Jan. 8, 2001 Beer drinkers are choosy about foam on their beverage, and getting the foam right is an important selling point for brewers, according to Charles Bamforth, Anheuser-Busch professor of brewing science at the University of California, Davis.
"There's no question foam is important to consumers, but what are the attributes that make it important?" said Bamforth.
To find out what drinkers like about foam, Bamforth showed over 300 beer drinkers in the U.S., Germany, England and Japan photographs of glasses of beer poured with different heads of foam. Then they filled out questionnaires on what they thought of the beer.
Most of the interviewees expected that beer with good foam would "taste better" than a flat-looking beer, even in the U.S., where beer is often drunk straight from the bottle or can. Some thought that the beer with good foam actually looked colder, or was darker in color.
Draining a glass of beer sometimes leaves a lacy pattern of foam behind. Some drinkers thought lacing meant a clean glass, while others thought it meant the glass was dirty. In fact, lacing has nothing to do with the glass, said Bamforth. Lacing happens when the bitter-tasting compounds from hops link proteins in beer together. Brewers can control lacing by changing the hop extract that they use for brewing.
The survey results were published in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing.
BEER COLOR: BETTER BY EYE?
The human eye detects differences in beer color that are missed by equipment currently used in breweries, according to brewing expert Charles Bamforth of the University of California, Davis. Brewers need better methods to check beer color, especially for ales and stouts, he said.
Color is an important selling point for beer. Brewers need to check the consistency of batches of beer, and with the trend to microbrews, more amber beers, stouts and ales have come onto the U.S. market. Deeper, more complex colors are an important part of the style of these beers.
Breweries use a machine called a spectrophotometer to check beer color during production, but this measures only light of a certain wavelength, said Bamforth.
Bamforth's laboratory compared the standard method recommended by the American Society of Brewing Chemists with a human test. A British ale, a U.S. lager, a European lager and a stout were diluted so that they all gave the same reading on the machine. The human judges easily spotted color differences that the machine did not pick up.
The study shows that consumers see beer color in ways that a one-wavelength machine does not pick up, said Bamforth. Humans cannot replace machines on the bottling lines, but brewers need to find better ways to check on beer color and hue, especially for production of darker beers.
The research was published in the Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists.
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