What is lacing, anyway?

The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) is the place to go if you want to become a certified beer judge. The BJCP has the information for what makes an ideal beer for a certain category. So, if Randy claims that he made a Fruit Beer, there are guidelines for how it should be evaluated. That way, you’re comparing one orange beer to another orange beer rather than an apple beer, as the case may be.

We, however, are not certified beer judges and care about factors that make a beer stand out. It’s always a good idea to have an idea of the standardized rules you’re breaking, though,  so you know how you’re breaking them. Some of the things that BJCP suggests you look for are a bit confusing. One of our main sticking points is lacing. What is lacing and why is it important? Here’s what we know:

  • Lacing is the leftover foam on the glass after you take a drink. It can be really pretty. The foamier the beer, the more lacing left when you drink it.
  • The foam is related to the ingredients (particularly the hops) that are used to brew the beer. When you pour a beer, the proteins in the beer (especially a protein found in barley) link together, get sticky, and cling onto the side of the bubbles and the glass.
  • Foam on a beer helps keep the carbon dioxide in the beer which helps it stay bubbly and creamy while you drink it. It’s like a little foam blanket.
  • If a glass hasn’t been cleaned or is oily, it cuts down on both the foam and the lacing. So, a lack of lacing might also mean that the glass isn’t that clean or wasn’t dried all the way before the beer was poured.
  • Fun beer geek fact: The SHV (or Schaumhaft Vermoegen, a German term for “foam adhesion”) value is the average lacing of 3 identical area on a glass. Below 90 is poor, 90-140 is average, and above 140 is better than average.

In sum, we eat and drink with our eyes first and lacing makes a beer look pretty. In addition, the foam is influenced by the ingredients used and helps keep the beer creamy and bubbly while you drink. Dirty glasses or oil can cut down on the foam and lacing so keep your glasses clean!  What are your thoughts on lacing and foam in beer? Is it just about the prettiness or does it affect your enjoyment of a beer?

For more info, check out this great article: Dressed in Lace or this particularly scientific one: One Beer, Please.