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Home » Beer 101

Who is tops at the tap?

Submitted by on August 24, 2010 – 4:00 am3 Comments

Photo by Gerard WalenI witnessed some beheadings the other night.

Well, that’s what the sixth step in the nine-step Stella Artois Pouring Ritual is called, anyway

Stella Artois is holding semi-final competitions across the country to find regional Draught Masters to compete Sept. 17 in Boston in the U.S. finals of the 2010 Stella Artois World Draught Masters competition. And there’s a way for fans of the Belgian lager to make it there without having to touch a real tap handle.

The competition I attended was at Firestone Live in downtown Orlando.

Contenders had either won a contest at a local bar or club, or had qualified as a “wild card” the night of the competition.

Eight entrants faced off in an onstage elimination tournament until the pour-off between the final two.

Before the competition, the contestants, judges and others, including your Road Trips for Beer editor, honed their skills at a practice tap. Does pouring a beer sound easy? Not when there are nine precise steps involved, and you’re judged on flair and style as well as technique.

Here are the nine steps of the pouring ritual, of which I only screwed up about seven.

  1. The Purification: Use a clean and rinsed branded glass.
  2. The Sacrifice: Open the tap in one quick action and let the first drops of beer flow away.
  3. The Liquid Alchemy: Hold the glass just under the tap, without touching it, at a 45-degree angle.
  4. The Head: Lower the glass to allow the natural formation of the foam head.
  5. The Removal: Close the tap quickly and move the glass away so beer doesn’t drip into the glass.
  6. The Beheading: While the head foams up and overflows the side of the glass, smooth it gently with a head cutter.
  7. The Judgment: The right amount of foam is usually about two fingers.
  8. The Cleansing: Clean the bottoms and sides of the glass.
  9. The Bestowal: Present the beer on a clean beer coaster with the logo facing the consumer.

Photo by Gerard WalenStella Artois team leader Justin Gieler walked me through the ritual, and then gave me a chance to try it myself.  I had the most difficulty with the first step, which I thought would be the easiest. The cleaning and rinsing actually involves about a half-dozen individual steps that must be executed properly and in order.  And if you think the rinsing may “taint” the beer, rest assured that the method leaves the inside of the glass sparkling clean without any residue.

Though I proved not to be competition-worthy, my imperfectly poured Stella Artois still proved to be perfectly drinkable.

Photo by Gerard WalenOnce the competition started, it took on the atmosphere of a heavyweight boxing bout, with a DJ brought in from Los Angeles spinning records, spotlights on the stage and the emcee starting each round with a call of “Please p-o-o-o-u-r-r-r me a Stella A-r-r-r-TOIS!”

Two Draught Master hopefuls competed at a time, with the judges stationed on each side scoring every step on laptops. Wide screens flanking the stage and over the bar displayed the scores, and as the competition went on, a bracket showed the progression of the winners.

Finally it came down to the final two: Grant Huff and Mike Parry, who had qualified for the contest as a wild card. Both displayed great skill at the ritual, but Grant’s showmanship gave him the edge.

Talking to Grant after the competition, I noted humility and modesty in his reaction to being crowned the semifinal champion – NOT!

Photo by Gerard Walen“I’m stoked, excited, ecstatic and not surprised,” he said.

Grant, who had qualified during a preliminary at The Other Bar in Orlando,  explained that he had been practicing, and there was no one else in the competition who “had so much style.”

He will now travel to U.S. finals in Boston, where he will compete against 14 other regional winners as well as a wild-card contestant randomly chosen from the top 25 scorers on an online virtual Stella Artois “Pour Score” game:

To enter the online competition, just go to this link and follow the directions. You can play more than once and try to increase your score (It’s more difficult than you’d think). You can enter until Sept. 3, 2010.

The winner of the U.S. finals will be flown to London on Oct. 28 to compete against 31 other national champions from around the world to perform the centuries-old Belgian Pouring Ritual and compete for the 2010 Stella Artois World Draught Masters title. The ultimate winner will visit more than 20 different countries as a Stella Artois brand ambassador.

The semi-finals move on to Las Vegas (8/25), Denver (8/26), Phoenix (8/27), New York (9/8), Boston (9/9) and Washington, D.C. (9/10).

For more information on the competition, go here.

Check out a video of the pouring ritual here.

Photo by Gerard WalenStella Artois traces its origin back to 1366 at the Den Hoorn brewery in Leuven, Belgium, just outside of Brussels. The beer was originally brewed to celebrate Christmas, and it was named Stella (Latin for “star”). In 1717, Master Brewer Sebastian Artois purchased the brewery and changed its name to Artois. The modern Stella Artois brewery, built in 2004, is still located in Leuven. The brand is currently owned by international conglomerate AB InBev.

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Stella Artois puts pouring skills to the test

3 Comments »

  • Gerard,

    Mystery solved! Well kinda….

    Why the rinse to begin with? Is the glass not already clean? ;)

    That’s a great run by run of the competition though, thank you for that. You’re lucky it was right in your back yard too!

    I was also a bit surprised to read about it not really having an effect on the beer at all.

    So let me ask you this…you’ve been there…seen it happen….tried it yourself…and got a chance to try what a “perfect pour” Stella taste like….

    …Is there really a difference in the taste or texture of the beer in any way when you go through this entire ritual?

    Or would you say it’s more for show and marketing purposes?

    Either way works! I think it’s a very neat regardless and one of the few bigger brand beers that I actually enjoy from time to time.

    Ilya

  • Gerard says:

    I’d say it’s about half-show. Since they pulled the glasses out of the packing box, here, I approved of the rinsing. :-). But seriously, I always give my beer glass a quick rinse before pouring anyway, just in case it picked up any floating dust or cat hair when I take it out of the kitchen cabinet, so it certainly doesn’t hurt. And proper angle, the sacrifice of a little beer from the tap before putting the glass under, and pulling it away before you close the tap all make sense. The end result is a nicely poured beer with about two fingers of head. I didn’t really compare it side-by-side with an imperfectly poured beer, so it’s hard to say what difference in makes in the taste. I’d say it definitely makes a difference in the texture.

  • @Gerard

    Ok…some of that actually makes more sense when you think about it further. So does the rinsing…although dust can always add to the taste ;)

    I think I’ll have to be rinsing my English pint glasses tonight!

    I would love to see or do a comparison side by side of a regular pour and a perfect pour Stella. Would be very interesting. And yes, I fully agree the texture would have to be different regardless during that type of pour. You notice that difference right away in the pour of a Guinness for example and it’s not nearly as complicated as a Stella pour!

    Ilya

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