Last night while out for dinner we decided to have a beer as the beverage of choice (imagine that). The waitress came with a clean glass and poured our beers from the bottle and after a few minutes I realized what was missing, HEAD! Our two beautiful beverages were devoid of anything even beginning to resemble head formation and glass lacing.
It’s actually a fairly common problem and a very simple solution. In some cases the glass simply is not clean and has residual greases from the dishwasher. In others a rise agent is being utilized and that will kill the beloved head. The Brewer’s Association has a writeup on how to test for a “Beer-Clean” glass. The restaurant last night had very clean glassware, but it was obviously using a rinse agent which was not allowing head formation.
Now your question may be, why do I care about head formation? Without proper head formation you’re depriving yourself of the full on beer experience. As the head rises and falls volatile aromatic compounds are released. Think of it this way, if you have a beer directly from the bottle you get very little aromatic characteristics. Put that same beer in a clean glass and you get the full experience of aromatics and flavor. Now in our case we were deprived part of that experience so while our glasses were better than consuming directly from the bottle, they still did not allow the head to form and the aromatics to develop properly. Some may say head is purely an aesthetic characteristic, but I disagree and say Gimme Head!