CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Craft beer, like all artisan or gourmet food products, comes with a premium price, but it is often served without respect for simple serving techniques, a respect that is regularly given to fine wine and spirits.
Sure, we could just hunker down, keep our mouths shut and accept the headless $6 14-ounce so-called pint of IPA that looks more like iced-tea sans lemon and ice. Things will never improve for us West Virginians until we speak up. First we need to know what to expect and why. Here is all the ammo you need to take on the complacent bartender or server:
Always ask for a glass. It's just easier if you ask for one up front, but I always wait and see if they will bring one to me without asking. (Quit being a troublemaker already!) Further reading will answer why you should drink beer from a glass. Hint: It involves your nose.
Say no to the frosted or chilled glass. Craft beers are already stored colder than the recommended drinking temperature so why would you want to further chill the beer? Kindly ask for a room temperature glass when ordering. If they balk, tell them to run the cold glass under warm water.
Refuse the headless pint. If you only knew the toil and trouble a brewer goes through to make sure his beer forms a perfect head of foam! Beer should be allowed to form a head, and carbonation bubbles should emanate, bringing the subtle aromatics of hops and malt to your nose. The most likely reason your pint is without a head is because the glass was not allowed to fully air-dry after being baptized in sanitizer (or it's still oily/dirty -- eew!). Tell them to rinse the heck out of your glass before they pour you a replacement pint.
Why do these things still happen, you ask? Beer wholesalers and bars in this state are used to selling the same yellow swill for the past 80 years. Craft beer is relatively new to them. They either do not know the right way to serve it or they choose to ignore the difference.
I often say that craft beer drowns in a sea of low expectations -- a sea of generic yellow/flavorless beer. The next time this happens to you and your beer, throw your craft beer a lifeline; it will thank you.
For more on the craft of beer, see Rich Ireland's "Beers to You" blog at thegazz.com.