Just like any fine wine or evening cocktail, the vessel in which a libation is served is just as important as the drink itself. And anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is most likely drinking keg beer out of a solo cup on the weekends. Let’s be frank; it’s not pretentious, it’s appreciation. An appreciation for the time and effort dedicated to perfecting the art of beer brewing. As soon as the beer hits the glass its color, aroma and taste are altered. With every second, hidden flavors and smells become more apparent, color is brought to the foray, and the anticipation of that first sip continues to heighten.
Studies show that the shape of glassware will impact the flavor of the beer and more importantly head retention, or how long the beer’s foamy top layer lasts. Think of a beer’s head as a casting net for the drinks volatiles; aromas that stem from hop oils, yeast fermentation, fruity esters, and spices. The head traps the volatiles, adding to the beer’s banquet. Certain styles of beer then warrant certain levels of head retention. In turn, certain glassware aids in the facilitation of the ideal head for each style. It’s a classic example of presentation meeting pragmatism. Let’s then, have a look at the major types of glassware and the styles they complement.
Suited For: Strong Ale, Barleywine, Tripel, Stout, Quad
Built specifically for its namesake, the snifter features a bottom bowl-shape bulge that allows the glass to fit comfortably in the palm of the drinkers hand. Such shape makes agitation and smelling a breeze. It’s a glass similar in shape and appearance to traditional cognac and brandy glasses. The shape itself promotes the head and aroma retention. Ideally, drinkers want two fingers worth of head for the beer. Due to the shape, the snifter does a fantastic job of retaining volatiles and providing the drinker with a full banquet experience. Ideal for Strong Ale, Barleywine, Tripel, Stout, and Quads.
Suited For: Pale Ale, Strong Ale, IPA
The tulip glass demonstrates the straightforward nature of the beer industry. Shaped like its namesake flower, the glass has a boubous body, supported by a stem that narrows and the widens as it approaches the base the vessel. The stem enables drinkers to hold the beer without warming it up, and the mouth design of the glass gives the beer a thick head, thus trapping the essential flavors within the libation and keeping its aroma close to the source. The tulip is one of the more common glasses you’ll find at the local watering hole. And drinkers can expect to enjoy Pale Ale, Strong Ale, IPA any other full aroma’d beers out of this glass.
Suited For: Belgian IPA, Strong Dark Ale, Dubbel, Quad
If there were a glass fit for King Arthur’s Court, it would certainly be the goblet. Shaped like royalty, the glass features a large wide body supported by a thick stem. The glass itself is thicker than most, especially near the base, but tends to become thinner near the mouth. Scores at the bottom of the glass promote continued carbonation, and the overall shape often supports over two inches of head. Indeed, the goblet retains a significant head for any number of the beers, such as Belgian IPA, Strong Dark Ale, Dubbel and Quad Ale.
Suited For: Pilsner, American Lager, California Common, Vienna Lager
Meet the champagne flute’s larger, less refined cousin. The pilsner glass is slender and tall, cylindrical in nature. It’s a great glass for presentation since it allows the colors of the beer to really shine through, ideal for the lighter translucent beers that are often served in the glass. In addition to showcasing color, the pilsner glass puts a beer’s carbonation on display, encourages head retention, and in effect enhances volatiles in the beer’s profile. Pour up a Pilsner, American Lager, California Common, or Vienna lager in one of these glasses.
Suited For: American Dark Wheat, Dunkelweizen, Hefeweizen, Pale Wheat
Similar to the pilsner glass, the wizen vase is a tall, slender glass that tapers toward the base. The design comes from Bavaria, made for the Weizenbier (wheat beer) common to that region. The glass itself is thin to showcase the beer’s color, and the wide mouth allows a fluffy head to collect at the top. Too often beers poured into these glasses are ruined by a lemon or orange. In this case, the citrus actually ruins the head. And if you have to put one in your drink, then you should probably start drinking better beer. Try any number of American Dark Wheat, Dunkelweizen, Hefeweizen or Pale Wheat styles in this glass.
Suited For: Classic Ale, Lager, Witbier
Keeping things in Germany, let’s take a look at the stein glass. As an iconic glass of the beer world, the stein is round and squat with a handle and thick sides. The handle enables the drinker to keep a firm grasp on the beer without warming up the contents. The size also allows a large quantity to be drunk. The stein is made for the social gathering. And thanks to the cap and handle, it’s certainly the most spill-prove of the glasses. So next time you’re in the mood to drink some classic Lager, Ale, or Witbier in a crowded setting, set yourself up with a stein.
Suited For: Lager, Pale Ale, or IPA
The nonic pint is almost like every other pint at the bar with one exception; it features a slight bulge just below the rim. They come in two standard sizes: the 16-ounce US Tumbler and the 20-ounce Imperial (Nonic) The wide mouth enables a decent amount of head to form at the top of the glass, facilitating in trapping the beer’s volatiles, allowing color and aroma’s to really shine through. They’re also fairly cheap and easy to store which makes enjoying any number lagers, pales, or IPA’s a classy affair.
Suited For: Basic Ale and Lager; Overconsumption
Here’s a toast to beer drinkers everywhere. Because if you’ve enjoyed a beer at any bar or restaurant in the world, you’ve drunk out of the common shaker pint. Also known as the American pint glass, it was originally used to shake cocktails. Later used to house any number of cheap to craft lager or ales, the design features straight sides and a large mouth. It’s not really designed for the beer in mind. Rather the bar owner. These are easy to stack, generally cheap, and hold beer that’s more often than not easy to drink.
Suited For: Nitro Stout, Lager, IPA, Pale Ale
Take the shaker pint glass and add a flaring towards the top and you’ll have the tulip pint. The tulip is more well-known from promotional campaigns such a Guinness Stout. However, its usefulness in displaying the awesome nitrogen carbonation in these beers isn’t something to shy away from. Best used for housing nitrogen stouts or another beer with a larger mouthfeel, the tulip pint also works well with conventional Lager, IPA, and Pale Ale
Suited For: Bavarian Style, Amber Ale, Baltic Porter, Red Ale
Enter Octoberfest. Seen throughout Bavaria in the fall the seidel is a heavy German-style beer mug that features an extra thick handle, walls, and base to give the impression of a solid piece, probably because over the years people have been prone to dropping them after a bit of over consumption. Clearly the seidel is designed to ease the drinking process and with a large size, it can hold plenty of the volume. Aside from traditional Bavarian styles, drinkers are known to consume Amber Ale, Red Ale, and Baltic Porter out of these glasses as well.