The Beer Glass: Does it make a difference?

Yes……..end of post.

Unless you want to find out the how and why. In that case read on and bathe in the science of beer glass awesomeness! We’re not experts in the field by any means, but these are some observations and suggestions we’ve picked up along the way.

One thing that inevitably happens when you’ve been home brewing for a while is you become quite particular as to how beer is presented and served to you. You’ll even start to develop pet peeves and will probably begin bringing your own glass to house parties after you discover that a good glass makes beer taste better. That’s right, just like wine glasses, those fancy beer glasses are designed specifically to enhance your beer so that every bit of hop aroma can be smelt while keeping the head lasting for hours. So what should you be looking for in a beer glass? Good question, but first lets start with what NOT to look for.

The Conical Pint Glass

The Conical Pint Glass.
The Conical Pint Glass.

Two of my biggest gripes when going to a pub is being served beer in a “nice frosty glass” (which kills the flavor of your beer by the way) and having that “nice frosty glass” be a straight, thick walled Conical Pint Glass. They’re cheap, durable, and easy to stack, but unfortunately they do nothing for the craft beer you are paying good money to drink. There are many reasons for this, but the first would be that you’ll notice little to no aroma since there’s no cupping of the glass to trap it. On top of that those thick walls transfer more heat into your beer. This warms it up and causes it to lose it’s carbonation faster and kills the head. Head is key contributor to the aroma of your beer and ,since aroma also effects the perceived taste of the beer, that’s a lot of character to miss out on. If you’re sitting down for a nice well hopped IPA and it’s served in a Conical Pint Glass, you may missing out on some of that beers character.

Drinking from a Conical Pint Glass can also leave something to be desired. Since the walls are straight that means the beer is going pour into your mouth faster and can cause a drowning reaction if you’re not careful. Drowning in beer may be a dream come true for some, but it’s not ideal if you want to actually TASTE the beer you’re being forced to consume.

So what should you look for and why?

Thinner Walls

While thick glass can transfer heat faster, thinner glass will actually reduce this effect and help keep your beer closer to the original serving temperature. Many beers are designed and brewed to be served at certain temperatures so the longer your glass can help maintain that temperature the better.

Curvy Shapes

Funky shaped glassware helps maintain a consistent head on your beer.
Funky shaped glassware helps maintain a consistent head on your beer.

As mentioned above, having a cupped or bowl shaped glass can greatly improve the aroma and head of your beer as well as making it easier to drink. Having a cupped or tapered opening helps trap the aroma. As you go to drink, this shape will cup around your nose and help you take in all the aroma that the beer has to offer. Bowl shaped glasses also encourage agitation. As you drink, the beer swishes around the glass to create a longer lasting head. Some glasses will even have a heavily tapered midsection where the beer splashes from the smaller base into the larger bowl. This will definitely keep your IPA’s fizzy and stouts nice and frothy. Finally a cup or bowl shaped glass will also prevent the “drowning sensation” mentioned earlier as it will let you portion each sip more carefully.

Ribs and Etchings

The glass on the left has etching on the bottom while the one of the right does not.
The glass on the left has etching on the bottom while the one of the right does not.

Bubbles like imperfections in your glassware. If somebody hands you a glass with bubbles surrounding certain spots there’s a good chance that the glass was either not cleaned properly or those spots were designed specifically to promote and maintain the head of your beer. These “imperfections” can take the form of ribs or etchings at the base of the glass. These features will also help your beer maintain a fuller, longer lasting head.

Tall and Narrow

There are some beer styles that benefit from tall and narrow glassware. If you’re drinking a light, delicate beer like a Pilsner you may want to try one of these glasses. Tall narrow shapes help promote head and maintain a healthy carbonation. Just like the beer styles they’re made for, tall and narrow glasses are designed to deliver a crisp and refreshing experience.

Weird Shapes

A thistle glass for the snootiest of the snooty Scotch Ale drinkers.
A thistle glass for the snootiest of the snooty Scotch Ale drinkers.

Boots and Thistles and Flutes ooohhh myyyyyyy! For almost every style of beer there is an appropriate style of glass, if you really want to take things that far. Do they make that much of a difference compared to a more versatile glass? Probably, but it would be unrealistic to scold a pub owner for not serving your Scotch Ale in a Thistle. Specific glassware is always fun to collect for the cool factor, however I don’t feel that many experts would consider them a necessity.

So those are some of the basics! Want to learn more about the impact of glassware on your beer? Check out some of these links below.

http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/101/glassware/

http://www.popsci.com/article/technology/glasses-make-beer-taste-better

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/anthropology-in-practice/2011/08/22/does-your-beer-glass-matter/

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