The NBPLF is normally concerned with the contents of a beer glass, but what of the containers which bring the libations to our lips?
Glassware is key nowadays when it comes to beer. It’s not imperative, but would you drink wine out of the bottle? No, you’re going to pour in it a glass. The same treatment and respect should be done for your craft beer. When you do that, you get the opportunity to have full enhancement of the aroma and the flavors in that beer.
Julia Herz, Brewer’s Association
So let’s start with the contrary opinion.
It says it right there in big block letters: “DRINK FROM THE CAN!”
First and foremost…I want beer, especially Heady Topper, to just be considered a beer. It’s nothing elevated, it’s nothing more than what it is, and what it is is the perfect drink for the working person…so what better way than to put a world-class beer into a common container and still make it taste fantastic? The other reason…is because if you pour it in a glass you’re inundating it with oxygen, just slammin’ it in there and it smells wonderful for a short time and that’s fine, but when you get down to the bottom of your glass and it sits there for 20 minutes it’s just a completely different beer. Whereas when you drink it from the can there’s this little layer of CO2 that hangs on top of the beer and protects it.
John Kimmich, The Alchemist
But let’s assume that you DO want to drink from a glass, what then? Let’s start with:
The Humble Pint
This is the American Pint or Shaker Pint. You’ll find this in almost any bar in America, even craft beer bars (as an option). It stacks fairly well, though you may have the devil of a time getting a stack of them apart. It’s fairly durable, so it will take some abuse around the bar. It’s cheap to make, and wide so it’s easy to slop things into your mouth. You’ll find absolutely everything served in it: American lagers, European lagers, American ales, European ales, damned near anything.
The biggest examples of improper glassware presentation = Imperial styles in pint glasses and High-gravity Belgian beers in pint glasses. Pint glasses, in most situations, are not the appropriate or preferred vessel, especially with beers boasting high levels of alcohol and extremely complex flavor profiles.
Ashley Routson, DrinkWithTheWench.com
Or in video detail, from craftbeer.com: The Right Glass
So what *does* belong in a pint glass?
Well, the obvious thing is the American Adjunct Lager, a.k.a. Yellow Fizz, and also the dreaded Light Beer. For that matter, it works reasonably well for many American ales and pale ales. In its nonic form (of which more later), it’s the classic British pub glass, so your “pint of bitter” will be served this way. The milder IPAs (like Bass) fare pretty well in pints. Porters and Stouts can do well, and the classic Guinness glass is a simple variant. Still, many of these might be better in more specialized glasses, such as
The Pilsner (or Pilsener)
Here’s a tall glass, tapered and relatively narrow. This is much better than a pint glass at forming and sustaining a nice head. This is best for clear beers and shows off their clarity and color. The narrow glass contains the carbonation and focuses the aroma.
Obviously, the Czech Pilsener belongs in this glass, along with its cousins from Germany and farther afield. That American Adjunct Lager will improve (slightly) in this glass. Higher-quality American and European Lagers will do well here, as well as Bocks and Dopplebocks and the Helles Lagers or Bocks.
The Weizen Glass
The Witbier or Wheat Beer looks good in a pilsner, but it looks better in its classic vessel, the Weizen Glass. These are tall, flaring, and perfect for the generous head characteristic of the style. The glass is typically very thin and ideal for showing off the hazy goodness of Wheat Ales (dark and light), Dunkelweizen, Kristalweizen, Weizenbock, and of course this is the natural habitat of the Heffeweizen. One other thing: I think these glasses feel fantastic in the hand. [After all, there is a tactile element to the beer experience.] However, be very careful with higher alcohol brews, because the typical Weizen holds about 23 ounces, or almost two standard bottles of beer without the head.
The Tulip Glass
The Tulip Glass is perhaps the most versatile of all beer glasses, after the pint. The glass has a stem, an enlarged body, and a flared top. This configuration encourages a generous head and focuses the volatiles right where they belong, at your nose. You can either hold the glass by the stem to maintain the current temperature as long as possible, or you can cradle it in your palm like a snifter to deliberately raise the temperature. If your beer came too cold from the refrigerator (one of my biggest sins), this is a way to reach cellar temperature, after which you can retreat to holding the stem.
What beers belong in the tulip? The IPAs lead the pack, especially the stronger ones like the Double or Imperial IPAs. Almost any Belgian works well in a tulip, but again especially the stronger ones like the Tripel and the Quad. The Scotch Ale is almost perfect here, and completely perfect in the similar Thistle Glass. The sour ale probably belongs in a tulip, though I am not yet convinced that it belongs anywhere at all. You might serve a Saison in this glass, but I might prefer that in a Pilsner or a Weizen. A Lambic will work well too.
The IPA Glass
A new entry in the world of beer glassware is the dedicated IPA Glass. This is a real newcomer which emerged from a collaboration of Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada with the German glassware maker Spiegelau. The smooth body of the glass truly channels hops directly to the nose, and cherishes any head. Meanwhile, the base is ideal if you want to grasp it to raise the temperature, or to hold lightly if you got the temperature right the first time.
Obviously this is the natural home of the IPA in all its forms, India Pale Ale, Belgian IPA, Double IPA, and Imperial IPA, but for that matter it will work fine for the Imperial Pale Lager and some of the other hoppy variants.
A Basic Set
This set of glasses: pint, pilsner, weizen, tulip, and IPA will leave you prepared for almost any brew.
In fact, craftbeer.com has a Style Finder designed to pair various characteristics with the appropriate glass from a list similar to this: Style Finder – craftbeer.com
No Solo! No Solo!
There’s one thing on which I think we can all agree.
OK, maybe at a picnic or pool party or occasions where the risk of broken glass outweighs the risk of diminished beer. That’s another one of John Kimmich’s reasons for drinking from the can. If you’re out camping or something, broken glass sucks. Moving on . . .
The Nonic Pint
Moving on to more complex glassware, you may have noticed that the Style Finder never shows you the Shaker Pint. Instead, it shows you the Nonic or British Pint. This is a similar glass except for the bulbous ring below the top of the glass. This makes it easier to get the damned things apart when stacked behind the bar. It also concentrates the head and the aroma. It is alleged to make the glass less likely to chip, and may fit better in the hand. It’s also a 20-ounce glass as opposed to the 16-ounce pint, so this leaves room for more of a head . . . or for more beer! In any case, the extra shape gives it more style than the Shaker Pint, and part of the point of glassware is esthetic. Clearly this is ideal for English ales.
The Guinness or Irish Pint
The truly iconic pairing of brew and glass, with the slight flare and slight taper to channel the head as the pint builds in the glass. Guinness–in the form of Mark McGovern of media relations for the Storehouse–describes a 6-step method to correctly pour a Guinness. The first step, of course, is using a Guinness glass, but the key step is to fill the glass to the three-quarter mark, and then let it sit for a minute or two before filling it the rest of the way.
Another more advanced pint variant is the Willibecher, which is as common in Germany as the Shaker Pint is in the United States. The slight taper supports a generous head and slightly concentrates the aroma. Obviously this is the natural vessel for a Bavarian Helles or other German Lager, and for any beer that works at all well in a Shaker Pint.
Another German variant, this time on the Pilsner, is the Stange. This is traditionally tall, narrow, and small, perhaps 200 ml, with very thin glass. The ideal contents might be a Kölsch or pretty much anything that also belongs in a Pilsner.
The Snifter is not only for brandy, it is excellent for many beers. For beer these are generally small glasses rather than vast balloon glasses. These are ideal for high alcohol brews, if only for portion control. If you put a 4% Wheat Beer in a Weizen, and a 12% Quadrupel in a small snifter, you end up with about the same amount of alcohol per glass.
The Snifter can be excellent for Double and Imperial IPAs and Stouts, for Strong Ales, for Tripels and Quads, and for Barleywine. The snifter can also emphasize the color of a lambic, and concentrate the fruity aroma, but I think there are better choices, such as . . .
. . . the Flute Glass. Just as Snifters are not only for Brandy, Flute Glasses are not only for Champagne. Start off with Biere de Champagne or other elegant brews. The narrow flute concentrates and prolongs carbonation. This also shows off a lambic, both emphasizing the color and forcing the rapid production of the fruity volatiles. This can also be used to show off other colors, or the clarity of other brews such as Gueuze, Helles style Lagers and Bocks, Red Ales and Schwarzbier.
Less common, at least in the United States, is the Pokal, a stemmed Pilsner variant. It serves well for the same brews as the Pilsner, while potentially isolating the beer from the warmth of your hand.
The Stemmed Pilsner
Another versatile glass is the Stemmed Pilsner, something of a cross between the Tulip and the Pokal. It can serve for any of the brews that use those two glasses, but I find it ideal for the less hoppy ales like the classic Pale Ale.
The Chalice or Goblet
The Belgian Chalice or Goblet is classic for–you guessed it–Belgian Abbey Ales like Dubbels and Tripels, but also Farmhouse Ales and Belgian IPAs. It also looks very dramatic, and the heavier Chalice can feel somewhere between weighty and pretentious in your hand.
The Stein or Mug
The Stein or Mug is beyond classic, where the Stein is stoneware and the Mug is glassware. Both come in a variety of shapes. The basic point of the Stein is high volume, so it’s best for lower alcohol beers like Bavarian lagers or for getting completely destroyed by a couple of rounds. Some Steins come with a hinged cover so that you have access to your beer and flies do not. There are also ornate steins of various sizes depicting various topics, from hunting boar in the Black Forest to, well, a more modern topic . . .
. . . and then there is the largest stein in the world, a mere 32 Liters, 35 pounds empty weight, available for your purchase at:
for a mere $5221.99. Prost!
We have completed our little glassware tour, but let’s give the last word to John Kimmich:
Once you buy it, you can drink it out of whatever the hell you want! Drink it out of your shoe if you want!
Well, maybe if it’s a glass slipper. A clean glass slipper.
Ayinger images courtesy of Brauerei Aying
Chimay image courtesy of Chimay Trappist Beers
Guinness image courtesy of GUINNESS&Co
Orval image courtesy of Merchant du Vin Corporation