By: Marty Nachel

 

A Look at Glasses with Class and Sass

 

It is said that we drink with our eyes first. And a brilliantly glowing copper-colored beer capped by a dense and rocky head of foam is certainly a sight for thirsty eyes –thanks in large part to the slender and elegant glass in which the beer is served.

Beer glassware was already in widespread use in the late 18th century but its fullest potential wasn’t realized until the mid 19th century when Czechoslovakian Pilsners and pale lagers from Germany were first introduced. These clear golden beers were shown to their best advantage in a tall, thin, footed glass. As the popularity of these beers spread, so did the use of style-specific glassware.

This concept may still be somewhat novel to many Americans but it’s old hat in most European countries. And where most beer-producing countries are generally more observant of this unwritten beer protocol, the Germans and the Belgians can be downright fastidious about it. Between these two European Union members there is an impressive array of commercial beer glassware, most of which sports colorful and eye-catching brewery and brand logos.

The use of stylish glassware serves primarily as a product enhancement, but beyond visuals, however, the various shapes and sizes of beer glassware play an even more meaningful role. Specialized beer glassware is also meant to enhance the aromas of the beer –and we all know that aroma can greatly affect taste. Glassware that is bulbous or that curves inward towards the top is very effective in capturing and concentrating the beer’s aromas for our olfactory pleasure.

It should be noted that there are certain style-specific or even brand-specific glassware that do very little to enhance the beer drinking experience beyond visually identifying your beer style or brand of choice. Two that immediately come to mind are the traditional tube-shaped stange, which is widely used in Kolschbier-serving bierkellers of Koln, Germany, and the rather comical and unwieldy Kwak coach horn glass-and-stand, used exclusively for serving that brewer’s beers. Don’t even get me started on the Bier Stiefel (beer boot)!

 

Here, then, are some generally observed rules about beer styles and glassware types and their usage:

  • Use thin stemmed beer flutes for aromatic Trappist ales and Belgian fruit beers.
  • Use small brandy snifter-type glasses or even large cordials for rich and spirituous barleywines, old ales, and imperial stouts.
  • Use wide-bowled glasses for delicate fruity and aromatic beers.
  • Use deep, tulip-shaped glasses for strong beers
  • Use tall, narrow glasses for light, spritzy golden lager beers.
  • Use tall, thick glasses for weizenbiers beers help to keep the beer cooler, longer.

 

Having shared this list, I now feel obligated to calm your emergent beer glass anxiety. Relax, there’s no need to run out to buy a half dozen or more different styles of glassware in order to imbibe your favorite brews appropriately. Having two or maybe three different glasses in your bar or cupboard is more than sufficient; I would suggest starting with a larger bulb-shaped glass for quaffing beers and a smaller-volume, footed, snifter type glass for sipping beers.

The bottom line is that simple beers can be served in simple glasses but high quality and well-aged beers should get the regal treatment. Just remember that beer drinking is meant to be enjoyed, and a great part of that enjoyment is based on comfort. Choose a beer glass style that is comfortable to use and enjoy using it –often!