What’s Brewing? Don’t judge a beer by its glass
There are a lot of odd-looking glasses from which to drink beer.
There are tall glasses that you might accidentally slam against your front teeth until you acclimate yourself to the approach. There are behemoth beer mugs that will have you feeling like you’re drinking and lifting weights at the same time. There are even beer glasses that fool beer into looking like wine. Rest assured, there is an explanation for these alien-looking glasses. When you understand their purpose, you just might want to try one for yourself.
These tall glasses were designed to trap the carbonation so we can enjoy looking at a sparkling beer. It resembles a Champagne flute glass with its tall slender height while also resembling the look of a trumpet with the way the lip of the glass flares out from the bottom. It’s clear that pilsner glasses were specifically designed for a well-carbonated beer. It traps the effervescence and helps to maintain head retention on a pilsner, witbier, Kolsch, Bock, Dunkel and other German-style lagers.
To me, the beer mug seems like the original vessel for drinking beer out of after prohibition. When I grew up I recall my dad and some of my friends’ dads drinking beer out of a classic glass mug. The beer mug comes in all sizes and, of course, like all things American, it’s gotten absolutely huge in the last few years. The thick walls on this glass keep the beer chilled longer than most other glasses that have thinner walls. Beer mugs always have a handle because some of them can hold as much as 24 ounces Traditionally craft beer consumers will drink German-style lager beers out of these as well as amber ales, Scotch ales and brown ales, too. Personally, it’s a bit of a workout for me to drink out of something so large but as you just read, they do have their own unique purpose and a lot of consumers really enjoy this classic.
American and English pint glasses
The American pint glass, also called a Shaker pint, is my favorite glass to drink from when I’m at a brewery. Safe to say it’s the most common glass found at breweries in the United States too. It’s a 16-ounce glass and has a skinny cylindrical shape that gets wider at the top. Simple, right? The English pint glass, referred to as an Imperial pint, holds 20 ounces and has a slight ridge at the top. This allows for a larger, more considerable head on the beer. You can serve just about any style in either of these glasses including lagers and ales such as IPAs, stouts and porters. Not to mention they both fit pretty well in our hands.
The snifter is a short glass with a wide bottom and a smaller opening at the top. If you drink spirits, you’re familiar with this one. The wideness of the glass allows the beer to breathe, just like a cognac or brandy. It’s designed so you can give your beer a swirl and capture more of the aromas coming from Belgians, barley wines, double IPAs and Russian Imperial Stouts. The glass allows you to cup it in your hand which allows the beer to warm up just slightly so you can enjoy more of the flavors. Incidentally, doing this will enhance the taste of most craft beers.
Tulip glasses are designed to capture and keep the head on a beer while allowing us to enjoy the escaping aromas of more complex beers. It has a lip that protrudes out from a cinched waistline attached to a stem so it looks like a tulip. Higher gravity beers and beers known for their wonderful aromas are served in tulip glasses such as sours, tripels, American IPAs, Belgian strong, Gose and Scotch ales.
Basically, these are long stem wine glasses but with the added difference of a delicate protruding lip at the top. This lip assists with head retention and allows complex aromas to escape while we indulge. Perhaps one could even create an argument that the lip helps the beer pour into the mouth slightly thinner or more oxygenated, like a tulip glass, because of its shape. Teku glasses are designed for sours, lambics and heavier bodied beers that have a higher ABV.
Tasting glasses are sometimes referred to as sampler glasses. These are my favorite glasses to drink from when I want to share a few beers at a time with friends. They hold a smaller amount of beer usually 5-6 ounces. Many breweries have these glasses on hand to use for their beer flights or quick splashes of beer for consumers to try. They’re also for people like me who want to try all the beers without getting intoxicated.
Mark Brewer is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. He’s the author and illustrator of Brewology, An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers.