Dedicated to craft beer education and enjoyment!
Volume 1, Issue 10 - November 28th, 2005
One of the great rewards of writing about beer (besides for getting to drink lots of great beer!) is getting feedback from my readers. I received this question via e-mail from a loyal reader and friend, which in turn inspired this latest issue:
I was out at Puck Fair last Friday night having a pint (or four) and got a thinking
about the different types of vessels that we drink beer out of: tall and narrow,
wide and flat, typical pint glass. Would love to know more about it, is it similar
to wine, though of you and pints of knowledge.
Well, Doug, you're quite right about beer glasses being similar to wine glasses. While most beer tastes great in any glass, the right glassware can enhance your beer drinking experience. So, lift your glasses, whatever shape they might be, and get ready to travel into the world of beer glassware...
Probably the most common beer
So, you may ask, what is so wrong about this glass? Well, there’s nothing particularly “wrong” with it. But it does nothing to enhance the appearance, aroma, or taste of any particular style of beer. It is, however, better than drinking straight from the bottle.
Why pour a beer into a glass rather than drink straight from the bottle? There are many reasons. First, drinking from the bottle never allows you to see the true color and look of the beer. The darker the hue, the darker roasted the malts are, which means more of those roasted, toasted, chocolaty flavors. And the cloudier the beer, the more likely yeast from fermentation is present in the beer (which can be a good thing or bad thing, depending on the style of the beer… hefeweizens are meant to have lots of yeast, but a pilsner should be clear and golden).
Pouring the beer also helps to release the aroma. Plus you can’t fit your nose into a bottle very easily! Aroma contributes much more to taste than one might think. Our taste buds can only simply taste these four flavors: sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Flavors such as toasted, spicy, earthy, or floral all come from a combination of both taste and smell. So, if you can’t smell your beer, you’re missing a big aspect of the flavor.
And lastly, pouring a beer provides the opportunity for the head to form. And certain styles just lend themselves to having a good head. What would a pint of Guinness be without its characteristic creamy tan head? And without its foamy white head, a pilsner would just seem downright flat. So, if you want the full experience of your beer, be sure to pour before you drink!
The traditional English pint glass is somewhat different than its American cousin, the shaker. The English pint glass is a wide, straight cylinder with a handy little bump-out about 3/4 of the way up that keeps a glass that might be wet with condensation from slipping from your hands. After all, while there may be no use in crying over spilt milk, a spilt beer is a very different story.
Two more advantages the Imperial or British Pint Glass has over the American Shaker. One, it’s wider at the mouth, allowing for a fuller head and more aroma. Two, it holds twenty ounces vs. sixteen. Traditionally these glasses are marked with the seal of the crown to signify that the glass meets royal standards for volume, guaranteeing the right amount every time. More aroma, more flavor, more beer! This one is a simple decision.
A classic pilsner glass is tall & lean, tapering to a wider mouth at the top like a tulip or a trumpet. This is one glass truly meant for one style of beer. The thin glass allows you to see the clarity and golden color of the pilsner, which was truly distinctive at the time of its invention in a world full of dark and murky brews. The relatively high level of carbonation is seen as the bubbles rise up the slender sides. The wider head helps form and retain the signature foamy pure white head. Think back to the steins and tankards of the Middle Ages, and you can see why pilsner in its thin crystalline glass appeared like champagne to the masses.
Whether you’re thinking Indiana Jones or Monty Python, you know what a “grail” looks like. A wide-mouthed chalice with a rounded bottom on a sturdy neck and base… a more muscular version of a wine glass. And such a distinctive glass calls for distinctive brews. Better known as a chalice or goblet, this glass is meant for strong and complex beers such as Barleywines, Dubbels, or Trappist Tripels. These all are rich beers, high in alcohol, and meant for sipping and enjoying slowly. The chalice is perfect for this for several reasons.
For one, it has a wide mouth allowing it to maintain a head for a longer period of time. The wider head also allows more aroma to be released, and for your nose to truly get into the glass as you sip. Also, the stem allows you to hold the beer without warming it… while such beers are typically served at warmer cellar temperatures, they also shouldn’t be warmed to room temperature, or worse the 98.6 degrees of your body temperature. If you are going to sip them slowly, you don’t want them to become overly warm as you linger. And lastly, they just look impressive. Come on, you know people are going to notice the dude at the bar drinking out of the Holy Grail when everyone else has a pint glass in their hands.
There are plenty of other glasses out there to be found. Yards and half-yards which are more about quantity of beer than quality of drinking experience. Hefeweizen glasses and Kolsch glasses, designed to showcase the best qualities of a particular style. Novelty glasses in a variety of shapes meant more for amusement than true enjoyment. But there’s one that is a true “step-above” the rest…
The “boot” originated from Persian general who in the course of rousing the troops before invading a town claimed he would drink beer from his boot if the siege was successful. While quite happy with the resulting victory, he feared that living up to his promise might mean consuming all the not-so-tasty fungus, toe-jam and leathery flavor that lingered in his boots after weeks and months of marching across the plains of battle. To be true to his word, yet avoid contaminating his delicious beer, he asked a friend who was a glassblower to fashion a beer glass in the shape of his boot.
And while rare to find, if you do come across one, heed this warning. If you drink toe-down, you’ll never get all the beer out of the boot. If you drink toe-up, you’ll end up with a face full of beer when the “foot” empties too quickly to drink. Be wise, and drink from the side!
Nothing beats a frosty mug of beer… or so some say. While it looks quite appealing, and can be very refreshing on a hot summer day, there are a few reasons not to frost your glass. First, your freezer might not be the tastiest place to be… just think of why you put that box of baking soda in there! Do you really want to taste last week’s lasagna, the catch from your last fishing trip, and Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey all mixed in with your favorite brew?
Second, the frost on the inside of the glass will water down your beer. Sure, it’s probably only a few drops… but a true wine connoisseur would reject a watered-down Cabernet, so why would you accept watered-down Stout? And last, but not least, as the frost melts, your glass becomes slippery… and I believe we’ve already mentioned the horror of spilled beer once too often in this issue already.
So, remember, always pour, choose your glass wisely, never frost, and most importantly… don’t take all this TOO seriously… beer in the wrong glass is better than an empty glass!
"Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder"
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