Beer Department: An Argument in Favor of Proper Glassware

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I’ve been fairly surprised lately at how much talk I’ve heard from folks who still prefer to drink their craft beer(s) of choice directly from the can or bottle that it was packaged in. As craft beer has exploded in popularity, tastes have evolved and palates, in general, have become more daring, I assumed that everyone had received the memo that drinking beer from a decent glass was the way to go. For those that didn’t receive the memo, or who want more convincing, allow me to make a humble argument in favor of the humble beer glass.

First and foremost, I’m not suggesting that you drink beer in a proper glass at all times. If you’re camping or at a ballgame, that can will do just fine. I’m also not suggesting that you bog yourself down in the minutia of having a diverse array of glassware to suit every conceivable occasion. You don’t really need a thistle to enjoy a Scottish Ale or a stange to enjoy a Kolsch. What I am suggesting, most fervently, is that a small and simple collection of 2-3 pieces of quality glassware will greatly increase your appreciation of every beer, no matter how basic or complex. After all, if you’re paying good money for better beer, shouldn’t you get your money’s worth?

The benefits to proper glassware are manifold. A good glass will entice you with the beer’s appearance (we eat and drink with our eyes first), allow a proper head to form which aids in aroma release and texture, as well as allowing the beer to breathe which will open up previously undiscovered flavors. There is a lot of marketing hogwash out there about the particular benefits of a given glass or why some new and improved flared lip will surely help you detect umami flavors with ease, but the basics of aroma, appearance, texture, and flavor hold true through all the gimmicks. A good glass really will deliver a better drinking experience. There’s no snobbery here; this is all just basic sensory science.

In selecting proper glassware, we must, unfortunately, omit that bastion of the American craft beer scene, the shaker pint glass. Shaker pints are straight sided 16oz glasses that caught on in bars because they’re sturdy, stackable, and dishwasher safe. Unfortunately, they’re merely a beer delivery vessel. They’re only marginally better than a bottle or glass because at least you can see and kind of smell your beer, but only marginally. The stalwart shaker pint’s major downfall is that it was never designed for beer. It is used for mixing cocktails and bar owners in the 80s started using it for beer more out of convenience than actual usefulness. In selecting a few good pieces of glassware, I’d recommend a glass with a rounded bowl shape that will allow the beer to breathe as well as a taper toward the top of the glass that will help form a head and direct the aroma toward your nose. The rounded body with a taper that I’ve just described could be a brandy snifter (especially an oversized one) or even a red wine glass. I prefer this style of glass for most higher gravity offerings like barleywines, quadruples, and imperial stouts because it allows for a smaller pour with room left over at the top of the glass to really stick your nose in there and appreciate the nuances.

A second must-have glass is the tulip. Like its namesake, a tulip glass has a bulb at the bottom and then tapers toward the top before dramatically flaring out at the lip. The flared lip will really help to disperse the beer more evenly across your palate. I find myself reaching for a tulip most of the time when I’m drinking. I use my tulips for everything from IPAs to saisons to Belgian strong pale ales to sours. Tulips really are a remarkably versatile glass. I can’t recommend this glass highly enough and there are plenty of great ones out there. Many Belgian breweries including Duvel and Brasserie D’Achouffe make their own personalized tulips. I’m also very partial to a glass called Teku by glass manufacturer Rastal.

The final piece of glassware that everyone should have to maximize their beer enjoyment is a proper utility glass. This is the sort of glass that’s no frills, no stem, just a sturdy and reliable glass that will help you appreciate your beer. A flared pint glass or a nonic pint will do the trick here. Use these glasses for lagers, wheat beers, and simple golden ales, anything that doesn’t warrant any muss or fuss but still deserves a glass (as all beers do).

So that’s really all you need! A few simple glasses will make your beers shine (and taste and smell) like never before. If you still don’t believe me, take a beer, pour some into a tulip, some into a shaker, and leave the remaining third in the bottle. Then sample all three and tell me which tastes better. Here’s to better beer! Cheers!


Eric, Eastgate

Certified Cicerone®

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