I come from a family of lifelong learners. My wife, my siblings, even our various dogs have all gone back to school at different points in their lives to develop new skills, find hitherto untapped talents, or just satisfy an urge to learn something new.
In that same spirit, I spent the better part of last Sunday evening learning how to pour the perfect pint of beer.
My teacher in quest was Mike Hale, who along with his wife, Kathleen, are the proprietors of Hale’s Ales.
My classroom for this enlightening and educational experience was the Beer Garden at the July 3 community-organized Summer Vibes party at Town Square.
Pouring the perfect pint is not an insignificant achievement. Beer-buying patrons putting up their hard-earned cash deserve both a quality product and a decent presentation.
Mike took care of the quality product portion of that equation by providing eight kegs of American Pale Ale and Red Menace Big Amber. My job was the presentation.
Now, you may think that all there is to pouring beer is to get most of it in the glass. You’d be wrong about that.
There are many factors to consider around the pouring process. For example, there’s the set up, making sure you’ve got the right mix of gas to pressure the kegs.
There’s the speed with which one pulls the tap. There’s the angle one holds the cup during the pouring process, and how one shuts off the tap.
A good pourer must also keep an eye on his or her customer in order to distinguish someone who is drunk from someone who is merely acting stupid. One must take into account the relative humidity, the prevailing winds and the rotation of the earth.
OK, I made that last bit up, but I think I’ve made my point, whatever it was.
I poured about 400 to 500 glasses of beer on Sunday night, and all but one or two of them were perfect pours.
On the two I missed, I was either distracted by taking advanced pouring instructions from Mike, or else the sun got in my eyes, possibly both.
The crowd in the beer garden was too sophisticated to acknowledge my incredible pouring performance, but I am confident most of them were aware of being in the presence of a budding pouring genius.
Of course, pouring the perfect pint is only part of the job of a good pourer.
There are also other required skills, such as helping the customer make a beer selection and engaging patrons in witty pub banter while pouring.
On Sunday night, due to an unexpectedly high volume of beer consumers, my witty pub banter was pretty much limited to “That’ll be five bucks, please,” and “No, I won’t pour with my shirt off for anything less than a $10 tip.”
The beer garden component of Sunday’s Summer Vibes party was sponsored by Friends of the Farms. The Hales generously donated all net proceeds of beer sales to FOF.
Therefore, in a sense, my manning of the beer taps had a direct and substantial impact on one of the island’s most deserving charitable organizations. Now I know how Bono feels.
Despite the urging of many who saw me in action on Sunday night, I am resisting the urge to turn pro, and will instead hang on to my amateur pouring status for now.
I plan to show off my new pouring talents at other charitable events, at trade shows and conventions, and perhaps to invited guests at dinner parties, provided they bring along their own keg and taps, of course.
Who knows, I may even tackle the complex, 119-second Guinness “double pour” some day.
For those of you who might wish to rise above the rank of dilettante bartender yourself and breathe the rarefied air of professional pourer, I should point out two things to you.
First, you will need to obtain a pourer’s license, which can be obtained online for a modest fee. Second, you should know that, as a pourer, one is not allowed to sample the stuff one is pouring.
Therefore, of the 400 to 500 of glasses of beer I poured on Sunday night, not one of them crossed my lips. Oh well, nothing worth doing is ever easy.