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