Heineken Star Serve competition serves up a winner

Sarah Ewing from Gore has been named New Zealand's best Heineken Star Serve Bartender and will be flying to Amsterdam in October to join bartenders from around the world, competing to pour the perfect Heineken.

The 2019 New Zealand Heineken Star Serve Bartender Finals took place in Auckland, searching through the best of the best from both north and south islands.

"It is a craft to pour a good looking, good tasting Heineken," says Ewing, who is usually found tending the Bar at The Thomas Green Public House in Gore.  

"It's not only about the end product but the care in doing the steps for the customers. You not only want them to enjoy the taste of their Heineken but also the visual experience of the serve.  It takes certain steps to pour it perfectly. I'm a perfectionist and the challenge of the Star Serve programme got me excited to take my hospitality career further."

The semi-finalists stayed calm under pressure as they were judged on each step of the five-step Star Serve process - rinse, pour, skim, check and serve – and the pressure was real, as one of the judges was Heineken Global Draught Master, Franck Evers.

Heineken Global Draught Master Franck Evers demonstrates his five-step Star Serve process.

"The link between a brand like Heineken and consumer satisfaction is the bartender," says Evers. "If the bartender knows what they're doing, the guest will have a great reaction to the beer. The other way around is the same, if the bartender messes up the pour the consumer has a bad experience."

Evers explains there is real science behind the five steps of the Heineken Star Serve; the rinse, pour, skim, check and serve.  For example, pouring the perfect head will form a seal on top of the beer like a bottle cap, keeping the bubbles inside and stopping oxygen interfering with the taste of the beer.

He says the fifth and final step, serve, is every bit as important. "Treat your customer like your best friend," he says, "and make his or her stay unforgettable."

The Heineken Star Serve competition is held annually and forms part of the Heineken worldwide quality control system, ensuring the exacting standards of the Heineken Star Serve pour are upheld every time a Heineken is served, anywhere in the world.

Heineken Global Draught Master Franck Evers (left) with Sarah Ewing, the winner of the 2019 Star Serve Bartender Finals.

Heineken Star Serve is an international quality programme which trains bartenders how to pour the perfect Heineken. This ensures every customer can expect their Heineken to be poured, served and taste as it would in any outlet around the world.

Certified Draught Masters conduct training worldwide, with approximately 40,000 bartenders taking part in the Star Serve programme so far.  

In New Zealand, Heineken contracts mystery shoppers to visit bars and make sure bartenders are observing the strict standards of the Heineken Star Serve process.  

Sarah Ewing says she loved being part of the competition, meeting the other competitors and the judges.

"It's such an awesome experience to go to Amsterdam and compete at a world level. I haven't been in hospitality long and to get this opportunity to represent New Zealand doing something I love is crazy."