An in-depth look at the process behind creating a realistic pint of beer in theatre.
Stage magic is a very real thing and in the theatre, the creators of that magic are the many talented designers who help take the play from page to stage. When it comes to food and drink on stage, props designers and stage management teams have developed many tricks up their sleeves in order to ensure that what audiences are seeing on the stage is realistic and believable. They have the double job of also ensuring that the food and drink being used is safe, follows health and safety regulations and, most importantly, is to the taste of the actors who’s job it is to consume the product night after night.
Wendy MacLeod’s Slow Food is set in a restaurant so conversations about the food and drink that would be used on stage happened very early. Beer features heavily in the play and obviously, the real stuff would not be suitable to use on stage. There are various alternatives that are typically used in theatre including food safe dyes, teas, watered down apple juice as a substitute for whiskey or wine, sparkling apple juice or ginger ale for champagne, etc.
Beer, however, can be very tricky to replicate, especially depending on the amount that is physically being consumed on stage. A carbonated drink is a fine substitution if only a sip is to be had but if multiple glasses are being consumed, it’s not ideal for the actor. The other tricky part about with beer is achieving a realistic foamy white head.
In order to achieve that top inch and a half froth, our stage management team uses a product called Fee Foam, which is a non-egg alternative for shaken cocktails. Examples include the Pisco Sour, Whiskey Sour, the Pink Lady, Commodore, New Orleans Fizz, etc. You can find more egg-white cocktails here!
A fun fact about Fee Foam! It’s created and distributed by Fee Brothers, which is a local Rochester business. They even have a special verse on their products.
“The House of Fee
by the Genesee since
Erica Fee, a descendant of the Fee family, is currently the producer behind the Rochester Fringe Festival.
We watched our stage management as they tested a recipe for the beer that would be used in Slow Food. Because the beer is described as being “very light” and because one of our actors consumes it consistently the course of the show, the team opted for non-carbonated liquid light in color. The liquid is created using water and a few drops of caramel color dye.
Step One: measure a full pint of liquid. Pour 1/3 of the pint into a cocktail shaker and add a 2-3 shakes of the Fee Foam.
Step Two: Shake shake shake! Make sure to keep the lid on tight while doing so.
Step Three: Pour the shaken mixture back into the pint glass. After a couple of seconds, it will settle and you’ll be left with a crisp foamy top.
The finished product! Although not as amber in color as a real pint of beer, this substitute is safe to drink, easily reproducible, and is not carbonated so our actors are able to comfortably drink multiple cups during the coarse of the show. The Fee Foam frothy white head also helps to lend it a realistic look.