Learning the science behind the perfect pint

Teacher: Pete Jefferies

From: Wiltshire

Lesson: How to pour the perfect pint

Have you ever walked into a village pub and ordered a pint of ale that tasted a bit like vinegar and looked a little cloudy? We certainly have, but armed with little else than ‘I don’t like the taste’, making a complaint in front of ale-pickled regulars is too terrifying a prospect.

From the moment we stepped into The Swan at Enford, Wiltshire, it was clear that we’d never have any of those problems here. Pete Jefferies emerged from behind his immaculate bar and quickly pointed us in the direction of the small jars he’d placed in front of each pump. Each jar showed exactly what the ale should look like when served, so customers always know what to expect from their pint.

The teach us team standing behind the bar at the Swan in Enford

The Swan landlord Pete Jefferies shows the teach us team how to pour a pint

Physically pouring the pint proved to be easier than we’d expected (helped in part by fancy new hydraulics) but, as Pete explained, there’s much more to a pint than meets the eye. He showed us to his cellar, that always had to be kept at the optimum temperature for ale of between 10 and 12 degrees, and quickly put us to work. “The only way to get a ‘perfect’ pint”, Pete explained, “is to clean the lines every seven days, without fail”.

As a reward for our hard work, Pete let us sample his ales. As promised, they were perfectly crisp, clear and delicious. We picked out the different flavour profiles of each pint with ease, and began to wish we lived within walking distance of this fantastic Wiltshire pub. When the lesson was done, we sat down with Pete to ask not only what goes into making the perfect pint, but also what he thinks goes into making the perfect landlord.

Pete Jefferies, the landlord of The Swan in Enford how taught the teach us team how to pour a perfect pint

How and when did you develop your interest in ale?

Here, two and a half years ago. I’ve always worked in pubs, but more on the cooking side of things. Since taking over this place I’ve become really excited about ales, especially with the new micro ales and all the different flavours. They’re all unique – you never find two beers the same. Some are really good and some can be appallingly bad, but it’s all in the brewing.

What got you into pubs in the first place?

I love pubs. I love working in them, I love the trade. I love meeting people and having jokes with them and generally just being around the locals.

What’s been the proudest moment in your career?

During the very first ‘Swan Fest’ we were stood out in garden, up the top where the orchard is, and the last band asked the crowd of over 700 people to bow to us in thanks. They were all villagers who hadn’t had a pub like ours for a number of years, so to be accepted like that was really special.

The Swan at Enford, where teach us learned the science behind a good ale

Have you done much teaching?

I’ve trained lots of kitchen staff, but I also train our front of house staff in the same way that I’ve taught you guys today. It’s really important that everyone who works for me understands the science behind the pint, as well as how to serve a customer because they’re equally important.

What do you get out of teaching?

Good teaching improves my business. If anyone here serves a bad pint, that customer is never going to come back again.We have to make sure we’re serving the right thing 100% of the time. Ale is a food stuff, and it’s just as important as food. You have to get the flavours right, and the only way to do that is to keep the ale proper. If you don’t keep it right, it won’t taste right. It’s as simple as that.

What are the most common mistakes people make when it comes to serving a bad pint?

They don’t clean the line enough. A bad line clean can result in a really bad ale and there are lots of landlords out there that try to cut corners. A line needs to be cleaned every seven days, without fail, but some try to eke it out as long as possible. The longer they eke it out, the worse the ale will be. Not only does bad line cleaning ruin the ale, it ruins the lines too because yeast eats plastic. We clean all 12 of our lines every Monday morning. It takes three hours to do the whole lot, but it’s time well invested.

Nick from teach us pulls a perfect pint of ale

Asides from knowing how to pour the perfect pint, is there another skill you wish you had?

I wish I could race cars. I love speed!

Who’s your most talented friend?

My former head chef is extremely talented at whatever he does. He’s twenty years my senior, but he’s just taken a completely different path in life and become a Bishop, which is something he’s always wanted to do. I’m extremely proud of him because it was a dream he always had and he’s stuck to it.

How would you rate us?

You were pretty good actually. You all had a good go and I’m pretty sure you now know what it takes to create the perfect pint.

The teach us team with pub landlord Pete Jefferies who taught them how to pour a good pint

Pete Jefferies from The Swan in Enford explaining what goes into making a good pint to the teach us team

Alice from teach us pours a perfect pint

What we learned

  • ‘Filings’ or fish guts, are put into each barrel of ale by brewers to clear and clarify the ale by pulling dirt to the bottom
  • There are 68 pints in a standard barrel of ale
  • Landlords lose four pints per barrel to wastage, but still get taxed on those pints
  • Beer barrels need to be tapped six hours before drinking
  • The type of yeast used determines the colour of the pint. For example, Fuller’s uses a very red yeast, which results in redder pints than normal.