What Is Beer Lacing?

If you’re a bit of a beer fanatic, or you spend a lot of time around passionate beer fans, then there will often be a whole load of specific terms that you hear thrown about.

One of the terms that you may not hear so much is the term “lacing”. If you don’t know what it means, you’re not alone! 

To answer the question simply, beer lacing is the name given to the residue that gets left on inside your glass from all the foam.

As you drink, the foamy head of the beer goes lower and lower. As it does this, it leaves behind more ghostly white residue on the inside of the glass.

However, there is plenty more to learn about this fascinating – and very common – part of drinking beer.

After all, most of us beer drinkers will have experienced beer lacing, just never known it – or perhaps even thought about it!

In my handy guide below, I’m going to explain beer lacing in greater detail.

On top of that, I’ll cover the sorts of factors that can influence beer lacing – because it may not always happen as much as you expect.

Additionally, I’ll also look at why some beers might end up having more foam head than others.

What Is Beer Lacing?

As I’ve already touched upon, beer lacing is the term that is given to the ghostly white residue that is left on the inside of your glass as the beer and its head goes down. 

When you have a beer, you should have a foamy head on top.

As you drink your beer, this foam goes down and down the inside of the glass gradually.

As it does this, it leaves a white residue on the glass interior.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that the residue is quite foamy itself, made up of hundreds of little bubbles. 

But what causes beer lacing on a more scientific front?

Well, beer contains an element called Lipid Transfer Protein 1, abbreviated to LTP1.

I’ll go into this in more detail in the next section, when I cover how foam head is actually, but in terms of beer lacing LTP1 plays an important part.

LTP1 actually interacts with various proteins and compounds that are active on the glass, as well as carbon dioxide.

The mixing of all these bits together helps to create the patterns that you will see from beer lacing.

They look like a mesh of little bubbles, almost like a lattice, on the inside of the glass. 

What Makes The Foamy Beer Head?

It’s worth looking at what makes beer get its foamy head in the first place. Without the foam, there would be no lacing afterwards, after all. 

Most beer lovers will recognize the “head” of the beer – that is to say, the foamy part that sits on top of the liquid.

When you pour the beer into a glass (whether from tap, can, or bottle) it should leave a foamy head sitting on top of the beer itself. But what causes the foam to form?

To speak scientifically again, the foamy head is created through a process of “Nucleation”.

In this case, this is all about the creation of bubbles, and you can see it occur in plenty of other different types of alcohol.

For example, champagne is known for its bubbles, which are present as CO2 (carbon dioxide). 

However, the LTP1 element that we covered earlier is also a big factor in the creation of the foam head.

LTP1 is a hydrophobic protein, which means that it doesn’t work well with water.

When a beer is brewed, the LTP1 grabs the carbon dioxide bubbles and rises with them to the top of the beer.

The LTP1 will also latch onto the carbon dioxide. This means that whenever that carbon dioxide goes up, so will the beer. Due to this, the beer keeps its foamy head.

What Affects Beer Lacing?

However, you won’t always get the same amount of beer lacing with every drink you have.

That’s because beer lacing is influenced by all kinds of other factors, which influence how little or how much beer lacing you’re going to get with your drink.

For example, if your clean glass will mean that you get more (and longer lasting) foamy head.

With this, you’ll get plenty of lacing. If instead there are soaps or other greases on the glass, or even towel lint, your head could be greatly affected,

Additionally, the ingredients of the beer will also influence how much beer lacing you get.

The mashes, cereals and hop content of the beer will all affect how much lacing you’re left with in the end.

FInally, your drinking speed also affects beer lacing.

If you drink your beer speedily, then there will be less lacing left behind. Let it settle and drink slowly. 

Why Are Some Beers Foamier?

Not only does lacing vary, but also the amount of foamy head – which in turn affects the lacing anyway!

The amount of head also depends on various factors.

Firstly, the temperature of the beer will alter how much foam there is on top of it.

When a beer gets warmer, the larger bubbles in it will absorb the smaller ones, making the foam a lot less dense – and therefore smaller. 

Additionally, if you’re drinking from a carved glass, then the carved bottom will be a popular place for the bubbles to all group.

Eventually, the bubbles come free, floating up and adding to the head.

Therefore, a carved glass can result in an impressively foamy head.

On top of this, the more alcohol content (ABV) in your beer, the more foam it’ll have. 

Final Thoughts

You’ll likely have seen beer lacing – now you know what it actually is!

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy our post on ‘What Is First Wort Hopping? – German Brewing Techniques‘.

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