In the world of beer, etiquette is a word not often used. Yet for the discerning beer fan, there certainly are unwritten rules. Despite the practices of so-called “beer slobs”, there are quite a few “beer snobs” that are responsible, clean up after themselves, and enjoy beer in good health. Especially when hanging out in the kegerator and homebrew scene, it is important for the beer drinker to help the beer maker or beer host in his or her efforts. So here are a few tips that will help you keep your home brew making and kegerator owning pals.
The first rule of beer drinking etiquette is to clean up after your self. Every bottle, can, and bottle cap you can pick up before the night is through is one less that your host has to clean up the following morning (these mornings can be rough sometimes). If drinking outdoors, this rule applies as well. When opening beers, be mindful of where the bottle cap flies off to, and try to retrieve it. If your host employs the use of a kegerator, make sure that you re-use your pint glass or cup. This will save on doing dishes.
When drinking home brew, please be mindful of keeping the bottles clean. This is the number one practice that will help the brewer to keep re-using bottles. This makes the cleaning and sanitation of the bottles all the easier. The least you can do after swilling a refreshing bottle-conditioned homebrew is to wash out the bottle in the sink. My biggest peeve about some of my beer drinking guests is when they put cigarettes out in bottles. This certainly ruins the bottle for good, because you just can’t get that nicotine resin out of a bottle. The practice of putting smokes out in bottles is probably the biggest hazard of re-using bottles. Needless to say, this can really ruin a bottle of beer if one slips through into the next batch.
Another aspect of beer etiquette is patience. The most important situation in which patience plays a vital role is when a keg is being used. In order to flow evenly and smoothly, without too much head or not enough, a keg must settle. This means that after it has been moved into the kegerator, you need to give the beer at least an hour to avoid foaminess. It is better to plan ahead and give the keg beer 2-4 hours to settle. This will avoid the waste of over-foaminess and make the keg easier to dispense from. It also takes a lot of patience to wait for home brew to age properly. Believe me, it is well worth the wait!
As a host, if you have a keg, you are well advised to have a bartender who is familiar with the operation of your tap system. This will avoid a well-meaning but incompetent guest from breaking a part of your tap system (the beer isn’t flowing, somebody do something!). Having a bartender will also ensure that the tap area is kept clean, and save you from scrubbing sticky malt residue in the morning. Bartending is fun anyways, and a tip jar can always be put out to add incentive to the would-be barkeep.
Which brings me to the last aspect of beer etiquette – tipping. Even if you are getting beer for free, if there is a bartender, you should tip them. As a professional musician, I often get a chance to try local micro-brews gratis on the road or at the gig. But I always tip the bartender, regardless – and if I am drinking home brew, I also chip in for the costs of the brews. Tipping and chipping in creates a positive re-enforcement for the bartender/home brewer, and makes them feel good about what they do. Generosity is reciprocal as well, creating abundance in your community. That is why proper beer Etiquette makes the world a better place.