The perfect pour
Getting a mug of beer exactly right isn’t easy, we discover at the Global Bartender Finals in Amsterdam.
RINSE, pour, skim, check, and serve. Rinse, pour, skim, check, and serve. Malaysian Jimmy Goh had probably gone through the steps of Heineken’s Five-Step Star Serve ritual to pour the best possible glass of Heineken beer thousands of times, but this would be the most important rinsing, pouring, skimming, checking and serving he would ever do in his life.
Goh was up on stage at the final of the 2013 Heineken Global Bartender Finals at The Heineken Experience event in Amsterdam in The Netherlands, facing off against hometown favourite Sander van Veenendaal for the title of Heineken’s Best Bartender in The World.
To do so, he had to pour two perfect pints of beer according to the Star Serve ritual, put it on a tray, then walk with the tray down a short sloping pathway, and serve the beer to the panel of judges. Sounds easy? Tell that to the 18 other contestants from all over the world who Goh and van Veenendaal had to beat in order to get to the final showdown that we attended last month.
Goh was one of 20 top bartenders from Heineken Star Serve outlets all over the world vying for that title, all of whom have perfected the art of pouring a Heineken according to the Five-Step Star Serve ritual. They may have poured hundreds, or even thousands of Heinekens before back home, but this time, they had to do it in front of a panel of eagle-eyed judges who were scrutinising every single detail of their pour – from the cleanliness of the glassware, the amount of foam in the glass, and down to the smile of the contestant as he or she set down the glass of Heineken.
Now, you may think pouring a beer is easy, but being able to pour a consistently GOOD beer over and over again takes a lot of practise and skill, which is why Heineken came up with Star Serve in 2012.
Star Serve is Heineken’s global draught beer quality programme, designed to optimise the drinking experience of their consumers in each of the 50-plus markets where Heineken draught beer is available.
According to Heineken global activation director Hans Erik Tuijt, the company already has the quality of the beer down pat, but too many things can happen on the way from the brewery to the customer’s glass. “Before you are allowed to brew Heineken, you have to send in sample brews to Amsterdam, which are tasted by a taste panel and judged against many criteria. The quality needs to be the same everywhere, because people travel and expect the same taste of Heineken anywhere they go,” he said, adding that the purpose of the Star Serve is to make sure that bartenders are trained to treat the beer properly, and to make sure each glass of Heineken is served perfectly.
“I want you to get a perfectly served Heineken every time you order one, no matter which country you’re in.”
Heineken global draught master Frank Evers reckons that a customer would only order a second beer if the quality of the first was good.
“The first beer I have is the one that tells me about the quality of the beer. If the first one is good, then I would know the second one will probably be just as good.”
Five steps to quality
So how does the Star Serve ritual help ensure that you get perfect Heineken anywhere you go?
Explaining each step of the ritual, Evers stressed that there was a valid reason for every single step.
“First, rinsing. I don’t care if you are the best bar-keeper in the world, but if you start with a dirty glass, you don’t stand a chance,” he said.
“Also, rinsing the glass cools it down – a warm glass will not keep the beer cold.”
Next comes the pour. When pouring, the bartender is supposed to open the tap, then slip the glass under the nozzle (without touching it) at a 45° angle, then straighten the glass when it is almost full, and set it aside. This is to ensure that a nice foam of head forms on top of the beer.
Then it’s time for step three – the skimming of the head, which supposedly takes the bitterness of the hops away from the top of the foam, and seals the head to make sure it remains intact even as the glass is emptied.
To illustrate the importance of skimming, Evers poured two beers, skimming only one of them. Side by side, the difference was clear – the bubbles of the unskimmed one were bigger, and when you take a sip, the bitterness of the hops hits your nose and taste buds immediately.
“The skimmed one is softer and easier to drink, and the foam will stay on top of the beer much longer,” he said.
Step four, the bartender then
Foam party: A bartender skims the foam on top of a mugful of beer to create the best head.
According to Frank Evers, every pouring ritual is designed to make sure bartenders serve the beer in the best way possible.