Summit Suds: How to pour the perfect pint |

Summit Suds: How to pour the perfect pint

Jefferson Geiger

With Breckenridge Pour House officially open, Summit County residents and visitors have the chance to see what the increasingly popular self-serve technology is all about. Rather than having a standard bartender, patrons walk up to one of the 64 taps available and pour themselves as much or as little alcohol as they wish.

“I think they’re becoming popular because they allow customers to sample a whole load of stuff without pestering a bartender for tasters all the time,” restaurant owner David Knell said.

While it is a fairly straightforward process, the method can be somewhat intimidating for those who never worked in the service industry. Thankfully, Pour House equips guests with a smart card printed with easy-to-follow instructions.

“A lot of people come in, and they haven’t actually poured a pint out of a beer tap before,” Knell said. “We find it important that we’re there to guide people through their first or possibly first or second.”

That card is what’s used to unlock the taps. Once placed on a sensor by one of the 64 taps — four for red wine, four for white wine, four for cider, four for seltzer and the rest for beer — the beverage travels down the line and passes through a paddlewheel equipped with a flowmeter.

Customers are charged by volume of liquid, down to about one-twentieth of an ounce, with the total volume displayed on a screen. Beer starts at about 40 cents an ounce and goes up to 80 cents for something such as a limited, barrel-aged beer that’s higher in alcohol by volume.

“The magnet in the wheel goes underneath a sensor roughly 600 times in a pint,” said Knell, who noted the restaurant developed and designed the setup themselves instead of using a third-party system.

After deciding what to drink, people can grab a 16-ounce pint glass or 10-ounce stemless glass that they can fill as much or as little as they want. If selecting a carbonated option like beer, hold the glass at a 45-degree angle right underneath the tap and open the valve completely so it steadily runs down the side. Once the beer has filled the glass about halfway, straighten it to 90 degrees and move the glass further away from the tap to create a head of foam. About an inch of foam is the goal. The head helps preserve the aroma, and therefore flavor, of the beer.

Though the bar is not equipped with rinsers at the moment because of the additional plumbing required, as well as the fear of creating a bottleneck, a quick spritz of water clears the glass of any residue such as dust or cleaning agents. It also reduces friction, making a pour smoother and increasing head retention. Pour House staff are happy to exchange any glass for a clean one in between drinks.

Nitrogen vs. carbon dioxide

Beer aficionados might have noticed there is sometimes an option when serving on draft. While carbon dioxide is standard, many more breweries are implementing taps using nitrogen for stouts, porters and other dark beers. The different molecule creates a creamy, smoother texture due to less carbonation.

“It’s the difference between an India pale ale and a Guinness,” Knell said.

The Pour House doesn’t have any nitrogen taps at the moment, but it might in the future.

The slow pour

If enjoying a Pilsner, try experimenting with a slow pour. Instead of following the standard guidelines, open the tap and pour the beer straight into the bottom of the glass, creating a ratio that’s more foam than beer. Once the foam has dissipated, repeat the process so the glass is about two-thirds beer. Top it off once again after a few minutes to reach the regular amount of head.

Why is it worth waiting around five minutes for a beer poured that way? For one, it softens the beer and changes the texture to complement the effervescent Pilsner. Secondly, it is more historically accurate to how German Pilsners have been served by warming the beer up. Finally, it’s the reason Bierstadt Lagerhaus of Denver officially calls their version of the style the Slow Pour Pils. If that happens to be at the Pour House one day, you now know what to do.

Jefferson Geiger is the arts & entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News and managing editor for Everything Summit. Have a question about beer? Send him an email at

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