No, no, no. Not Beer Goggles. Beer GLASSES. Arguably, beer goggles may be a much more important topic to learn and discuss. However, those are not what I was referring to. For more information on beer goggles, please read my archived blog, Bad Decisions: Choose Your Wingman Wisely. Nah, just kidding. But seriously…read it. Over the past couple of months I’ve been asked a few times by readers and friends to post something on which glasses are appropriate for the different types of craft beers.
Ok, why not? After all, we all started somewhere with our first dabblings into the world of great beer. I remember wondering, “What type of glass should I pour this fancy Imperial Pale Ale into?”, years ago when I first branched out from Bud Lite and the occasional Corona with a lime. At first, I wanted to know so that I didn’t look like a fool if I were in the company of Wizards and Warlocks of the Beer Nerd Secret Societies. Should I ever have had a chance encounter with one, I wanted to show them that I “know things” and quite possibly be allowed initiation into their secret world.
Once in this secret world, I may rise in ranking until I’m allowed to grow a beer’d of wisdom and attend Rare Tapping Events and the like. Silly thoughts aside, it wasn’t long before I realized that glassware was much more than just pretentious beer snobbery. The proper glassware allows each type of beer to reach its full aromatic and flavor qualities. Not much different than with a fine wine or a high end whiskey or Scotch. The proper glass promotes these qualities with design features that allow CO2 release and retention, temperature regulation, and the maximization of various aromas.
There is actually quite a bit of science behind the design of different beer glassware. The primary goal of this article is not to delve deep into the scientific study of beer glassware. This article is merely meant to provide the beginner to intermediate beer connoisseur with a good foundation of glassware knowledge that will serve you well in 99% of your beer drinking endeavors. There is a surprising number of different beer glasses available and used to serve beer. Some are pretty rare and only commonly used in certain countries. Some are specifically designed for only one brand of beer. Some are purely meant for marketing purposes. I’ve excluded these outliers for the purposes of this article.
The following are MY own condensed listing of the glassware mainstays you should know, understand and possibly purchase that will allow you to serve and gain maximum enjoyment of almost any type of craft beer. The great news is there are only four glasses that you can stock and be prepared for any beer. Without further delay, here we go…
Types of Beer Glasses
The classic. The glass standard. The ‘Go-To’ glass.
The standard, straight wall pint glass is the quintessential beer drinker’s glass. It’s versatile, inexpensive, and easy to find. It is great for ales and lagers, both light and dark. It’s THE glass for porters, stouts, and browns. It’s also good for pretty much any standard/low ABV ale or lager. If you’re ever in doubt on what glass to use and the ABV is below say 8% then you will be safe to use this glass. If it’s not the perfect glass choice for the beer type, it will not hinder it to be served in this glass type and it will still be acceptable and enjoyable to all served. The common alternative pint glass with the ridge around the glass near the top is called The 20oz Imperial pint glass. It is equally as good and versatile. You will see these used interchangeably in pubs around the world.
The small sized snifter is a great glass to use with higher ABV beers. Imperials of nearly any beer type work well in snifters. They usually have high ABV so the slightly smaller pour volume helps keep you in check. The high grain, sugar and sometimes hop content of Imperials put off more aroma and the shape of the snifter focuses those aromas directly to your nose for higher level of enjoyment. Also, holding a snifter allows the warmth of your hand to bring the temperature of the beer up to a more suitable temperature for higher ABV beers, as they are to be enjoyed warmer. Strong Ales, Imperials, Barleywines and nearly any other high ABV beers are good choices for snifters. In a pinch, these are even suitable for Belgian beers if you don’t have any tulip shaped glasses for serving Belgians. (see below)
Bavarian Weizen Glass
Wheat beers are special enough to dedicate a unique glass just for them. The Bavarian Weizen Glass is a tall drink of water… er …beer? Sure, you could serve a Heff in a standard pint glass and there wouldn’t be too many raised eyebrows. It would also still be tasty enough from a pint glass. However, the Weizen Glass’ tall slender body with the large, flared opening on top helps to maintain that large foamy head and locks in the fantastic aromas that are especially associated with wheat beers. I recommend keeping these on hand for the summertime wheats that are so refreshing.
The Tulip Glass
Although nearly opposite in overall shape from the Weizen Glass, the Tulip provides the same benefits as the Weizen. The bulbous body and flared lip allow for great head retention and the release of volatiles for aromatic enjoyment. These glasses are ideal for Belgian Ales, Wild Ales and Lambics. I realize that drinking from one of these, dare I say, fancy glasses may make you feel like you’ve gone all in on ultimate beer snobbery. With the dainty stems and the voluptuous shaped body of these glasses, do not lift that pinky finger while you raise your glass. Jokes aside, just do a side by side tasting of a fine Belgian Strong Ale from a pint glass and then again from a tulip glass and tell me you don’t taste a world of difference.
Well, I hope you enjoyed reading about these featured beer glassware choices. Hopefully, some of you found it useful in your quest to dominate the craft beer world. My one final nugget of wisdom for you is this: If you ever find yourself at a tractor pull, a NASCAR race, or possibly a Duck Dynasty watching party then please disregard everything you just read in this post and remember these three words…RED SOLO CUP.