Leah’s Beer School: Lesson 63

What is A Side Pour?

The early 20th century marked a shift away from hand-pulled cask engines to draught beer served in pressurized kegs. Originating in Czech Republic, side-pull faucets, also known as side pours, provided a novel approach to pouring from pressurized kegs, allowing for increased control over the flow of beer and level of foam. Though its origin story is somewhat vague, the side pour has been used to pour Czech pilsners for many years.

Vertical Tap v Side Pull
In the late 1990s, Pilsen-based company, and industry leader Lukr, created an improved version of the side pour, fine-tuning the functionality of the traditional Czech tap. As opposed to the binary open/closed mechanics of your standard tap handle, the Lukr side-pull features a ball valve that allows for varying flow rates of beer. A side pull faucet is plunged directly into a beer glass to create a silky sweet head of foam. The nozzle on the faucet is longer than a vertical tap, containing a micro screen inside which aerates the beer, creating a creamy, cappuccino-like dense foam.

Foam Matters
Traditional Czech lagers are most often served in a Tübinger glass, a stout handled mug with dimples that helps to support head retention and aromatic compounds. Unlike a standard draught where the beer is poured first with a fluffy head to finish, a side-pulled beer begins with a layer of foam before the beer is poured underneath it. Using this method, the thick dense layer of foam protects the beer from oxidation.

Types of Czech Pours
There are several different types of Czech pours, among them the Hladinka, Nadvakrát, and Mlíko. The most popular Czech style is the Hladinka, poured using this method with roughly two-thirds beer and one-third foam, for a balanced mix of sweetness and bitterness. The dense foam most closely resembles that of a nitro pour, a stable, long-lasting foam rich with protein, yeast and hop compounds that are meant to be savoured. Nadvakrát is similar to Hladinka, but starts with beer first before it is topped with head of foam for a crisp pour. The mlíko, or “milk pour” is a full glass of sweet, wet foam, a milky dessert drink meant to be consumed quickly before the foam settles.

Until quite recently, fluffy, foamy lagers would have been eyed suspiciously and with mild disdain by beer lovers outside of Central Europe. Now, many North American craft brewers have embraced the side pull, celebrating the silky sweet foam of a traditionally poured Czech pilsner. If you come across a side pour tap either locally or abroad, be sure to treat yourself to this delightful, and traditional Czech brew.

(Leah is a Toronto based freelance writer as well as the Beer Boss and a server at C’est What)