Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Beer >
May 18, 2009 02:24 PM

should beer ever be served in a sopping wet glass?

I had dinner at this place that specialized in Belgian beers, and I had a Chimay White that came with a Chimay glass that was sopping wet. Is that right? I wouldn't consider myself a beer snob, but maybe I am since the wet glass is a big deal to me? At least it wasn't a frosty cold glass...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Lots of Belgian bars wet the glass before pouring beer to keep the head manageable. Many beer writers have also suggested it. A number of respected US beer bars and brewpubs do the same, often using this sort of "build into the drip tray" glass rinser unit -

    Altho', glass being not particularly absorbent, I can't say as I've ever seen one that I'd describe as "sopping". At home I just give the glass a shake or two after the rinse.

    4 Replies
    1. re: JessKidden

      That makes great sense and I've been wondering why our, mostly newer, high-end beer bars have "the squirters" at the tap.

      Sure makes more fiscal sense, to the bar, than to have dollars going down the drain with beer wasted on "un" manageable head.

      Thanks again.

      1. re: JessKidden

        How very interesting, because I've heard that beer should be served in a dry glass and not even in a chilled glass because the condensation waters down the beer. When I saw the wet glass, I was shocked. But I'm always willing to be wrong and learn more.

        I've heard stories of bartenders dipping a wet finger into the head to make it dissipate...and they wet it by putting it in their mouth!

        1. re: flowbee

          Worrying about condensation on the inside of the glass takes beer snobbery to a whole new level! I guess you should just take one sip when the temperature of the beer, the concentration of water, and the size/consistency of the head are all just right, listen to the angels singing in your head, and then pour the rest of the glass out.

          1. re: flowbee

            It's refreshing to read a post where someone admits that they are wrong. We all live and learn flowbee, I would have thought it was odd too, fwiw.

        2. The beer glass 'bidet', as found in many better beer bars, is to rinse out any traces of sanitizer. The health department in most states requires the use of sanitizer in the final rinse of restaurant dishes and glasses; it's not normally noticeable but some people can taste it in their beer. The rinse, right before filling the glass, removes any residual chemical sanitzer, but of course the glass is then wet. The drop or two of water will certainly not affect the taste of your beer, which is almost entirely water to begin with.

          5 Replies
          1. re: juantanamera

            It does that, too, of course and I suppose one would have to ask each bar *why* they do it- and some might simply say it's "traditional".

            Not every source says it's for a correct head on a beer- here beer writer Wm. Brand says it's to cool the glass and bring it closer to the temperature of the about to be drawn beer.


            And many other sources note that it removes any sanitizer/soap/dust, as well.

            The point being that it *is* often done- but that doesn't suggest that the OP's self-proclaimed "beer snob" status should mean that he isn't free to dislike the technique- the rules for beer snobbery are very flexible. <g>

            1. re: JessKidden

              In my personal experience serving draught beer at home, wetting the glass really does help keep the head down to a decent level. I like to keep my beers in the upper 40's temperature-wise, and use a fairly short hose, so foaming was always a problem no matter what pressure I dialed my regulator to. It seems that the dry glass only exascerbated the problem. That issue has been minimized now that I give my glasses a quick rinse before filling them up.

              The other reasons also seem pretty legit, though. Definitely a good thing to do in my book.

              1. re: JessKidden

                Traces of soap or sanitizer will diminish the head on a beer. Rinsing the glass will increase head retention, not reduce head on the beer.

                1. re: juantanamera

                  "The Belgians wet the glass to control the head."
                  --- Michael Jackson, "Ultimate Beer"

                  Good enough for me- if not for you, a Google will turn up dozens of references (inc. video) to wetting the glass helping keep the head down when pouring Belgian beers.

                  As I said above, I agree that wetting the glass ALSO removed any dust/dish washing detergent/sterilzer, etc., (and that's why I do it at home) but since the OP noted he was in a Belgian beer specialty bar, I figured the Belgian references more applicable.

                  1. re: JessKidden

                    There are two aspects to this- head formation and head retention. A larger head will have the tendency to form with a dry glass (also in beers with higher than normal volumes of dissolved CO2, or at warmer temperatures, etc.), but it is also true that traces of soap will diminish the retention (i.e. how long whatever head exists will stay in place.) So, yeah, rinsing does seem like a good idea.

                    FWIW- I rinse at home with filtered water, not tap water. My tap water has a slightly detectable chlorine quality that I'd rather not make its way into my beer.

            2. Very interesting thread indeed. Here in the UK it tends to happen a lot but more so due to the lack of care that goes into serving a pint. Everywhere is busy so I wouldn't be surprised to hear people hand washing finished drinks and handing them back out to punters..

              1. Reminds me of a time when I was pouring at a beer fest in Boston when some guy nearly ripped my head off when I was going to rinse his tasting glass with water before filling with his next beer. He was complaining that it would water the beer down - yeah, all 5 droplets that are left in your glass will change the character of the beer, but the dregs you left behind from your last sample won't? <eyeroll> Everybody's got their thing though -and I've got mine for sure.

                Never heard of rinsing a glass to pour a Belgian beer though, only for Hefewiezens. I would suspect that the beer glass bidet is mostly being used to rinse any soap or other dishwasher chemicals which would effect the flavor and head retention, and not so much to retard the head.

                Wet glass > frosted glass.

                1 Reply
                1. re: LStaff

                  I'm with L home I don't use soap when washing beer mugs in the hope that the head will last a while. This is for bottled/canned beer.