Let’s talk about glasses ….
No… not those glasses… These glasses!
Half the battle of really getting the flavor out of your beer, no matter the style or brand, is serving it in the proper glass. Using a glass specifically designed for the liquid you are consuming has been a standard for wines, liquors and cocktails for almost a century.
It took the craft beer revolution for Americans to be awakened to the idea of proper glassware for beer. The reason for this, of course, is the inferior flavor of the current (and if I may add, waning) reigning American Light Lagers. That and the co-opting of American bars by the U.S. Beer Distributors.
For many years now, the Big Beer brewers have been pushing the beer logo -emblazoned pint glasses on to bars so that they can get their names out in front of the customers. The problem is that the glass they decided to use is, of course, the least expensive to produce. But it’s not even a proper beer glass. The pint glass (in America often called the “Shaker” and in the UK the “Nonic”) does nothing for any of the beers styles served in it. It often causes the beer to lose flavor and carbonation sooner than it should. The Shaker was originally a bar glass used for mixing cocktails (thus the name “Shaker”) and was repurposed for serving beers by many bars for the cost efficiency as well as the ability it has for easy stacking.
In the ‘70s and prior, most bars would serve beer in mugs, chalices or pilsner style glasses. But thanks to the commercialism of Big Beer and their associated Distributors, we now have an entire generation that is ignorant of proper beer serving techniques.
So, let us review the Do’s and Don’ts, the rules of proper beer serving and the correct glassware for your favorite craft beers. We’ll start with the Don’ts!
- Don’t drink it from the can or bottle whenever possible!
a) Always try to serve in a glass, even if you have to use a plastic Dixie cup. Drinking from the bottle or can doesn’t give you two essential benefits of drinking good beer:
i. If you don’t pour the beer you don’t create the head of the beer and therefore are missing out on the aromas that enhance a good beer.
ii. If you don’t pour the beer the carbonation is still trapped in the liquid. This means you are swallowing carbon dioxide, which can lead to indigestion and affect the aftertaste of the beer.
- Don’t pour beer into a pitcher!!
a) Pouring beer into a pitcher starts the process of it losing its effervescence and flavor. So, by the time you reach the bottom of the picture you have stale, flat beer. Then we abuse this poor liquid even further by adding a bag of ice or some other artificial cooling apparatus to it in hopes of keeping it cold. Which in turn adds the condensation of the cooling object into the beer further diluting it. In reality, this should be unnecessary as Good beer not only can stand a little warming but will even release other characteristics as it warms. This leads me to the next topic…
- No. No! NO chilled glasses!! Ever!!
a) How many reasons can I point out why we shouldn’t chill a beer glass? Let’s count shall we…
i. Chilling any liquid changes the flavor. More bitter and unpleasant notes and flavors become clearer as the liquid begins to warm. This is true of wines, liquors and beers. That is why brandy drinkers will swirl the brandy around in their snifter while letting the bowl rest in their palm. The heat from the hand warms the liquid releasing additional flavors and scents they can enjoy. If you prefer the beer to be just above freezing in order to drink it then you are likely masking unpleasant ingredients. Wouldn’t it be better just to start with a better beer?
ii. Dipping a glass in water then sticking it in the freezer means you are coating the glass with water. When you pour the beer into the glass you are actually watering it down.
iii. Chilling the beer not hampers the flavor but the scents of the beer, which in turn affects the overall tasting experience.
iv. It only delays the inevitable. And if you have to have your beer ice cold then you need to drink it fast in order to avoid drinking it warm.
v. It’s a trick! Bars and breweries that practice this do so to hide the real flavor of bad beer.
b) If you read my last article then you read that while in Austin at the hotel bar I asked for a non-chilled glass so I could properly drink a breakfast stout. The look of shock on the bartender’s face was such that you would have thought I asked her to remove her clothes! Another victim of the Big Beer and Beer Distribution campaign against proper beer serving!
That’s enough for the “Don’ts”… Let’s talk about some “Do’s”!
- Make sure any glass you serve in has been properly cleaned. And when I say clean I also mean properly rinsed. Soap on the glass can be just as detrimental, maybe more so than any previous liquid contaminants. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to tell how clean a glass may be is to look at how the suds slide down the glass. If you have a fairly even recline in the way they slide down the glass wall then the glass is clean. But if you see suds clinging more so to one area than another, it is likely there is at the least some residue, whether it is soap or something else.
- When pouring a beer, whether out of a can, bottle or keg, tilt the glass slightly so the beer pours down the side of the glass until the glass is about half full. Then straighten the glass and let the beer pour into the center. This will begin releasing some carbonation and help to form a good foamy head without it being too big.
- And lastly, please select the glass that best fits the beer style you are serving. Below is a list of the some of those glass types and the beer styles that are best served in them. We have already discussed and discredited the pint glass and though it is the most utilized glass style we will not include that in the discussion.
a. Flute – This glass, similar to a champagne glass, helps to show off and retain carbonation but also help to release aromatics which lambics and fruit beers are known for, which is what you would ideally serve it this. You can serve the beer styles listed below:
• American Wild Ale
• Bière de Champagne / Bière Brut
• Czech Pilsener
• Dortmunder / Export Lager
• Euro Strong Lager
• Flanders Oud Bruin
• Flanders Red Ale
• German Pilsener
• Lambic – Fruit
• Lambic – Unblended
• Maibock / Helles Bock
• Munich Dunkel Lager
• Munich Helles Lager
• Vienna Lager
b. Goblet or Chalice – This style allows for head retention and allows for big sips. It is intended for beers with a higher ABV.
• Belgian IPA
• Belgian Strong Dark Ale
• Berliner Weisse
c. Mug – This came to live in German to replace the Stein. It featured thick glassware for both durability and assistance in keeping a beer cool. Serve with mostly lagers and other German style beers:
• American Ales
• American Lagers
• German Ales
• German Lagers
d. Stein – Originally made of glass, clay or wood. During the middle ages they began to feature a lid to help keep pests out of the beer.
• American Ales
• American Lagers
• German Ales
• German Lagers
e. Pilsner Glass – Intended for use with it’s namesake this glass feature a conical shape with no curvature to the sides. It is intended to showcase the color of the beer and help to retain the head.
• American Pilsner
• Baltic Pilsner
• Czech Pilsner
• German Pilsner
• Light Lagers
f. Snifter – This wide bowl shaped glass allows aromatics and volatiles to be released and like it’s cousin used for brandy will allow the heat from the users hand to warm the beer. This is primarily intended for beers with a higher ABV.
• Belgian Triples
• Belgian Quads
• Double Bocks
• Imperial Ales
• Imperial Stouts
• Strong Ales
• Scotch Ales (substitute for thistle glass)
• Most beers with over 7% abv.
g. Stange – German meaning “Rod”this cylindrical glass shape is meant for lower capacity and lighter beers.
• German Kolsch
h. Tulip – Bowl shaped at the bottom with a mouth that flares out this glass is great for strong aromatic beers with a lot of hops.
• Belgian Ales
• Biere de Garde
• India Pale Ales (IPAs)
• Pale Ales
• Scotch Ale AKA Wee Heavy (substitute for thistle glass)
• Strong Ales
i. Thistle – a Scottish cousin to the tulip is intended for
• Scotch Ale AKA Wee Heavy
j. Weizen – sometimes confused as a pilsner glass this glass is actually much larger and has a curved shape to the upper glass that helps with head retention. Its a tapered glass with the narrow bottom that helps to trap yeast. It is intended strictly for wheat beer.
• All Wheat Beers
• White Ales
• Belgian Wit (substitution for tumbler)
• Pilsner (substitution for pilsner glass or pokal glass)
k. Over-sized Wine Glass – It is a wine glass that is used for serving stronger flavored and higher ABV beers.
• Double IPA
• Belgian Doubles
• Triples and Quads
• Strong Ales
• Most high gravity (ABV) or big beers
Boots – Called so for their familiar shape, this glass is more of a novelty because air can become trapped in the toe of the boot and when the air pocket releases it can cause a splash on the drinker. Thought to be of German origin and German style beers are typically served in it.
Yard – Another novelty glass, it is thought to have originated in England where stage coach drivers were not allowed to leave the carriage while their passengers patronized a road house. This long glass was invented so that the driver could refresh himself while the patrons were busy inside
And that brings to close the proper etiquette associated with beer glasses…
No! Not those kind of glasses!