A while back I received an email from the marketer of a device called the Sonic Foamer. This coaster-like gizmo promises to deliver an enhanced beer-drinking experience by using ultrasonic vibrations to excite the CO2 in beer. At the push of a button these sound waves raise a thick, creamy head that propels the beer’s aromas from the glass. And as the company’s promotional video correctly states, most of what we taste is actually what we smell.
Guinness introduced an identical device in Great Britain in 2006 that they called the Guinness Surger. Its success must have been limited, as it seems now to only be available used on Amazon or Ebay. This current iteration was discovered in Japan where it is marketed as Sonic Hour, a play on the Japanese word for foam, “Awa.” The Japanese manufacturer Takara Tomy Arts makes all sorts of fun devices to foam your beer.
When I got the email I was intrigued. Who doesn’t want an enhanced beer-drinking experience? Who doesn’t like a fluffy cap of foam on their beer? Actually in this country a lot of people don’t, but that’s for another post.
I was intrigued, but I also had one big question nagging at my noggin. Why do I need this device? I can raise a perfectly fine head of foam just by executing a proper pour. And I’m accustomed to swirling my glass periodically to maintain that frothy aroma delivery system. Do I really need an extra gadget cluttering up my life to do something that I am capable of doing with just a glass and my hands? Does the Sonic Foamer deliver such stellar results that it bests the old-school, analog method?
I decided to put it to the test. I tested two beers, Sam Adams Boston Lager and Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss. I split each equally into two identical, clean glasses. For one I used the Sonic Foamer according to instructions. The other was handled the old-fashioned way. I tested for aroma and foam.
The Sonic Foamer user’s manual instructs you to pour the beer without foam. It takes effort to pour a headless beer. The Foamer needed to leap a pretty high bar to make that extra effort worth it. In this case it didn’t deliver.
The head raised by the Foamer was perfectly formed – beautifully smooth and creamy with exquisitely fine and uniform bubbles. It was much nicer looking, but shorter lived than the foam on the traditionally poured glass. By the time the head was gone on the Sonic Foamer beer I still had a good half inch on the other.
The aromatic delivery was disappointing. The traditionally-poured glass had much fuller and brighter hop and yeast character.
The Extended Experience
The user’s manual recommends keeping the Sonic Foamer nearby. When the head dies down, simply place the beer and push the button. That is what I did, periodically surging the Sonic Foamer test glass and swirling the other.
With every surge the Foamer delivered a gorgeous one-inch head. The perfectly formed head was consistently creamy and uniform. The swirled head fell short in this aesthetic evaluation. It was smaller, had inconsistent bubbles and shorter retention.
The aromatics were a wash. I could not discern any difference between the aromas of the surged versus the swirled glass.
So does the Sonic Foamer live up to its claims? Yes it does. It promises to deliver and maintain a perfect head that will carry the aromas out of the glass and into your nose. It does that. The foam raised by the device is aesthetically superior to that of a normally poured and swirled glass. It really is beautiful. And I’ll add that the thing is fun to watch. The bubbles form like magic in the glass with every push of the button. And those bubbles do deliver aroma.
But to answer my initial question of whether or not I need the thing, I have to say no. The actual drinking experience brought by the Sonic Foamer was just on par with the old-school method, and actually inferior on the initial pour. It’s easier to pour normally and swirl occasionally. And I don’t have to replace batteries in my arm.
And in case you’re curious, as I was, it takes about 30 surges to completely decarbonate a beer.