Being a “bit” of a glass pedant, I often get asked questions by folk like “what glass do you think best suits this beer?” and such things.
Now I know there are no hard and fast rules, and to some folks, a glass is purely a method of shifting liquid from table to gob with no thoughts of what benefits using a suitable designed receptacle could bring to the party. Some don’t bother with glasses at all, but we won’t mention those…. 😉
Seriously though, if you are interested, there are loads of books out there on beers and beer styles that offer advice with the associated perceived enhancements to expect, or maybe purely just the historical reasons behind why a specific beer glass is the way it is.
You could also do worse than keeping theses two “info-graphics” to hand. Both of the attached articles were published by Jay Brooks over at Brookston Beer Bulletin (a great source of information on this sort of thing and well worth subscribing to), and whilst both, as Jay states, are only guides, they should give you at least a reasonable idea on what to look for.
Hope they are of some use and that Jay doesn’t mind my sharing again.
2 “Today’s info graphic is a poster of the most common glassware for beer, with a list of styles below each glass that whoever created the poster believes would work best with each one. I’m not sure I agree with every choice, but at least some styles are listed with multiple glassware. That suggests that none of this is written in stone, which we all know, of course’
Yes its true, I am. “My name is Phil and I’m a pedantic glassoholic”, there I’ve said it, I’ve come out, now the world can see me for the miserable sod I truly can be, where beer and beer glasses are concerned. (Some of you will not be surprised, I don’t hide it well)
I’m not ashamed, I’m proud of it. I love my beer and I firmly believe it should be treated with a degree of respect and reverence if brewed to the same exacting standards.
There’s no snobbery in that either, you wouldn’t dream of buying a decent bottle of wine and swilling it from the bottle (unless of course its wrapped in brown paper and you are covered in flies), nor would you grab a bottle of 15-year-old single malt whisky from ‘the special shelf’ and take a slug, leaving your stale saliva dripping down the inside of the bottle..
How many times have you seen the shell suited faithful, wander down the high street swigging from a can of Tennents Super or Special Brew and thought, bloody piss-head? Why does it make it any different because your bottle is an imported super hoppy IPA, or an expensive barrel aged Imperial Stout?
When my good friend Nate, author of Booze, Beats and Bites wrote his “Drinkin’ From The Bottle” post a few days ago, we had a bit of light-hearted banter about it across Twitter and the like. I still think the bottle part is utter bollocks (sorry Nate), but I understand the sentiment was more about just enjoying beer because you want it, and want to drink it without any distractions of mentally pulling it apart, but really, was the glassware cupboard THAT far away?
Don’t get me wrong we’ve all done it when needs must. The inevitable Becks or Stella at a Christmas party, an ice-cold bottle of Bud dripping with condensation whilst enjoying a BBQ, or perhaps a bomber of Punk IPA at a mates because all he has is a chipped tea mug. Then of course, for the infamous “train beer”, sometimes it just has to be done. There will always be exceptions.
You equally may think I too am talking utter bollocks and after all you could well be right, who am I to tell you how to drink YOUR beer, it’s your decision at the end of the day.
What annoys me most though, is the thought that this is all trying to make necking from the bottle a bit “trendy”, the next big thing, for fresher beer bottle is better and all that, it’s just not.
Apart from inevitable the CO2 bloat and accompanying belch-fest, bottles are often dirty unhygienic things on the outside. You have no idea where they have been stored since they left the brewery, stale beer spillage, dust, bacteria, fly shit, rat piss could all lie hidden on that shiny looking bottle in the hidden world of the microbe, how many hands have mauled it too in it’s life in transit. That aside, drinking from the bottle adds nothing apart from the convenience a few seconds saved from grabbing and washing a glass.
For the doubters I say this, go to Belgium and order a bottled beer from the menu in any half decent bar (pretty much most of them).
Watch the bar person grab your bottle and open it…
Watch as they carefully select usually the matching breweries glassware, wipe and or refresh it…
Watch some more as the beer is poured with precision leaving just the last few centimetres in the bottom of the bottle and the glass is carefully set down with the branding set towards you on one of the two beer mats set down in front of you in readiness.
Finally, watch as the bottle is set down on the other empty mat, the label again turned towards your place at the table or bar, it’s your beer, you chose it and the server wants you to enjoy it to the full and as the brewer intended.
Watch all this and tell me that you are not impressed..
For years we’ve lagged behind here in the UK on that front but things are changing and definitely for the better, best use it or lose it and end up with little choice than to keep on chugging..
Are you a fan of dimpled jugs or a perhaps more of a straight person? Maybe you’re partial to a shaker, a nonic, a chalice or a tulip? Do you not care a jot, if not you most definitely should..
As I may well have mentioned to you before, glassware is important to me and when I’m out at a bar or pub or wherever I have been known to throw a hissy fit after my beloved beer has not been given the respect it deserves. Just because it’s a foreign beer it does not mean that any old foreign branded glass will do.
It’s not about branding either, although I do think it helps with the overall experience. With some exceptions, for example an Orval chalice should only ever be seen with a nice foaming domed head of Orval in my opinion. But as with Orval, the shape of the glass has been designed with the particular beer or beer style in mind and that should be considered when you fill it with a tasty beverage. Check this brilliant info-graphic taken from the Brookston Beer Bulletin for examples.
It’s a similar picture at home too, in fact my glassware collection is starting to take over the house, that with the beer of course. But I do have a favourite go-to glass that I use more than any other. It’s pictured below and it was part of a “classics – beer connoisseurs collection” I had given to me at last years beer bloggers conference after a session hosted by manufacturers Spiegelau. (pictured below)
The item in question is the stemmed glass on the right, listed as a stemmed pilsner glass, for me it’s more of a tulip-goblet hybrid and is perfect for aromatic IPA’s and such as it holds a good amount of beer, allows enough space for the head and most importantly focusses those lovely aromas.
Being honest all these glasses are fantastic, the quality is outstanding, the look and feel of each one is second to nothing I have ever used before and of course this improves the overall drinking experience. (No I am not being paid to write this by the way)
For this reason alone I was really excited to hear the news late last year that Spiegelau were collaborating with Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada to create the perfect IPA glass. “Designed to showcase the complex and alluring aromatic profiles of American “hop forward” IPA beers, preserve a frothy head, enhance taste and mouthfeel, and present a comfortably wide opening for the drinker to savour each beer”.
So, despite my ever beer suffering wife’s plea for “no more beer glasses” I ordered some, and tonight am putting the new grand design to the test, head to head against the incumbent champion.
As a first observation before beer hits product, there’s a lovely feel to this glass, the precision edged lip is great as always, plus you have the slightly ridged base which feels good in the hand. The design also addresses perhaps the only flaw I could raise with some of the taller designs in that it is base weighted, these glasses are really fine, incredibly light and normally could easily be blown over in a breeze, this feels solid.
For the head to head I’m going to use a beer that I know should really benefit from the work that has gone into the design, it has an awesome aroma profile, full on taste and most importantly I know it is as fresh as fresh can be as it was direct from the brewery, Axe Edge IPA from Buxton.
Whilst there was nothing scientific about this test the beer was served at the same temperature, just chilled enough to try and maximise the aromas. At this point I should mention that my first worry about the design was unfounded, at first glance I thought it would be a nightmare to pour beer into, but on this first try at least, there was no problem at all.
After several passes of each on the nose I have to say it’s one nil to the new boy, Axe Edge is a proper tropical fruit fest anyway, but this really boosts those aromatic fruity notes right out like an Dyson-air powered hop cannon.
Surprisingly it wins on taste too, the difference isn’t huge but is noticeable unless there’s just a “new toy” placebo effect going on here, but I think not. Aroma and taste being linked, it makes sense that a glass that by design has a ridged inner surface to continuously boost aroma whilst you drink will push that aspect as you take beer into the mouth, that’s my theory anyway. 2 – 0.
To complete the clean sweep and to reiterate my earlier comment it feels great, I really like the feel of my old faithful goblet but this somehow just feels right, substantially chunky at its base to feel comfortable to hold without transferring too much heat from the hand, but remaining delicate in the upper body so as to keep the drinker, you and I, fully aware that this is no ordinary drinking vessel. Plus to top it all off the head retention, I assume being topped up by those clever ridges was excellent too, staying intact long after the other had subsided.
The verdict, well for me it’s pretty conclusive, for IPA’s at least this is my new glass of choice but I’m a glass geek for sure. Should you buy some, well that depends on how much you experiment and how much you are willing to spend and what you prefer to drink? The four glass set covers lots of styles and retails at about £30 direct from the website or from Amazon, whereas the twin pack of IPA specific glasses is £15, I’d happily recommend both to anyone serious about their beer.
If it helps to sway you though, both Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head are donating all of their portion of proceeds from sales to hop research, a worthy cause for any hop head.
Check out Sam and Greg’s thoughts on the design process and finished product below: