JUST BACK from Brussels is Jessica Waltz, a bartender at Ten Stone and the first American to win the 9th annual Stella Artois global Draught Master competition.
The wha . . . ?
It’s sorta the Olympics of Suds, a grueling – make that, drooling – two-day pourathon pitting the top tap-handlers from taverns around the world. Each was judged on technique, presentation and stamina as they pulled two glasses of Stella Artois and a pint of Hoegaarden, and a single goblet of Leffe Brown poured from a large bottle.
With her aggressive coaster placement, unshaken glass selection and near-perfect foam formation, Waltz, 28, who lives in Center City, gave Philadelphia its first major title since the 76ers’ NBA championship in 1983.
I joke, of course. There was no ticker-tape parade for Waltz, but she’s already a celebrity in local beer circles. Since her victory last week, guests have been stopping in at Ten Stone (2063 South St., Graduate Hospital area), requesting a perfect pint from the reigning champ.
“Everyone wants me to pour them one,” Waltz laughed when I caught up to her earlier this week. “I was surprised word spread so quickly. “
For Waltz, the toughest part of the competition was those two Stella Artois. They had to be served side by side, with the identical amount of foam on each.
Yes, it was nerve-racking to be judged in front of the cheering crowd at Brussels’ old Vaudeville Theater. But she said that it was no tougher than hustling drinks on a busy Saturday night.
“Also, we don’t pour from a bottle at Ten Stone, so that’s something I never practiced before,” she said. “But now I know all the different things I’m supposed to do when I pour. “
Indeed, here’s World Champion Beer Server Jessica Waltz’s sixpack of pouring tips:
- Introduce yourself and your beer. Guests want to know a bit about what they’re about to swallow.
- Choose the correct glassware. A beer tastes better in its proper glass: pilsners in tall, thin glasses; Belgians in goblets or tulips, for example.
- Make sure it’s clean and rinsed. Soap not only impedes foam development, it tastes downright funky.
- Use cold glasses, not warm out of the dishwasher. But not ice cold. That’ll kill the flavor.
- Don’t be afraid to pour a large head. True, American beer-drinkers think they’re getting cheated, but a large collar of foam looks better, protects the beer from smoke and actually adds to the beer’s enjoyment.
- Use a head-cutter. Pour until you’ve got a half-inch of foam above the glass rim; these top bubbles tend to be larger, adding to gassiness. Trim them off with a blade so the remaining collar consists of compact bubbles.
For her victory, Waltz received a huge trophy and a free trip to anywhere in the world. And, of course, the glory of being the world’s best beer pourer.
Wondering what beer to serve with Thanksgiving dinner? Take a hint from Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, which is featuring a beer-pairing menu for $19.95 throughout November. Two of its food-and-beer matches would be welcome at any holiday dinner: butternut squash soup and Pig Iron Porter, and pan-seared duck breast with Abbey Dubbel.
Meanwhile, Newcastle Brown Ale suggests cooking your bird with beer. Forget the stuffing, just stand the turkey on its end and shove a can of beer inside, then cook over low heat on your barbecue grill.
Sly Fox just hit the streets with its first bottled beers. Till now, the Phoenixville and Roysersford brewpubs’ beers were available on draft only.
Look for 25-ounce corked bottles of Saison Vos, to be followed shortly by Christmas Ale, about $5 a bottle.
Also new in town, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales from Dexter, Mich.
Try Oro de Calabaza, a biere de garde (8 percent alcohol) that won gold this year at the Great American Beer Festival.
Today, tomorrow: Valley Forge Brewery Collectibles Show (Holiday Inn, 6170 Morgantown Road, Morgantown, Pa., exit 298 off the Pennsylvania Turnpike). Bring those old beer cans in your garage for a free appraisal, trade ’em in for other valuable beer junk. Doors open: 2 p.m. today, 9 a.m. tomorrow. $5.
Tonight: Yards Brewing rolls out its new Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce Ale at Grey Lodge (6235 Frankford Ave., Mayfair). The Kensington brewery’s latest in its Ales of the Revolution series, honors Benjamin Franklin’s 300th birthday. It’s based on his spruce-and-molasses recipe.
And, yes, there’s a whole dwarf Alberta spruce tree in the batch. No cover, pay as you go. 215-624-2969.
Nov. 19: “Craft Brewing in Pennsylvania: Past, Present and Future,” a lecture by beer historian Rich Wagner at Yards Brewing (2439 Amber St., Kensington). No cover. 2 p.m. 215-634-2600.
Nov. 19-20: Great Brews of America festival at Split Rock Lodge (Lake Harmony, Pa.). Enjoy flavors from about 50 different craft brewers. Beer pours: 1-5 p.m. daily. $23. 800-255-7625.
Joe Sixpack, by Don Russell, was written this week with Hampshire Special Ale.