Choosing The Right Glass For Your Beer, Wine, and Spirits: Part One

Drinking beer, wine, and spirits can be two things. For someone who is only after intoxication, the quality of the drink, the environment of the consumption, and the accoutrements of the process are meaningless. Strawberry Hill is just as good as Château Latour. But for those of us who view beer, wine, and spirits as important parts of enjoying life, and even seeking the divine, everything matters: even glassware. The chosen drinking vessel for an adult beverage is an important part of the entire sensual experience. The right glassware for the right beverage, can enhance and emphasize the drink’s visual appeal, aroma, flavor, and even physical characteristics.

This first part of this three-part series on choosing the right glassware, will focus on glassware for beer. Most of us, including me before I really started studying beer, assume that one glass is as good as another. After all, if you go to your local bar or pub, most beers are poured into the same glasses. Maybe it is a traditionally-tapered pint glass, or just a cold mug, but we are used to the idea that a glass is a glass. But once I began to really study about how to appreciate and taste beer, I then began to realize that the right glass really makes a great difference.

Let us envision the beermaking process. The sugar and phytochemicals in grains are liquefied, and hops and yeast are added. The yeast ferment the sugars into carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol, and then that mixture is filtered (sometimes) then purified by the beermaker. The product is then put into an airtight bottle for consumption. But when you open that bottle and pour the beer into a glass, you are altering the physical, chemical, and sensory aspects of the beer. It then stands to reason that the shape of the glass will exert an influence on the beer. Let us now take a look at ten types of beer glasses, which beers they compliment, and why.

1. Flute.

The flute is the traditional glass used for drinking Champagne. Flutes are thin and tall, with a narrow opening at the top, and a thin stem. These glasses do one thing, and do it well: focus and concentrate the head of a beer. Thus, beers with noteworthy aromas will serve well in a flute, such as strong IPAs and German weissbeers.

2. Pilsner Glass.

The pilsner glass is thin and tall, like the flute, but the pilsner glass is reverse-tapered and stemless, so that the top opening is wider than the bottom of the glass. As the name indicates, this glass fits pilsner beers perfectly. This glass showcases the sparkling, golden colors of pilsner beers, while the wider top holds the head longer, thus assuring that the aromas come through and stay.

3.  Beerstein.

Also known simply as a mug, the stein is stemless, tall, wide, and non-tapered. It is a glass made both to maximize mouth contact and swallowing capacity, and for clinking together with other mugs, as in a Biergarten. A stein will not hold a head for long, and so it is meant for fast and heavy consumption. It would suit well a light pilsner.

4. Goblet.

A goblet is very similar to a beerstein, but simply more elaborate and artistic. It usually has a stem. It has all of the the purposes of a stein, but is simply more beautiful, and so can be used for more formal occasions.

5. Pint Glass.

A pint glass is the wide, stemless, slightly-reverse-tapered glass that is the standard of English and Irish pubs. It holds one pint (16 ounces) of beer, and is designed for beers with heads that are long-lasting and thick in texture, such as those of Guinness Stout. Also, a pint glass is well-suited for just about any English or Irish ale.

6. Stange.

A stange is a German stemless beer glass that is thin and tall. Unlike a flute, a stange has no stem, but is only slightly wider than a flute. A stange is designed for thin, delicate beers — the sort that would fall apart (in terms of head) in a stein. This is a glass that well suits a Bock or an old-style rye beer.

7. Snifter.

Very similar to a brandy snifter, a beer snifter is a short, very-wide glass, whose bowl (the widest part) is only slightly wider than the mouth (the opening). A snifter has a short stem. While a flute concentrates the aromatic head of a beer, a snifter is better suited for beers that naturally have any aromatic, volatile compounds — chemicals that quickly produce intense aromas when poured. Examples of this type of beer include barleywine, most stouts, and certain IPAs.

8. Tulip.

A tulip glass is a stemmed glass that is shaped like a tulip, meaning that it has a wide bowl and tapers upwards into a mouth that is not quite as wide as the bowl. This produces a sort of curve in the glass, much like the shape of a tulip bulb. A tulip glass acts as the best of both worlds, somewhere between a flute and a snifter. Like a snifter, a tulip allows the release of volatile aromatics, but it also holds a head better because the mouth is narrower. A tulip glass is suitable for many strong ales, Irish red ales, and also most IPAs.

9. Weizen.

A weizen glass is a classic, authentic, Bavarian beer glass without a stem. It is very close to a pint glass, but in a weizen glass, the bottom is narrower. This glass is specifically designed for Bavarian wheat beer. Wheat beer has a thick head, and aromatic compounds that produce a characteristic banana aroma and flavor. This glass is designed to hold the head, while also being wide enough to release the aromatics.

10. Belgian Ale Glass.

These glasses look like wine glasses for giants. They are specific to Belgian ales such as Chimay. While a Belgian ale glass provides the same functions as, say, a tulip glass, the Belgian ale glass seems to somehow amplify and emphasize the golden-brown sparkle of a good ale made by monks, and is classically-associated with those types of beers. It also holds a medium-thick head fairly well.

Join us tomorrow for part two of this series, which will focus on wine glassware.

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