Imagine sitting in a bar in Prague, a waiter serves you a beer. It comes with a 3 fingers thick wet foam. Why so much foam? How could that waiter explain it to you in a sticky way?

There are common misconceptions in food and beverages. We tend to dismiss some parts of a product as second league, but actually, they play a crucial role in the taste and experience.

If it’s not immediately understandable by consumers, bar and restaurant staff has to take the time to explain it. But who explains it to them?

Chris Maffeo Blog - What Do Fat & Foam Have In Common And How To Explain It To Customers
– Photo: a perfectly poured Pilsner Urquell at Cerveny Jelen in Prague, Czechia –

There is a misbelief that to explain stuff to customers (e.g. bar staff) you need long powerpoint decks and sell-in tools with fancy (branded) jargon.

Really? How about explaining it by using simple comparisons with things that are more common in their previous experience?

Years ago, when I worked at the brewery in Pilsen, I visited a prosciuttificio in Langhirano near Parma. (Yes, the ham comes from that place).

I had a one hour tour with a Master in his ageing cellars. I couldn’t stop asking questions and I fell in love with the conversation with that charming old man. It was then that I started to make parallels between beer and ham.

Apart from realizing the rationale why I love fat and foam, it was then that I got the inspiration how to easily explain the importance of foam to people.  

We often use adjectives such as sweet / salty for Parma ham and hoppy / malty for beer.

In fact, hop acts as a spice in beer, (imagine pepper on a carbonara) and it adds bitterness, aromas, etc. 

Chris Maffeo Blog - What Do Fat & Foam Have In Common And How To Explain It To Customers
– Photo: Pilsner Urquell Brewery cellars –

Hops and bitterness do not permeate the foam as much as the beer body. Hence, the foam stays “sweet” (or, non-bitter).

This is the reason why when you have the first sips of a freshly poured foamy beer, it is usually much sweeter than the one in which the foam has dissolved. 

A flat beer without foam tastes more bitter. Also because the foam protects the liquid from the oxygen. When it dissolves, the oxidation starts (but that’s a story for another time).

So what about Parma ham?

Swap beer with meat and foam with fat and here you go:

During the air-curing process, salt is added to the thigh. The months go by, the salt permeates the meat but not quite the fat.

If you cut off the fat from a slice of Parma ham, you get a very salty taste. If you try the fat alone, it gives the impression of sweetness. Having it together gives balance to the whole experience. On top of it, sweet and salty also depend on how aged the ham is (but that’s again a longer story that I’ll tell you sipping a beer together).

– Photo: Prosciuttificio in Langhirano (Parma, Italy) –

Did you understand the importance of foam in beer? I guess so, even if you are not a foodie from Parma.

We often overcomplicate explanations. We could convey simple messaging about ingredients and intrinsics to customers in a direct and sticky way. 

Looking around social media these days, there is a tendency in brands talking about themselves rather than adding value by explaining their category. Brands think top-down (look at me).

Consumers think bottom-up. What’s in it for me? As a buyer, I want to understand lagers, stouts, IPAs, Irish whiskey, gin in general first and only after I want to hear how that particular brand is the best choice to address my needs. 

Bartenders are the “live” enablers of that brand conversation. They want to add value to their customers; they don’t want to be perceived as if they are working for a particular company. Why not enable them with simple storytelling?

We will talk more about storytelling in another article.

In the meantime, have you ever tried Parma ham?

 

 

Christian Maffeo