What's in a pour? A certain Irish stout producer has drilled it into us for years about the perfect two part pour. If an Irish person is served their black stuff with a straight pour, they will probably exhibit the confused and panicked look of a deer in headlights. This world famous two part pour is said to take 119.5 seconds. Does that mean that in just under 2 minutes, you have a better pint of stout than if you had it poured in the 15 seconds or so it takes to pour a regular straight pint? That has been a subject of debate in many a pub but anyone in the know understands that this marketing ploy has traditional roots. Stout used to be served from two casks. First from a fresh but unsettled cask. After that glass settled, an older, settled, often souring cask was used to top it up. During the changeover to keg in 1964, the cask beer was topped up with fresh nitogenated kegged beer to help the transition.
This was the original two part pour and it hasn't been necessary since the introduction of the modern, pressurised keg. The ritual itself was kept on to help people accept the new style of beer and has become one of the greatest marketing tools ever created. I have tried it both ways many times and there's no difference once the beer settles at the end.
What about other beers with specific pours though? Another beer writer once asked me this question in relation to the two part pour. Can you think of any liquid that tastes different, depending on how you pour it?
I wonder does he remember that?
Pilsner Urquell have developed a tapster training program. A what? A google shows that a tapster is a person who draws and serves alcoholic drinks at a bar. Since many bar workers are untrained these days, Pilsner Urquell want to ensure that the consumer gets the ultimate experience.
Pilsner Urquell is a sessionable lager at only 4.4 % ABV. Indeed, it's the worlds first golden Pilsner.
So what does a tapster do that a regular bar man doesn't? Well, it has to do with the tankovna system and the 3 or 4 traditional Czech pours that Pilsner Urquell have pioneered outside of the Czech republic.
Now, looking at the image above, the two on the right might be considered examples of how not to pour a pint. In fact, the one on the left might also appear to have too much head and not enough beer to many Irish and indeed British drinkers. It's pretty typical around Europe though.
"A properly poured Pilsner beer should have a large head of creamy, wet foam to protect the lager beneath from becoming carbonated, making it a much more sessionable and tasty beer" - Robert Lobovsky, Pilsner Urquell Beer Master.
The one on the left is the Na dvakrát (crisp). It has the least amount of foam of all the classic Pilsner
pours with a smaller head that's not far off what we get in Ireland and the UK. This helps enhance the
refreshing carbonation of the beer, which makes the flavour bright and refreshing.
In the middle is the classic Czech Hladinka pour (smooth). About half of the pint us foam. This results in a perfectly balanced beer that is neither flat nor over-carbonated. The hop characteristics are preserved nicely. Robert told me that with the Czech pour, you should always be finished drinking before the foam dissipates and the beer comes into contact with air.
On the right is the oddest looking one of all. Mliko (milk) is almost entirely foam, which may seem unusual. The result is a smooth and creamy pour with just a bit of beer at the bottom – and should be drunk quickly. What's the point? This is all about those saaz hops because all of the hop aroma and flavours are contained within.
There's another pour called the Šnyt (shnit). It's basically a half served in a large glass and topped off with foam. It’s not as filling as a full pint, yet creamier and more refreshing than a half. You don’t see it every day, but it’s always on offer at traditional Pilsner pubs.
There's another pour but not one that Pilsner Urquell would ever recommend. Cochtan (neat) has no head and is all beer. Pretty much, you get the full bitterness of the beer with little hop aromas or flavours. It looks like a pint of certain cask ales really. I can't imagine Pilsner Urquell served like this.
My personal favourite is the Hladinka or Czech pour. In fact, at the recent European Beer Writers conference in Amsterdam, Robert was manning the tank bar and every time I came up, he asked if I wanted a Czech pour. Only once did I ask for a crisp and then another time I asked for a mliko on the side.
|Robert Lobovsky - three British tapsters in training - Vaclav Berka (Senior Brewmaster)|
The tapsters spend 5 days in Pilsen (Plzeň) learning their craft. They don't just spend 5 days learning how to pull pints. They learn the history behind the beer and the pours as well as some of the brewing process and then they do a little work experience in tankovna bars around Plzeň.
Don't expect to be able to get these pours from any Pilsner Urquell tap though. It requires the use of a special tap used on their tankovna system. The tap handle moves left and right and controls flow control. A normal Irish or British keg tap lacks the necessary control I would say. No harm in giving it a go if you are a publican serving the regular kegged beer I suppose.
I was there at the brewery when three tapsters graduated, received their aprons and certificates as well as a bag swag. Pilsner Urquell had kindly invited myself and a few other media types over. You can read a little more about that tip here.
Coming back to that question about does it taste different, depending on how you pour it? Fundamentally, the answer to that question is that no, the liquid itself does not. However, since a very specific type of delicate hop is used in Pilsner Urquell, and those hop oils get trapped in the foam, the overall experience, aroma and flavour are indeed different as a result.
The same can't be said about the two part pour of a typical stout and I imagine there are two reasons for that. Firstly, the hops used in most stouts are irrelevant as it's all about the dark malts. Secondly, most stouts are nitrogenated so they retain a creamy head and low carbonation throughout.
In Ireland, we recently only had one bar with a tankovna called The Bridge. I asked Robert if we had any tapsters in Ireland yet and he said no. I have never been to The Bridge either, it's something I need to rectify some time. A second pub called Lemon and Duke has recently got them installed. This appears to be a sister to The Bridge. According to TheBeerNut in the comments below, Pifko (Czech style bar) occasionally borrows a tank from The Bridge.