Ascot Racecourse has today unveiled research which dispels the long-enduring myth that beer should be poured at a 45 degree angle.
To celebrate our forthcoming Autumn Racing Weekend and CAMRA Beer Festival, Ascot worked with Food Scientist and Science Writer, Dr Stuart Farrimond, to investigate the best pouring angle, serving temperature and snack pairing to compliment the nation’s favourite tipple.
The study revealed that lagers and pale ales are best enjoyed at temperatures no less than 5⁰C, whereas other craft beers should not be served cool, but near-to room temperature, about 20⁰C.
The Autumn Racing Weekend and CAMRA Beer Festival takes place on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd October 2015, offering racegoers a memorable afternoon of exciting Flat racing, combined with the opportunity to sample and celebrate more than 280 deliciously different ales, ciders and perries.
When considering the optimum pouring angle for beer, it is important to appreciate how beer bubbles differ from those in other carbonated drinks. Beer bubbles have a rough ‘skin’ due to ‘surfactant’ molecules present in beer. This causes them to rise more slowly and grow larger than other fizzy drinks. Their unique structure is vital for fully appreciating a beer’s flavour – pouring from a bottle at more than 15 degrees results in a rapid bubble formation that ultimately impairs the taste of beer.
While tradition states that a beer glass should be held at a 45 degree angle, this is only appropriate when pouring from a long beer tap. Dr Stuart Farrimond’s research revealed that when pouring from a bottle, 15 degrees is the ideal angle to deliver the best flavour of each type of beer.
The primary objective when pouring beer is to reduce the speed at which the beer strikes the glass, and hence reduce the number of bubble ‘nucleation sites’ that can form. This speed of the beer is largely dictated by the distance between the top of the bottle and the surface of the glass (the beer-glass drop, or BGD). A larger BGD will result in more bubble formation, a taller beer head, and a blander, flatter beer.
A series of experiments* were performed using different glasses and full 500ml bottles of beer. Pouring angles were assessed and images of the pouring process were analysed. It was found that as the angle of the glass was lowered toward the horizontal (90⁰ = upright, 0⁰ = horizontal), the BGD was reduced, the number of nucleation sites lessened, and the height of the head dropped dramatically.
The in-depth testing also examined the ideal temperature that each type of beer should be served at. Temperature is not just a matter of cultural significance but also plays a key role in the beer drinking experience. Dr Farrimond’s research revealed that even slight changes in a drink’s temperature can have profound effects on the flavours that are perceived. As the temperature of a beer falls, so does the tongue’s ability to perceive its flavours.
In principle, therefore, a beer should be served warm to best appreciate its flavours. However, colder drinks are usually perceived as being more ‘refreshing’ – an important part of the beer drinking experience for many people. 20⁰C is the ideal compromise between these two factors for most ales. However, some lagers are ‘designed’ to be drunk at colder temperatures as they have overly harsh flavours that are only palatable when served very cold.
Dr Farrimond concluded that lagers and pale ales are best enjoyed at temperatures at or less than 5⁰C; at this temperature, ‘hop bitterness’ is the main perceptible flavour. At higher temperatures, this flavour is overpowering and unpleasant. Lagers tend to have a very simple flavour profile that is unpleasant when they are fully appreciated at warmer temperatures.
Other ales (medium, dark and stout) are preferred at warmer temperatures that are at ambient temperature, or near room temperature. In this investigation, optimum temperatures for appreciating flavours were 18.5⁰C for medium English ale, 21⁰C for a dark English ale and 20⁰C for a stout.
Since the 1960s, crisps have been the dominant snack in British pubs with salted nuts and pork scratchings being the next most popular offerings. The last 15 years has seen the emergence of ‘gastro pubs’ and bars catering to a more affluent customer resulting in bar snack offerings becoming more diverse; the ‘triad’ of crisps, nuts and scratchings however remains dominant for consumers.
Dr Farrimond’s research revealed that the rank order of preference for five different types of beer (lager, pale ale, medium ale, stout and pilsner) was crisps, pork scratchings, nuts, olives and then confectionary. However, for lager specifically, olives are the ideal bar snack for enhancing its flavour, adding a layer of complexity to a beer with a relatively bland flavour profile. Although sweets are the least preferred bar snack, they are best enjoyed with stronger-tasting ales; tasting notes reveal that the sweetness balanced the bitterness of dark beers.
Commenting on his experiments Dr Stuart Farrimond said: “As enjoying a pint in the pub is such a popular British custom, I’m delighted to be able to reveal how beer-lovers can maximise the flavour of their favourite beer.
I hope my research has helped to dispel some urban myths about the way beer is served and consumed and that the learnings will help beer-lovers to get even more from their drinking experience without feeling that they need to be a beer tasting ‘expert’.”
Speaking about the results of the experiment, Head of Communications, Ascot Racecourse, Nick Smith, adds: “This year’s CAMRA Beer Festival is going to be bigger and better than ever. Visitors coming to our Beer Festival are in for a real treat in terms of the range of beers that will be served combined with the exceptional racing on offer.
"There is much more than meets the eye when it comes to choosing, pouring and drinking beer and I’m sure that many beer fans have been truly enlightened by Dr Stu’s research.”
The Autumn Racing Weekend and CAMRA Beer Festival will be held at Ascot Racecourse on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd October. Premier Admission starts from £20 and Grandstand Admission from £15. Fine Dining and Private Boxes are available from £150 per person + VAT.
For further information and to book ticketsclick hereor call 0844 346 3000.