In other parts of the globe, bartenders pour beer in strange and mysterious ways. Beer foam flows out of taps and bottles and to turn patrons’ glasses into science fair volcanoes with maximum head. 

This is unheard of in the US, where too much foam is often considered a flaw to the average drinker. Sauntering back from the keg with beers with even a minuscule amount of head would make you the subject of ridicule for your poor pouring skills. People literally blow foam off the tops of their beers like it’s a fly that landed on the lip of their glass. Others will stick a finger coated in forehead grease in their beer to eliminate this fluffy nuisance. And some dunk their nose in their pint for the same effect. 

So, why exactly do we hate delightful, fizzy bubbles? 

“The overall thought is always 'more value' by getting that extra 1 ounce in the glass of liquid,” says Jeff Smith, co-owner of LUKI Brewery in Arvada, Colorado. “And I get it with prices—especially stadiums—the way they are. Even getting a pour of Coors Banquet while watching the Nuggets, you can easily get into the ‘more liquid’ value proposition.”

But has our greed actually deprived us of other joys? Is head really taking up precious real estate for more beer? Have we been drinking beer wrong all this time?

It turns out, yes.

The Benefits of Foam
The reality is foam is celebrated and beloved in countries that know their beer.  

In the Czech Republic, one style, mlíko (milk), is a glass filled to the brim with wet, heavy froth from a pilsner. To drink it properly, you guzzle the slightly sweet pour in one fell swoop before it starts to liquefy.  

The most common type of Czech pour, Hladinka, is about 20 to 25% foam.

In Bavaria, the head is a sign of a beer’s quality. Tight, consistent bubbles that have lasting power also indicate a clean glass and system. That’s because the bubbles are C02 trapped in proteins and carbs. Fat will break those links up, which is why the foam will not survive long in a greasy glass. (And why head-haters use their face grease to vanquish it.)

Most would agree that aesthetically, froth makes beer look more appetizing, like a perfect blanket of freshly laid snow. It creates a visual balance in color and texture. 

It provides a variety of textures in mouth-feel as well. The head has a lightness and silkiness that balances liquid of the beer. 

Plus, foam makes beer smell better.  A recent scientific study proved that head adds more fragrance. The study revealed that the bubbles hold flavor compounds. When the tiny bubbles burst, good beer smells go right to the drinker's nose. This effect makes beer aromas 1.3 to 1.9 times stronger. 

This, in turn, makes beer taste better since aroma and flavor are so closely linked. 

The same study showed that the head keeps your beer from going flat as well. By acting as a lid, it prevents the beer from oxidizing and losing some of its flavor. (This is the reason why another Czech-style pilsner pour, the Čochtan, a British-style pour sin foam, is meant to be finished quickly; Without its protective foam hat, the flavor will degenerate.) 

So, with all these benefits—better texture, flavor, athletics, and aroma—are Americans changing their relationship to froth? 

Is the Foam Myth Fading? 
“The ‘pour through the foam and get only liquid’ was, and is, so commonplace in crowded environments,” Smith says. “But it’s a macro-beer philosophy that you get at chain restaurants, dive bars, stadiums, etc."

Smith says in craft beer, the philosophy is just the opposite. There is more emphasis on quality than quantity. 

“The overall concept of sipping craft beer as an experience has gone up, along with all the facets associated with it, like properly pouring your beer in a clean glass, and admiring the color, clarity, foam, and eventual lacing as you drink it,” he said. 

There are other signs that an appreciation for foam is growing. For instance, Smith notes the Slow Pour Pils, a beer by Bierstadt Lagerhaus out of Denver, as an example. 

It takes about 5 minutes to fill a glass with Slow Pour Pils. And people will happily wait. It's famous for the meringue-like head that flops over the top of the cylinder glass. 

“It’s a great example of how the head on a beer is just as important as the liquid it comes from,” Smith says. 

The slow pouring speed helps create the texture of the head. Plus, it's poured using a LUKR side pull faucet out of the Czech Republic. This $250 faucet is what pours the same styles,like the Hladinka, milko, and others. It has a tiny mesh screen inside the spout to create finer, smaller bubbles.

The LUKR is taking off in a handful of places in the United States as well. Side pull faucets have been a trend popping up over the past few years. 

But, while there are signals that some things have changed, Smith doesn’t think the average American drinker’s tolerance for foam has gone up that much. It’s a strange irony that this one critical component that adds so much to a brew’s quality is overlooked in a country where beer culture is so pervasive, important, and respected. 

“We’re trying to convert people one at a time!” Smith says. "For us, it’s always a bit of a compromise on the proper pour versus the filled-to-the-brim traditional macro beer. The only time it’s never an issue seems to be with Nitro pours since everyone is always fascinated by the cascade.”

That hasn’t stopped LUKI Brewery from seeking the right balance of liquid and foam.

“Of course I love it, and we’re always looking for ways to create a beer that has a stylistically perfect amount of pretty foam head. That’s important,’” Smith said. “...It really adds to the overall experience—and it creates the adult version of a milk mustache!”