A Three-Part Blog Series Covering the Importance of Beer Foam, Choosing the Appropriate Glassware and How to Properly Pour a Beer
Choosing the appropriate glassware is more important than you might think when it comes to your beer tasting experience. Each design serves a specific purpose, besides being aesthetically pleasing. These purposes can be capturing the distinctive aroma escaping from a frothy head, releasing carbonation at the proper rate and even delivering the taste to the right location of the tongue. The shape of the glass is especially important for affecting the result of the pour, particularly the formation and retention of the head of the beer.
Any beer connoisseur knows a proper head of beer to be a good thing. In our first blog post of this series, we explained how food and drink are primarily identified by the senses of smell and sight, not taste. The carbon dioxide in a good head carries with it intense, complex aromas from the beer that otherwise might be lost to the nose and the palate. Letting a natural head form when pouring a beer is the key to experiencing a beer to its full potential. So, having a glass that affects the retention of the head can possibly make or break a good beer drinking experience.
There are many types of beer glasses today; many having been designed for one specific beer. But there are 6 more common, and traditional, types I will mention for the sake of being specific and sparing you your time.
1. The Pint Glass
The two most common types of pint glasses are: The American Pint and the Nonic
-The 16-ounce American pint is the most common type of glass for beer, at least in the United States. This being because it’s inexpensive to manufacture and easy to clean and store. The style of the American pint glass neither enhances or seriously detracts from any style of beer, so it’s considered an all-purpose glass.
-The Nonic is very similar to the American pint but has a slight ridge at the top. It is also commonly referred to as the Imperial Pint and holds 20 ounces. The original motivation for placing the ridge at the top was to prevent breakage while stacking and to improve grip while handling the glass.
Stein Recommends: Bud Light, Budweiser, Busch, 10 Barrel Pub Beer
The Stein is a hearty mug designed for rambunctious cheers. It is traditionally made from stoneware, pewter or porcelain with plenty of volume and a handle to keep beer cold. These days, a traditional stein is more commonly used for ornamental purposes. It has a hinged lid intended to keep the beer sanitary, dating back to the Black Plague. You’re more likely to see a glass mug/stein used now, pictured below. They typically come in sizes of either a half-liter or full-liter. Both variations of this glass are best paired with American Ales and Lagers, Scottish Ales and Irish Dry Stouts.
Stein Recommends: Odell 90 Shillings, Grand Teton 208 Ale
3. IPA Glass
Designed by Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head and Spiegelau, the IPA glass was created for hop-forward IPA’s. This glass takes elements from other existing glasses and combines them for the perfect vessel for American IPAs. The rippled pedestal base and concave rim properly aerates the beer and captures the aroma. The thin body maintains the cold temperature while the laser-etched bottom creates bubbles that flow upwards for a nice frothy head. Compare the IPA glass to an average pint glass and you will see for yourself why it pairs perfectly with hoppy brews.
Stein Recommends: 10 Barrel, Joe (IPA); Elysian, Space Dust (IPA); Odell, IPA; Epic, Spiral Jetty (American IPA)
4. Goblet, or Chalice
Most recognizable as the Stella Artois Chalice, these glasses are designed specifically to maintain the beer’s head with their shape. While very similar in appearance, there are slight differences in the two. The goblet has a longer stem and thinner glass while the chalice has a shorter stem and thicker walls. Many beers with a higher ABV count go well with these types of glasses because they maintain the head of the beer as much as possible while the higher alcohol content dissipates it. They also allow more complex beers to warm nicely. The goblet and chalice are paired best with Belgian IPA’s, Belgian Ales, Belgian Strong Ales, Bocks and Dark Ales.
Stein Recommends: Stella Artois (Belgian Ale); Spaaten, Optimator (Dopplebock)
5. Tulip (or Thistle)
The Tulip gets its name from its shape; a stem with a protruding lip at the top. This glass is designed to capture the aroma of complex beers. Made for hoppy or malty brews, it enhances the volatiles and retains proper head retention. The bow of the rim lets the beer hit the tongue’s center while the stem prevents warming. Pairs well with: American IPA’s, Belgian Pale Ales, Belgian Strong Ales, Gose, and Scotch Ales.
Stein Recommends: Leffe, Blonde (Belgian Pale Ale); Elysian, Avatar Jasmine (American IPA)
The Weizen is a glass designed specifically for wheat ales. The slender body shows the unique qualities of the Weizen family while it also traps the fluffy head. Since wheat beers are unfiltered, the glass is intended to trap the yeast at the bottom, giving you a clean mouthful with every drink. The Pilsner (shown on the right) is often mistaken for a Weizen but lacks the curvature. The pilsner most commonly holds between 10 and 16 oz; much less than any other beer glass. The skinny bottom showcases the carbonation and color of the beer while the wide mouth allows the flavor profile and aromas to stand out. The pilsner is designed specifically for pilsners but will also work well with other pale lagers that have a lot of carbonation.
Stein Recommends: Breckenridge, Agave Wheat; Shock Top, Belgian White; Widmer, Hefeweizen; Beck’s, Pilsner; Estrella Jalisco, Mexican Pilsner
There are two very important tips to remember when it comes to your glassware:
- Never chill or drink beer from a chilled glass. Ice crystals deter a head from properly forming when poured into a frozen glass or mug. Also, condensation destroys the volatiles of the beer and cold temperatures can mask the flavor.
- Cleanliness is godliness when it comes to serving beer. The tiniest amount of soap or dust can ruin a good glass. Always hand-wash your glasses in a mild dishwashing liquid; dishwashers and rinse agents can leave behind deposits that will alter beer’s head and flavor. Air drying is always better than towel-drying as towels can leave fibers or dust on the glass. After washing, store the glasses upright in a cabinet, or top down on mesh to allow all the water to evaporate and to deter mold.
Don’t consider this a definitive guide on how you should always drink beer. It really all comes down to practicality and personal preference, and a little bit of how picky you might be. If you do decide you want to use an appropriate glass for your beer and are still unsure of which one to choose, ask for a taster first! Once you get a taste of the characteristics of the beer you’ll be able to make a better decision on which style of glass would best complement its traits.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the third and final post in this blog series regarding how to properly pour a beer. After reading these first two posts you now know the importance of having a good head on your beer and why you should choose an appropriate glass to accentuate the volatiles of the brew. The next post will instruct you on how to execute the perfect pour to release the right amount of CO2 and allow the ideal amount of head to form at the top of your glass. You will be experiencing the flavor of your beer to its fullest potential after being educated on these subjects! Remember to always drink responsibly! Cheers!