When it comes to appreciating beer, like wine, glassware can make all the difference. Numerous styles exist. Each style has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the brew, however, choosing one glass over another comes down to personal preference. Most importantly, always use glass and no other substance. I know at sporting events, vendors will often pour beer into plastic cups for safety reasons, but it does nothing for the brew. Beyond that, here are some of the most popular styles available.
What most beer drinkers are familiar with is the “mug” or “stein.” They’re sturdy, often heavy, hold a lot of beer and allow you to clink glasses without breaking. Good for most styles of beer!
The next most popular style of glass would be the “pint”. This is the one most bars and pubs use as it’s cheap to manufacture, really easy to store, relatively light, a cinch to drink out of and extremely versatile for most styles of beer. A great all-purpose beer glass!
If you’re a fan of pilsner and lager, then the “pilsner” glass is what you should use. This tall, tapered, slender model really highlights a beers’ colour, carbonation and usually provides great head retention.
Wheat beer or Weizenbier aficionados might vie for a “weizen” glass. The name implies what it is designed for. It looks somewhat similar to a Pilsner glass.
Heavier ales work best in a “tulip” glass. This shape, with a stem, is similar to the kind used for wine. The shape induces a big, lathery head and really highlights the ale’s nose
Personally, I love the “goblet”. Here, a big, round bowl with a long stem makes for some major gulps, especially when thirsty. The head of the beer tends to last long in this style, as well.
Numerous other styles exist and there are even some that aren’t actually considered beer glasses. I’ve seen certain cocktail glasses and sparkling wine flutes used for lighter brews and brandy snifters and larger wine glasses for heavier choices.
To pour a decent glass of beer, start at a 45º angle and focus your pour on the centre of the side or slope. When about half full, gradually tip the glass upright redirecting the pour more on the middle of the glass, creating a head that’s about 1 – 1.5 inches thick.
The care and feeding of your beer glasses are of utmost importance. They should always be used at room temperature. If right out of a dishwasher, let rest a while before using. Never chill or frost your beer glasses either. Cleanliness is an even grander issue. First of all, ensure the glass you choose is used for beer and beer only. Even if washed extremely well, if used for other beverages, there’s a chance that it may still smell and taste from that other liquid, compromising the beer’s nose and taste. Just like wine glasses, residual detergent in a beer glass can rob it of a decent head, have it disappear quickly or even cause the beer to go flat. Fat- or grease-based residue like lipstick, oil or fat, fingerprints and dairy based products are hard to remove from glassware and can affect both aroma and taste. If using a dishwasher to clean your beer glasses, try using an organic detergent with no added scents and don’t overfill the soap dispenser. Hand washing requires a mild detergent and always allow glasses to air dry. Never use a dish towel to dry as it can leave behind lint, residue and smells that will affect the beer.
Many a great beer has been foiled by glassware. Think of the glass as the vehicle that delivers the brew from its container to your experience. If you’re a beer lover, you’ll want to get the most out of it.
Edward Finstein is a wine writer, award-winning author, TV and radio host, educator and judge
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