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Brew Words

The Scientific Vocabulary of Beer Foam

The foam, also known as head, that sits atop a correctly poured glass of golden (or amber or dark) beer. (Photo: Heineken International, Amsterdam.)

When food-science researchers study beer, they have a well-defined vocabulary for the brew's trademark foam that sits atop the liquid. Scientifically, the formation of the beer's foamy head is called "foam-head retention" and the duration of the foam-head retention is known as "foam-collapse time." A beer's long-lasting head, considered to be a desirable characteristic of any brew, is called "foam-head stability." How the foam adheres ("foam adhesion") to the inside of the glass as the beer is consumed is called "lacing" or "cling," while the bursting of bubbles in the foam is called "bubble gushing." Source: S. Sohrabvandi, et al, "... Analysis of Physical ... Properties of Beer," International Journal of Food Properties, 13 (2010). 

Vision factlet: After selected beer drinkers in the United States, Germany, England, and Japan were shown photographs of glasses of beer poured with different heads, most believed the beer with the best-looking foamy foam would "taste better" and reported the beer with the best-looking head appeared to look "colder." Source: "Bubbles best for beer lovers," University of California, Davis (website), 8 Jan 2001.

Holy collar factlet: An alternate name for a beer's head is collar, especially the head of a dark beer, such as a stout (a draught Guinness, for example), that yields a thick whitish head over a dark liquid that is reminiscent of a dark-clothed clergyman's white neck collar. Source: Gregg Smith and Carrie Getty, The Beer Drinker's Bible (Boulder CO, 1997).

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