A perfect glass of brew

April 1, 2007
Boston, MA - As you hoist that foam-topped Samuel Adams Boston Lager, ponder how it manages to keep a nice head no matter how long you nurse the beer.

Boston, MA - As you hoist that foam-topped Samuel Adams Boston Lager, ponder how it manages to keep a nice head no matter how long you nurse the beer. The secret: in France among champagne aficionados it’s called “moussierpoint’ (literally foam point). For Sam Adams it’s basically a roughening of the bottom of the beer glass that generates bubbles that rise to the top, producing the head.

So how does this relate to laser processing? You might have guessed the processing of the beer glass bottom is partially accomplished by a Nd:YAG laser in the factory of the glass manufacturer, Rastal (Höhr-Grenzhausen, Germany) on a system built by AlfaLas (Korntal-Münchingin, Germany).

There’s more to the story; Jim Koch the founder of Boston Beer Company, the brewer of Samuel Adams, determined that the design of a beer glass might emulate what he learned was a feature in glassware for fine wine drinking. Essentially the shape of the glass brings refinement to the wine drinking process that increases it’s enjoyment on the palate. A contract issued to Cambridge, Mass.-based Tiax, a renowned sensory expert, produced a report that states the key functional glass design features needed to showcase the attributes of Samuel Adams are: delivering sweetness from the malt, maximizing hops aroma, maintaining an ideal temperature, supporting a creamy head, and sustaining the right amount of carbonation. Working with Koch they concluded that a glass that contained the angle on the beer glass rim and held the optimal temperature was needed for drinking America’s leading premium beer.

This report led to Boston Beer asking several glass makers to produce exclusive prototypes and the winner, Rastal, produced the glass seen on our cover-an angled lip to deliver the beer to the right points on the drinker’s palate, a narrower base to reduce heat transfer from the drinker’s hand, and a rounded shape that refracts light from the brew’s amber color.

However the pièce de résistance is a dime-sized “nucleation site” laser etched on the bottom of the glass, which causes a constant stream of bubbles to rise to the top of the glass-the “moussierpoint” process. Apparently this beer-bubble-generating idea is not completely new because I was describing the process to an associate while having lunch in an Austrian restaurant, and the owner/manager, thinking I was unhappy with my beer, asked if there was a problem. I told him that I was just demonstrating the Sam Adams process and he said that he had seen a similar effect several years ago in Austria. Small world isn’t it?

Well, not so small. A Google search turned up many references to the nucleation process for generating bubbles. For example, a couple of years ago, Coors Beer, working with UK plastic engineering firm Invicta Ltd., developed a patented laser etched plastic beer glass to extend the beer’s head life. And even Wikipedia joins in by describing laser etching of champagne glasses to generate effervescent bubbles.

However the Sam Adams glass has more going for it than an enhanced head. Its design makes for a total sensation that raises beer drinking to an even more pleasurable experience.-DAB

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