It's as easy -- and as gross -- as one, two, three.
This is how it works -- or, how I understand it works: Bartenders or bar backs take a dirty beer mug, and dip it in a sink filled with a warm soapy mixture of water and cleaning solution. Occasionally, the glass is scrubbed a bit. The glass is then dunked in a second, neighboring sink of lukewarm half-soapy water.
Finally, the glass is submerged in a third sink of cold water, wiped with a towel, filled with beer and served to someone.
Raise your glass if this grosses you out.
Let's be honest here. Since the sinks are close together, there is some overflow between them. The "clean" water inevitably gets soapy and so forth.
It's debatable how clean the glasses actually get ...
Probably depends on how often the first sink is washed out and refilled, which, during peak hours, is probably not often. Same goes for the towel.
Maybe it's not so bad. There might be a positive here -- what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? Look at it this way: The lingering bacteria and soap bubbles helps strengthen your immune system against more dangerous infections.
Not all bars clean their glassware this way. Restaurant/bars tend to have a dishwashing machine in the back. And a few places, like Pub Dog in Federal Hill, have dishwashers behind the bar.
This whole discussion raises the debate: At what point does this really matter? Alcohol is a poison, after all. What's a little more bacteria tossed into the mix?
Over the years, I've seen my share of three-sink glass cleaning systems. When I do, I try not to think about what's really in my glass.
(Baltimore Sun archive photo)