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I've seen people complain when served a beer without foam. Equally, getting a glass full of foam is no use.

When serving a beer, how much is the right amount of foam and why is this important?

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It (also) depends on country - for example in UK usually there is no or minimal amount of foam (possibly as they are serving Imperial pints of beer using standard glasses which leaves no room for foam - serving with foam could be considered cheating customer out of 2.4 fl oz. of beer). –  Maciej Piechotka Feb 1 at 17:03
    
Here in New Zealand beers are typically served without foam, with the exception of Guinness. Drinkers will be displeased if you serve them a beer with foam, as they feel they are being ripped off (fill the glass to the top with beer). –  dwjohnston Feb 9 at 23:27
    
Here in japan the foam is quite important, and most of the time people know how to pour the beer in the right way to produce foam. In the Philippines though I remember my friends not liking being served beer with foam. –  IBG Feb 16 at 6:51
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2 Answers

Most importantly, a good head helps release the aromas of the beer, especially the hops. Aroma is everything for enjoyment of a good brew. When enjoying a super-hoppy IPA, you should always use a glass that provides a large surface area for aromatics to rise from.

It can also provide the a pleasant mouth feel. Stouts definitely benefit from a thick, silky head.

And lastly, it's eye candy.

As for the right amount of head, it varies. Generally in an average pint glass you want 1-2 finger-widths of head. Some hefeweizens and wit beers are best with a bit more.

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Apart from the simple explanation of people liking the foam, the lack of head could indicate problems with the beer. For example:

  1. It could mean that the glass is dirty, or there is left over soap residue on the glass. This can affect the taste of the beer.

  2. It could indicate that the beer has lost its carbonation (the head being formed by the gas quickly coming out of solution in the beer). For many forms of storage a lack of internal pressure will indicate that they are no longer sealed properly, which makes it easier for infections to enter the beer or for it to oxidise.

As for the ideal amount of head, to some extent it will depend on the style of beer.

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The lack could also mean that you got the glass that was poured an hour ago but accidentally left in a corner... –  PlasmaHH Feb 5 at 12:10
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