Beer Glassware

Beer Glassware SmallIt’s an American tradition—cracking open an icy can or bottle of beer and unwinding at the end of a long day. And there are few things more enjoyable than sipping a cold one as you swing in the hammock, kick back on the beach, or catch the game at your favorite sports bar. The portable convenience of cans and bottles is a great thing for us beer-loving boozologists.

So why bother with pouring beer into a glass? Well, there are a few very good reasons. In short, drinking a well-made beer from a glass—especially the right glass—will elevate the experience. You’ll appreciate the appearance, aroma and flavor of the brew in ways you just can’t from a can or bottle.

Here’s why:

  • Visual Appreciation: Aside from clear-bottled beers (which tend to be on the lower end of the quality spectrum), you can’t see beer through its packaging. A well-made beer has a vivid color and firm cap of foam that is a fine sight to behold when poured into a glass.
  • Better Aromatics: The opening of a beer can or bottle is much smaller than the opening of a glass, and so most of the complex aromas stay trapped inside. You can’t appreciate the rich malt and hop scents of a high-quality beer unless you’ve poured it into a glass. When you pour beer into a glass, you combine it with oxygen as it splashes out. For most beers, this is a good thing. A hit of oxygen just before serving “opens up” great aromas and flavors that wouldn’t be as strong otherwise.

Any glass is better than no glass, as long as it allows you to see the beer, smell it, and combine it with some oxygen. 
But certain shapes of glass are ideal for certain types of beer, and when you’re getting serious about becoming a beer aficionado, you’ll probably want to expand your glass collection. While you can buy lead crystal glasses for hefty prices, you can get a wide range of perfectly functional beer glasses at any department store (even Target) without breaking the bank.

Here are the ones that you’ll want to consider:

  • Mug – A classic mug is certainly better than nothing, and is especially good when chilled in the fridge or freezer ahead of time. Best for American Light Lagers.
  • American Pint Glass – Also known as the “conical” pint glass, this is a bar classic that holds sixteen ounces when filled to the top. It’s a versatile glass good for serving any ales, wheat beers, and lighter beers.
  • Imperial Pint Glass – Also known as the British pint glass or “Nonic” pint glass, this larger (twenty-ounce) glass is identifiable by its bulge near the top. This design was originally intended to prevent the glasses from knocking against each other and chipping during washing and storage.
  • Pilsner Glass – There are a few different shapes of glass that get called a pilsner glass, but they all tend to be tall and thin. A good pilsner has a brilliant yellow color and vigorous, fine bubbles—Pilsner glasses are designed to show off these features.
  • Tulip Glass – A tulip glass is fat towards the bottom and tapers into a “chimney” near the top. This is the best glass design for maximizing beer aroma, and if you only get one specialized beer glass, it should be a tulip.
  • Flute – A flute is even thinner than a pilsner glass, and is usually reserved for serving delicate, perhaps fruit-flavored beers like some Lambics.
  • Goblet – A goblet resembles a wineglass, with a simple, large bowl on a short stem. Goblets are ideal for Belgian ales.
  • Snifter – The same thing you’d drink a fine cognac from, the large, spherical bowl of a snifter is great for directing the delicate yet powerful aromas of strong beer styles like old ale or barley wine.

There are other glass types you’ll encounter, but being familiar with these major ones will put you way ahead of the curve when it comes to choosing the ideal serving vessel for your beer. As with anything, you don’t want to get too uptight about what glass your beer goes into (or whether it goes into a glass at all). It’s always great to knock one back right from the bottle or can, and a perfect glass can’t turn a bad beer into a good one. But it can turn a good beer into a great drinking experience. And we can all raise a glass to that.