attention to this message. And if you getting hammered is all you care about, beer is the least efficient way to achieve that state and so you might want to think about switching to something more tasteless and potent, like vodka (not that I am encouraging that approach to alcohol consumption).
So, next time you want a refreshing beer, grab a glass before tipping that bottle. You won’t regret it.