Of all the alcoholic beverages, beer ranks first as the most drank in the world, followed by wine and baijiu. This shows that beer is an essential part of many of our lives and, often, the go-to drink crossing cultural and geopolitical borders.
A few factors affect how we enjoy beer, and using the right beer glass types for each style of beer is part of it. The best way to enjoy beer is in five distinct steps: see, swirl, sniff, sip, and savor. It helps to have the right glass for your beer for all of those steps, but critical for that third step, sniff.
Do Beer Glass Shapes Change the Taste?
The proper shape of the beer glass accomplishes three things. It can: open up flavors, hold the foamy head, and direct your nose to the aroma of the beer.
Pilsners and Stange glasses function the same way a flute does with champagne. They keep in the carbonation longer with the slim structure and narrow rim, so the aromatics and flavors remain longer and keep the head frothy.
Weizen beers (wheat beers) are best served in Weizen glasses. Similar to a Pilsner or Stange glass, their slim base and wider rim cause carbonation to rise slowly to the surface. Additionally, the flared base helps to trap sediment commonly found in wheat beers.
Different beer glass shapes will also cause the beer to hit your palate in different places when you take a sip. The long, straight trajectory of a Pilsner glass will direct the beer toward the back-mid mouth, invigorating you with the cold, refreshing mousse. By contrast, the flared lip of a tulip glass for a high gravity porter will introduce the dense, powerful beer gently into your mouth, arriving gracefully between the lip and gums.
Beer Glasses Highlight the Appearance
The beer’s color gives you a hint of how it likely tastes. Our eyes work to entice our brain into anticipating a particular food or drink, so glassmakers and bartenders work together to design beer glasses to accomplish this goal. While the specific glass may not change the appearance of the beer, using a glass for your beer is highly recommended. This helps you see it (the very first step in our tasting techniques) as a part of your overall drinking experience.
Red beers like the American Red Ale are made from roasted malts and have butterscotch and/or caramel flavors. Even if you have not tasted a specific beer yet, if you’ve enjoyed a red ale in the past, the appearance alone of one might make you want to try it.
Some serve beer in opaque mugs or glasses. Beer mugs, steins, and glasses may come in wooden, pewter, ceramic, and even silver. However, hiding the beautiful golden hues of a blonde ale, the dark swirls of the porter or black IPA, and the copper of Bock in opaque mugs and glasses defeats the purpose of displaying your beer.
Traditionally these opaque styles of mugs for beer were used to keep the beer colder longer and, in the case where the mugs have lids, to keep unwanted debris out of your beer while trapping the aromas within for you to enjoy with each sip.
Beer Glasses Help Release the Aroma
The next step in enjoying your beer is to smell. Aromatics can be fruity, woody, spicy, and even chocolaty. If you love the aroma of peanut butter, it won’t be too hard to find in some porters. Enjoy the vibrancy of citrus? The right IPA will have you clamoring for more.
Beer is much like wine; its flavor starts with aroma. For the lager, a beer glass that keeps the foam head is a must while locking in the carbonation. The bursting of the microbubbles in the head bombards the nose with aromas, making it more enjoyable to drink.
The beer glass’ shape aims to highlight the roasted malts, rich coffee, and chocolate for stouts. The relaxed, open shape of a glass designed for stouts and porters allows the drinker’s nose to comfortably get close to the beer to whiff out more nuances.
Snifters, in the same manner, allow the swirling of beer to release more aromatics. These glasses are best used to serve stronger beers. For the same reason, IPA glasses work to aerate the beer, releasing the aromas and flavor.
The Right Beer Glass Brings Out the Flavor
And now we arrive at one of the most fun steps — taste the beer! To get the most out of your brew, please ensure you don’t serve your beer too cold. Colder beer means less fizz, and less fizz means less aroma. Think about it. When you were young and drinking cheap light beer, you wanted to drink that stuff ice cold. Why? Because it helps to mute the flaws and “cheapness” of the beer. The colder a drink is, the harder it is to find the nuanced flavors and aromas.
Beer is one of those beverages that need to be enjoyed at its optimum temperature to enhance and deliver its flavor. By optimum, we mean that each beer style has its temperature range to enjoy it properly. The glass plays a role in this.
High-quality craft beer should not be served ice cold. This can dampen the taste and we’ll fail to enjoy the full flavor of the beer. This drink is usually refrigerated at 40℉ (4℃) to allow some time to warm and to enjoy it fully. Knowing what temperature works for each beer style and what glass to serve makes the drinking experience worthwhile.
Serve lagers at temperatures between 43-48℉ (6-9℃). They can be served in a stemmed beer glass or a slim glass. The stem helps keep your hand from warming the beer. Stout beers, on the other hand, are best served closer to 55℉ (13℃), so they work well in a stout glass that allows the warming of the beer to the desired temperature.
Explore the World of Beer Glassware!
Beer glass shapes are proven to enhance the experience of enjoying beer. As with wine glasses, the glass’s shape dictates the release of aromatics that enhances the beer’s flavor, and more importantly, let’s you enjoy whatever you’re sipping on more fully. This detailed guide on beer glass shapes and sizes can help you get started in picking the exact glasses for the beers you drink most.
When we’re at home, Evan and I actually use little mini tasting glasses that come in different shapes. They are definitely one of our home bar musts. We like that they allow us to easily split beers and discuss what we’re smelling and tasting with each other, so having a beer becomes more of a shared experience. We also like that they save us space so we can have more glass shapes without getting too cramped in the cupboards. Although we certainly have a few full-size beer glasses in the styles we drink most often.
Are you ready to ditch the can and bottle and start drinking your beer out of a glass to get the most out of every beer drinking experience? If you’re as dedicated to drinking craft beer as we are, it’s a smart move and we’d love to hear about your favorite craft beers or glassware in the comments below.