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May 11, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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The Purpose of Pouring

I find myself constantly comparing wine and beer. I usually defend beer by comparing it to wine because I see the two as equals, but many people don’t. Beer is often considered to be a lesser beverage and as a result, it tends to be treated with less respect.

A prime example of this is the use of glassware when enjoying said beverage. Now of course it’s not surprising to see someone drinking cold fizzy lager from the bottle, just as it’s unsurprising to see a Chardon bottle being sucked on. But when I see someone drinking a finely crafted beer from the bottle, it baffles me.

Like wine, a lot of enjoyment of beer can come from the aroma. I can spend minutes with my nose in a glass taking in the wonderfully diverse scents. Drinking from a bottle, you will never fully experience the work that goes in to craft beer.

Aroma isn’t the only thing that should prompt you to pour your beer. With some styles of beer it is essential to pour it or you’ll miss out on a good chunk of the flavour.

Unfiltered wheat beers, such as Hoegaarden, taste like half a beer if not poured correctly. Being unfiltered, a lot of flavourful yeast remains in the beer. When bottled, this yeast sediment settles to the bottom and to get the full flavour it must be mixed when pouring. When the sediment is mixed it provides body to the beer and brings out much stronger flavours.

A properly poured Hoegaarden (5%) will give you a mouthful of orange peel and coriander flavour, with a perfect candy sweetness to round it off. The two methods I use to mix the sediment are:

1) Before opening, turn the bottle upside down and twist.

2) Pouring two-thirds of the beer from the bottle, then vigorously swirl the remainder and pour.

The latter step is essential, as it mixes the sediment evenly and creates a big fluffy head—traditional in wheat beer.

Not all sediment is good though, as in the case of strong bottle fermented beers. You won’t find these in your average bottle store. Chimay White (8%) is a fine example of bottle fermented beer, and is quite common.

When poured correctly, this Belgian Tripel is brimming with citrus and clove flavours, a subtle sweetness and lingering bitterness.

Bottle fermented beers like this have had live yeast left in the bottle, where it continues to ferment the beer. Once its job is complete, the yeast drops to the bottom. This yeast tends to mask the flavour of the beer if poured, so is best avoided.

To prevent pouring yeast, ensure the bottle has rested upright for a few hours, then slowly pour the beer in one movement, leaving about 1cm in the bottom. The majority of the yeast will remain.

If I see another person drinking Hoegaarden from a bottle, I’m going to confiscate it and then pour it myself. You’ll thank me for it later.

If you have any questions about this week’s beers or any comments, please email me at

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  1. Stu as "Stu" says:

    You left out the third part of the average kiwi beer drinking equation… the beer that should be poured through a funnel ;-) ;-)

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