If you have been keeping up with our craft-beer reviews, then I am positive you have heard the word lacing before. Just in case you have no idea what I’ve been talking about, I’m hear to tell you what its all about today. Sorry in advance, lacing has nothing to do with gifts. Although a really good beer could be looked upon as a gift from the beer gods and goddess’.
As legs are to wine, lacing is to beer. Lace is the white, lattice-like foam rings (sometimes webbed like) left on the sides of a glass from the beers head as a beer is consumed. Typically seen in Belgian beers but not solely confined to only this style. Some residue from the head stays at each section of the glass leaving a distinctive mark at each point you drink the beer down to. The slower you drink a beer with a healthy head, the more lacing you’ll see. There are two major factors that determine the lace of your beer: the type of beer it is, and how clean your glass is.
The type of beer doesn’t matter at all if the glass isn’t clean. The head of beer loves a well-rinsed glass. Lipstick, chapstick, any grease or fat, and residual oils from detergent or soap will kill or severely damper the head retention. Beer glasses that are thoroughly hand-washed and air-dried are best. If you’re going to consume a beer right after rinsing, its best not to even attempt to dry it off. Any lint from the towel will also kill your head formation. Just pour out as much of the water as possible and pour your beer right in. In fact the residual water in the mug will help fill in the pores in the glass giving you an even greater head formation allowing no air to get trapped anywhere causing the head to rise up strong!
When beer foams, it is obviously due to the creation of bubbles. This phenomenon is referred to as nucleation. The physics of nucleation as a whole isn’t entirely understood, and there are a large group of proteins and smaller polypeptides (additional proteins) that can act as a group and individually as foam positive agents. This is why the style of beer is just as important for a big head. The elements that produce the head are wort protein, yeast and hop residue. The carbon dioxide that forms the bubbles in the head is produced during fermentation. The carbonation can occur before or after bottling the beer. The more carbonation, the greater the head should be. If the beer continues fermenting in the bottle, then it naturally carbonates and the head is formed upon opening and/or pouring the beer. If the beer is pasteurized or filtered then the beer must be force carbonated using pressurized gas. The density and longevity of the head will be determined by the type of malt and adjunct from which the beer was fermented. Different mash schedules, hops and cereal sources influence head retention as well. In general, wheat tends to produce larger and longer-lasting heads than barley.
So the white rings left around your beer as you drink it are the laces…now you should have a better grasp on how the particular beer we are reviewing will drink, knowing what causes a long lasting head, and its rings. You’re going to find such love and beauty in drinking a beer that leaves wonderful traces of lacing behind. Its a work of art…and for me, lacing tells me everything was done just right during the brewing process.