Well, not in the grand scheme of life but in its small way, to a select group of people who want “it” done right, it is important. Beer deserves to be treated with respect and that starts with proper serving temperature (another subject) and then a “beer-clean” glass (I am resisting quotation marks from now on, it’s tedious and a little pretentious.)
You think your glass is clean. It looks clean. Then you pour your beer and there is little to no head. Is the beer flat? Taste – nope. The glass is dirty. Trace amounts of fats can be left behind by all sorts of things: lipstick and its cousins, balm and gloss; milk and cream; soap; even fingerprints. These fats cause the head of your beer to dissipate more quickly. Dirt and fat can also cause bubble nucleation on the sides of the glass. The tiniest pieces of lint can lead to bubbles on the side of the glass, interfering with clarity. In addition to the dissipation of foam, a nearly-clean glass can introduce off odors to your beer – from smoke, bar towels, plastics, lingering food smells, all kinds of common items. Yuck.
Signs that your glass is NOT beer-clean: quickly dissipating foam,; irregular bubbles clinging to the sides of your glass, lacing (the pretty rings of foam that should be on the inside of your glass after every sip) is irregular, nonexistent or sliding down the inside of your glass in patches; water forms droplets on the inside of the glass rather than cleanly sheeting; and finally, the salt test. If you wet the glass and the salt doesn’t cling evenly your glass is NOT beer-clean.
A beer-clean glass is not the difficult to obtain. Wash with detergent instead of soap. Rinse thoroughly, using the “heel in, heel out” method to avoid air pockets (repeat this if you’re using soap instead of detergent). Air dry (no linty towels for you). Drying surface is not flat! If you are a restauranteur and are lucky enough to be building a bar from scratch, consider a dedicated, steam dishwasher.
A dense foam head on your beer adds to your enjoyment. Sight, smell, taste, and texture are all affected when your glass is not beer-clean. It can also affect your bottom line. Please, no more beer abuse, beer-clean all the way!