with the occasional rant about tin openers...

Thursday, March 31, 2016


I'm wading in with sparklers. I've had some sort of beer blog for long enough now, I've earned it.

Pride of place in my rudimentary home bar is my Higene beer engine. Pride of place at the end of the swan-neck is a sparkler! I've read almost every other blog post and forum thread on these plastic things so far and I can't summon a third of the passion for anything that most drinkers have for one side of the argument or the other. As I see it, it's horses for courses.

Small, loose sparkler.
No sparkler: Brewer's choice, drinker's choice. Doesn't knock out much carbonation, fluffy head. If the beer is hoppy, it will still be hoppy. The southern pour.

Loose Sparkler (r): Quarters the beer. Much the same as not using a sparkler, really.

Angram Sparkler: These sparklers come in a variety of colours, with each having 16 holes of different sizes: green has holes of 1mm diameter, black 0.8mm, and white with holes at 0.6mm. There is a lot of resistance in the smaller holes. I just tried to blow through one of each.

Angram sparklers.

The green Sparkler is 'known' as the southern one, while the black one is known as the northern, for Yorkshire style beers. Interestingly, the only reference I have seen for a red sparkler, states that it is for Burton Style beers. Maybe it knocks out some of the sulphates.

I bought four Angram beer engines for an indecently small sum. One was marked 'Irish Stout', and had, firmly welded to the swanneck by old beer, a white sparkler. This, I presume*, pours with a thick, creamy head, as you'd expect on a pint of draught Guinness. Pub gas (a mix of nitrogen and carbon dioxide) was 'invented' to mimic hand-pulled beers, without the fuss of decent cellermanship.This mix delivers the likes of Guinness and creamflow beers with a low dose of carbon dioxide, making a smooth, creamy drink. Also known as nitrokeg.

The serving discussion should include the type of spout, of which there are two, swan neck and short. The swan neck is used with the sparkler, placed at the bottom of the glass, where there is a nib at the end of the sparkler to keep the holes about a centimetre off the bottom of the glass. This generates a lot of swirling cloud that settles up into the thick head and a crystal clear beer. Incidentally, the Guinness style cascading bubbles thing? Not unique to Guinness at all. The short spout allows the beer to fall into the glass, generating a nice, loose, bubbly head.

Not like this! Aaargh.

There is a lot more to the spout thing than I could hope to explain. It's about the drop in pressure as the beer exits the spout, and how this releases the carbon dioxide and so on. There's some chemistry involved with the oxidation process, too, I read, though I find that hard to believe simply because of the low temperatures and short times involved in this. People keep spouting stuff about how the beer aerates as it goes into the glass, and develops extra flavour. If anyone pours my pint like <--- that, they'll be pouring me a-bloody-nother.

In all, I have absolutely no preference, though I have noticed the beer is a little more bitter without the sparkler. I only own swannecks for now, and I hope to buy a short spout for one of the Angrams, just so I can see if there's a difference, but it's pretty low on my list of priorities.

For completeness, here are a variety of sparklers, including some fancy ones for soft drinks!

 *I'll be brewing a stout soon enough, and can't wait to try it through a sparkled beer engine. I read elsewhere that the sparkler vastly improves the maltier beer styles.