Beer glassware is a subject that can run and run. Does it or does it not make a difference to the taste of beer?
Whatever the answer, here are some illustrations of the options!
It’s often claimed that the choice of glassware has a big effect on the flavour of your beer.
I have no reason to dispute that.
However, as was pointed out when I recently hosted The Session, there’s more to beer than brewing and drinking.
There’s a whole range of things that affect enjoyment of beer: place, time, mood, company etc. Flavour is just one.
For this reason I don’t tend to choose glasses based on the benefits or otherwise of a particular model.
But from a design and beer culture point of view, I thoroughly enjoy the huge variety of vessels out there.
Each glass (allegedly) affects the way you appreciate the smell, taste and appearance of the beer.
One of the main differences between beer glasses is whether they have an open or closed rim. Classic pint glasses, for example, are open whereas Belgian tulip glasses are closed.
The idea with the closed glass is to catch aromas and gases above the beer to enhance the smell.
Because taste is in part governed by our noses, the extra aromas in the closed glasses are said to enhance the flavour of the beer.
The look of a beer also influences how much you enjoy it, I think.
Thinner glasses show off clarity. Many are thin at the base, to highlight colour and transparency, and widen at the top to encourage the build up of a large head.
Dimpled Glass Tankard
Relatively traditional in Britain, the dimpled glass pint is popular for drinking ales.
The thick, patterned glass creates many attractive colours and reflections, and the handle supposedly stops the beer from warming too quickly.
Many Belgian breweries have their own beer glass, such as this one from Orval.
They’re often used for big beers that you sip slowly.
A German glass tankard that’s usually 1 litre in volume.
They’re popular at Oktoberfest, not to mention in Bavarian beer halls around the world.
Pint Glass: Conical
There are many varieties of the humble, utilitarian pint glass. The most basic is this simple tapering one.
Pint Glass: Nonic
The nonic is so named because the bulge towards the top stops the glasses from chipping around the rim when they’re washed.
Pint Glass: Tulip
Another variant on the classic pint, this one always reminds me of Guinness.
Typically used for tasting brandy, where the comfy rounded bottom lets you warm the drink inside with your hand. Similarly, the thin glass and large surface area warm the liquid fairly quickly.
High alcohol, aromatic beers are usually drunk from these glasses, which collect the beer’s aroma inside.
Good for tasting Pilsners and other lagers where foam and clarity are on display.
Similar to a snifter, but even better at encouraging carbonation.
Good for strong smelling, gassy beers such as IPA and Saison.
Another variant of the same theme: glasses designed to collect aromas.
You may recognise this one as a Duvel glass.
Originating in Germany where it’s used to serve wheat beer, the Weizen glass is narrow at the bottom and wider at the top.
The shape encourages aromas to form, but more importantly leaves room for the foam that forms in these heavily carbonated beers.
Yard Of Ale
Beloved of students and hardened drinkers, the yard of ale contains about 2.5 pints.
The awkwardly shaped bottom means there’s no chance of savouring your beer. One long swig is the only choice.
Does The Beer Taste Any Better?
I enjoy using a glass rather than drinking from a can or bottle. I think that does make a difference.
A snifter-type glass certainly traps aromas and thus enhances flavours. For tasting, in the sense of really concentrating on flavours, this is probably the best bet.
But for regular drinking I think the differences are largely aesthetic or cultural. Even the choice of whether to use a glass at all.
What about you? Do you think the glassware makes any difference?
Thanks to Bryan at This Is Why I’m Drunk for the information on the tasting, snifter and summer glasses, and for inspiring this post in the first place.