Choosing Great Glassware
Let’s be clear up front: there’s nothing wrong with cracking a cold one on a hot day and drinking right from the can or bottle. But, if you really want to experience everything a beer has to offer, you’ll be better served to first pour it into a glass.
And which glass you choose can have a big impact on how you perceive it. Different glass shapes can cause aromas to focus and intensify, or to disappear faster.
Beer glassware goes well beyond your standard beer mug or pint glass, to the point where in Belgium many breweries will design a custom glass for every beer they make. This might be extreme, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that certain beer styles are best experienced in glassware specifically designed for those styles.
These are some of the more common glassware types that you may encounter. There are many more not listed here. Only the most dedicated bars are likely to have all these different glass types, but you may want to stock your own cupboard with one or two well-selected varieties that best match the beer styles you regularly drink.
Shaker pint / Tumbler
A straight-sided glass that doesn’t offer any real benefits, but it doesn’t hurt the beer either. It’s strong and durable, which helps explain why it’s the default choice in many bars. Lighter lagers and pale ales are fine, but I wouldn’t choose to serve an aromatically complex beer in this glass. The 14-20oz size also makes it a poor choice for higher-alcohol beers.
Goblet / Chalice
A smaller stemmed glass with a large bowl to allow for head expansion on pouring bubbly Belgian-style beers, as well as a wide opening for easy sipping. The expanded surface area also allows aromas to collect for a more concenrated sniff.
The bulge helps collect aroma in the head offering more nuance to English ales, stouts and darker beers, pale ales, and IPAs. Point of trivia: the name comes from the term ‘no nick’ because these glasses are less likely to chip or crack, which also gives you a pretty good idea of how it’s pronounced.
These tall, tapered glasses allow for better perception of colour and carbonation in light lagers and pilsners. They’re elegant and art-deco inspired, but they’re also fiddly and easy to knock over. But when in Europe…
A short, stemmed glass with a medium-sized bowl typically used for cognac or brandy. This one’s perfect for high-ABV beers where you won’t be consuming a full pint. The shape has the additional advantage of encouraging swirling to intensify volatile aromas while trapping them in the glass.
A peculiar glass that isn’t common outside the regions of Germany where it originated, this is the glass to use when serving kölsch. A variant called the becher is common for altbier. These glasses are frustratingly tiny (200mL / 6.8oz), so unless you’re a purist leave them for bars that specialize in these German styles.
Curved walls allow for a concentration of aroma, and the bowled base allows for the collection of bubbles in highly-carbonated beers which makes it perfect for most Belgian styles. IPAs shine in tulips for the same reason.
Similar to a shaker or nonic pint glass, but with a more tapered bulge. This is the standard glass to use for Irish beer like stouts and red ales, but also lends itself well to any other type of British or even American ale.
The name is a dead giveaway, this is the glass for wheat beers, particularly the German kind. A 500mL fill line printed significantly lower than the lip allows for a very large frothy head, and the taper allows for amplified aroma. This glass should really never be used for anything other than a wheat beer.
You may come across glassware of any type that has an etched logo or mark in the bottom of the inside. These are added to offer more surface area in order to knock CO2 out of solution and create visually pleasing and controlled streams of bubbles inside the glass.
Okay, so you’re not likely to stock your home bar with all these different glass types. Can you get away with just one glass type for all your beer? Sure you can! The shaker pint is just fine for serving almost anything other than higher-ABV beers. It’s not the best glass, but it works.
My personal go-to for almost any style of beer is the stemmed tulip. The shape and inward-tapered lip of a tulip makes it a good, all-purpose beer glass that collects aroma, offers enough headspace for foam, and allows you to really get your nose into it to pick up more subtleties. Plus the stem just makes my beer feel fancier.
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