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Beer

Less Beer, More Foam

December 21, 2023

Story: Ruvani de Silva

photo: Lizzie Munro

Beer

Less Beer, More Foam

December 21, 2023

Story: Ruvani de Silva

photo: Lizzie Munro

For a growing number of craft beer fans, a layer of foam is the focus—not a fault—thanks to this Czech-made specialty tap.

At craft breweries and beer bars across the country, beer has officially entered its foam era. For many American drinkers over the past decade, if their beer arrived in a glass with a large layer of foam on top, they would likely feel shortchanged, and maybe even send it back. But for a growing number of craft beer lovers, foam is what they’re seeking. No longer seen as a fault in service, foam is being reconsidered stateside as a sought-after indicator of sophisticated serving and an integral part of the beer-drinking experience—all thanks to a single, purpose-built tap. The Lukr has landed.

A sleek, stylish side-pour tap made in the Czech Republic, the Lukr enables beertenders to serve traditional Czech-style foamy pours with ease due to its specialized design. With the brand’s current U.S. sales topping 5,000 taps, Lukrs are becoming an increasingly familiar sight to American craft beer drinkers, shifting perceptions about the way beers are poured and creating a new drinking vocabulary along the way. From Texas to Massachusetts, Florida to California, drinkers can be found happily sipping from Tübinger dimple mugs filled with varying levels of foam, each corresponding to a traditional Czech-style pour, such as hladinka, šnyt and mlíko. 

Hladinka, or “standard” pour, is closest to a regular keg pour, mostly beer but with about three fingers of foam, leaving a thick, flavorsome head with a clearer, smoother beer underneath. A šnyt, or “cut,” is about two-thirds wet foam, while a mlíko is a full mug of rich wet foam resembling a glass of frothy milk (for which it is named), designed to be enjoyed quickly before its creamy melt-in-the-mouth texture dissipates. “The beautiful, wet and creamy Lukr microfoam not only protects your beer from oxidation throughout the drinking experience, it also enhances the aroma and flavor compounds in the beer,” says Jonathan Ifergan, co-founder and lead brewer at New York’s Niteglow Beer Co., which serves its beer exclusively on Lukr taps.

Created in the late 1990s, Lukr’s goal was to improve the functionality of traditional Czech side-pour taps, a feat the creators accomplished with a patented combination of ball valve, compensator (to regulate the flow of beer) and strainer, which work together to produce the dense, wet foam Czech bars are famous for serving. “These three essential components transform Lukr taps into artistic instruments,” says Jan Havránek, Lukr’s head of international sales.

Artistry is, for many breweries, a major motivating factor in installing Lukr taps, which can be a pricey investment (between $260 and $400, compared with $65 for a regular keg tap). Sojourn Fermentory is a brewery-in-planning in Suffolk, Virginia, that will also be serving exclusively on Lukr taps. For co-owner Michael Pawley, who trained in Austria with a Czech brewmaster, “Beer service is equally, and in some instances, more important than the production. So for us, the Lukr faucets are an opportunity to control the experience and use wet foam as a tool to create the best taste, texture and experience possible.” This culture of professional tapsters serving perfectly crafted foamy pours is hundreds of years old in the Czech Republic, but new to the U.S. market. Traditionally, these styles were served on side-pour taps, which were less sophisticated and harder to use. Lukr founders began by trying to repair existing taps of popular Czech tapsters, but then decided to create their own. By easing the pouring process, Lukr helped create an international audience, fueled by a growing interest in beer history and culture paired with a boom in the popularity of craft lager.

“During [brewers’] visits to Prague, Pilsen and other cities, they realize that tapping beer from our taps elevates the experience of great beer to a whole new level,” explains Havránek, who highlights the importance of using the taps correctly. To this end, Lukr recently launched its Perfect Pour Academy, offering brewers professional training in Lukr use; it’s already taking off. Brooklyn’s Wild East Brewing, for instance, already has three Lukr-endorsed professional tapsters.

Drinkers are embracing the change, too, flooding Instagram with shots of these traditional Czech-style pours alongside new American variants. In the latter category are the Slow Pour Pils invented by Denver’s Bierstadt Brewing, consisting of a huge meringue-like head, five minutes in the making, billowing out of its glass. Philadelphia’s Human Robot Brewery also created the shot-like Milktubes, thin stanges of a mlíko-style foam pour, which is now an established Lukr serve nationwide, available at locations including Niteglow and Other Half in New York, Batch Brewing Co. in Austin, Texas (where they’re called milk sabers), and Denver’s Cohesion Brewing Co. (where they are known as milkshots). 

Breweries and bars have even begun serving non-Czech styles, like IPA and stout, on Lukr. In combination with these eye-catching, foam-forward serves, the Lukr taps are drawing hordes of new beer drinkers. “Milktubes made the whole thing super approachable and fun for people that aren’t normally into beer,” says Ifergan. At Cohesion, co-owner Eric Larkin also emphasizes the strong effect the Lukr-born milkshots can have on new drinkers. “Ninety-nine percent of the time people will try it and their face lights up—it’s really powerful to deliver someone a new flavor experience that is favorable.”

Though the foam-forward pours are new to many American drinkers, beer author and longtime foam advocate Stan Hieronymus is keen to point out that Americans do have some history with beer foam. He cites advertising images from the 1950s and ’60s where foam fills an inch or two of the glass, sometimes bubbling down its sides, in the hands of smiling drinkers. He also points out that for many in the industry, beer foam has always been important to the beer-drinking experience. “Foam impacts beer’s aroma and flavor as well as the elusive quality of bitterness,” Hieronymus explains. “I campaign for foam, so to speak, because I wish more people understood and appreciated this,” he says.

Larkin also believes the popularity of beer foam and Lukrs is largely industry-driven, as the foamy pour can reveal a fresh perspective on an existing product. “You don’t have to brew a whole new beer, you can add a new—albeit expensive—tap to the wall to offer something new and different,” he says. Even as the rise of Lukr taps in recent years approaches a fever pitch, Larkin is optimistic that their popularity is not a passing phase. “Trends are something a lot of breweries pay attention to and follow to sell what people want,” says Larkin. “These pours have a long history and culture, which hopefully will sustain their popularity and keep interest going.”

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Tagged: beer, trends

Here is Ruvani's bio: Ruvani de Silva is a travel-loving British Sri Lankan beverage and food writer based in Austin, Texas, with bylines including the Washington Post, Good Beer Hunting, VinePair, Pellicle, Hop Culture, Modern Farmer, Gastro Obscura, Texas Highways, Texas Monthly, Beer Is For Everyone and PorchDrinking. Ruvani is a vocal advocate for diversity, equality and inclusion in beer and is the founder of #SouthAsianBeerClub. Find her on social media @amethyst_heels and her portfolio at CraftBeerAmethyst.com.