I’ve been working part time in a local pub for the past six months or so, working the floor – serving food, keeping front-of-house clean and clear, chatting to customers – pub waitressing, I guess is the best way to describe it. But this weekend I’ve been learning to work behind the bar as well as cover the floor, and so far I’m finding it great fun, if a little confusing at times… there are just so many different drinks to learn to serve correctly.
One of the many new skills I’m in the process of learning is how to pull a perfect pint – and there’s a lot more to it than I’d thought. It’s nothing like serving draught soft drinks – glass, ice, hit the correct button, dispense the correct amount, serve. Instead each beer/ lager/ cider seems to have its own little set of peculiarities and peccadilloes when it comes to the perfect pour, and there seems to be a knack in knowing how to handle each individual situation as it arises.
I’m discovering variables I didn’t even know existed – whether the pint is hand-pulled or on tap; which glass is used, and the angle at which the glass is held; spout under the liquid or spout over the liquid; glass held high or low; tap pulled forward or pushed back. How much pressure is available, is the barrel nearly full or almost empty, is it the first pint of the day – and if so, expect it to be quite ‘lively’. It’s a good word, lively – it seems to be pub-speak for frothing all over the place as it pours.
It’s important to get each pour right, aiming for the correct amount of head on the pint – not too much, not too little, with no wastage (for the pub’s benefit) but no shortage (for the customer’s benefit, and of course for meeting licensing requirements). Achieving that aim seems to be more about getting a ‘feel’ for how that particular draught alcohol is behaving in that particular glass on that particular pour and adjusting your approach accordingly, than following a fixed set of instructions to the letter every time.
Understanding the science behind it all is definitely a big part of it – knowing the difference between cask and keg ales and the different methods involved in transporting the liquid product from the cellar to the bar, from barrel to glass. But I’m also finding that there’s a distinct art in pulling the perfect pint, and however hit-and-miss it may still be for me at the moment, so far it ‘s proving to be a surprisingly satisfying challenge to be learning to meet. 🙂