Before you sip

* Ask the bartender which beers sell the best, a diplomatic way of divining which kegs are likely to be freshest.

* If you choose a less popular beer, ask the bartender to drain some off before filling your glass, to avoid beer lingering in the line. Connoisseurs call that a "line pour," and send it back.

* Be sure the bartender draws your beer with a proper head, pours off excess foam and leaves an inch on top.

* If you get a glass so cold it stings, set it aside about five minutes to warm up, or bite the bullet and warm it with your hands.

* If you mostly drink bland, mass-marketed beer, put expectations aside. Great craft brews are likely to be a bit warmer, and a lot more complicated and satisfying.

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