April 17, 2011

Good Head

"Guinness," I said, feeling a bit trite. There were other Irish beers to be had, and I was ordering that most American of the bunch. At least, I was ordering that which most Americans are familiar with. I felt like I was grabbing a cup of Sumatra, turning away brews from some mystical corners of wherever. 

Regardless, I watched the bartender pour. I had heard that Guinness was to be treated a very specific way, and so I wanted to see precisely how much attention to detail that required. I wish I could elaborate on what the man behind the counter did, but my knowledge of beer is severely limited, and so I only really know that he poured slowly, in stages, and that there was some sort of metal thing that he used to skim the head.

But I noticed something familiar about the bartender's demeanor. It was busy, and yet he ignored everything but the pour. His eyes focused, his movements tightened, and his brow furrowed slightly. He poured like I might know better, like I wasn't some college kid, ordering a beer because they're cheaper than mixed drinks. He poured like I would care, which showed, in no uncertain terms, that he cared. 

And then he set the beer down in front of me, a tall mahogany glass of attempted masculinity on my part. I thanked him, and meant it, then laughed. There was a clover drawn on the head of the beer. That, I hadn't noticed. I thanked him again, commenting on the novelty. He brushed it off, saying that he had poured several thousand.

I tipped, and then considered doubling it. I had a good beer, but moreover, I had a demonstration of the kind of barista I'd like to think I am. I'd like to think that, even after thousands of lattes, I pull every shot and steam every pitcher of milk like every customer is Oliver Strand. I'd like to think that my attempts at latte art amuse customers as much as his shamrock did me, cluing them in to the fact that the guy behind the counter cares.

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