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Foamy Beers

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OK, maybe this isn’t the most pressing issue of the day….but maybe it is! Do we want half our beers to be foam?

When Gabby Bonfiglio, taproom manager at Leveller Brewing, hands a customer their beer, she always braces for the possibility of the awkward question: “Why is my beer so foamy?”

Leveller, located just outside of Asheville, N.C., is one of a rapidly growing number of beer venues offering tap pours designed to emphasize the foam on top. “I explain that we’re trying to do things the traditional way,” said Bonfiglio, who has had foamy pours handed back to her for “topping up.” “But people are becoming more familiar with foam.”

Foamy beer is a centuries-old European tradition, but in the American market the phenomenon has spread from a nerdy niche to a veritable tidal wave of foam-focused pours across the United States. Increasingly curious drinkers have put bad memories of sticking their fingers into Solo cups at college keg parties behind them and are seeking out the perfect pour, where the presence of beer foam enhances their drinking experience — aided by the arrival of Czech Lukr “side-pour” taps and a new interest in British-style cask engines.

Beer rating app Untappd reports an increase of nearly 50 percent in cask serve “check-ins” over the last two years, and a 5.5 percent increase in nitro “check-ins.” Lukr sold its first tap in the United States eight years ago, and in the period since, its popularity has surged, with stateside sales exceeding 5,000 taps. In 2020, Andy Martinec, owner of Tanglefoot Brewing in Temple, Tex., purchased four Lukrs by Western Union transfer. Now, Lukr has six U.S. distributors and sells through its website.

I certainly have no real problem with a foamy beer per se. That said, this really, really feels to me like “we can serve less beer at higher prices and thus make more profits.” Beer is getting so expensive in recent years that such a move isn’t so exciting. And since the brewing industry of the last 25 years has pretty much mined every tradition in beer for contemporary palates, this is also something new. Still, I remain suspicious.

And now we can have a comment thread of old people complaining about IPAs!

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