Know Your Beer Glasses

Written by on April 11, 2011 in Beer - 9 Comments

This is a guest post by Brandie Williams. Brandie believes that drinking your feelings should be a delicious endeavor! She’ll never say “no” to more hops or a free shot.

Creative Commons Photo Credit: craigemorsels

Everyone knows that different glasses are used to serve different kinds of alcohol.  After all, it would seem pretty silly to drink a shot of tequila from a wine glass or to serve champagne in a plastic cup.  However, when it comes to serving beer, many people don’t think twice about reaching for the nearest mug or pint glass, regardless of the style beer being served.

Selecting the proper glass for a beer is not just a matter of presentation.  The shape of the glassware can have a significant impact on the creation and retention of the beer’s head after it is poured.  A beer’s aroma is created by the evaporation of volatiles (compounds such as alcohol, hop oils, and spices).  The beer’s head helps capture these volatiles.  Different levels of head retention are desired for different styles of beer, and proper glassware is needed to facilitate this.

There aren’t many bars in Columbus equipped with the proper glassware for various beer styles; you’re probably getting your pour in a pint. But for home consumption and just for your information, it’s neat to know the best type of glass for your beer of choice.  Here’s a brief rundown of the most common styles of glassware:

Illustration Courtesy Anheuser-Busch

The pint glass is perhaps the most common way to serve beer.  Typical pint glasses hold either 16 oz. or 20 oz. of beer.  The glasses are easily stackable and easy to drink from, making them a staple at nearly any bar.    This glass can be used with a wide variety of beer styles, including lagers, porters, stouts, and ales.

The pilsner glass is another common piece of glassware.  It is tall and tapered, which provides an attractive presentation for the color and carbonation of the beer while maintaining its head.  It is an appropriate container for many lighter styles, such as American and European pale lagers, pilsners, and witbiers.

A weizen glass is the glass of choice for fans of wheat beers (weizenbiers).  Like the pilsner glass, the weizen glass is tall and narrow, which highlights the color of the beer.  It flares at the top, which provides plenty of room for the ample heads produced with wheat beers while still trapping the aroma.  Styles best in this glass include wheat ales, hefeweizens, and weizenbocks.

A goblet is not only useful for feeling fancy while sipping your beer!  The bowl shape also serves to maintain the head.  Some goblets have scored bottoms, which provides a nucleation point for carbon dioxide, which helps feed the head.  This glass is great for heavy Belgian ales and German bocks.

The flute glass also brings a high-class feel due to its similarity to champagne glasses.  Like the pilsner and weizen glasses, it has a long, slender body that highlights the color and carbonation of the beer inside.  This glass dissipates volatiles more quickly, resulting in an intense aroma.   Beers that are enhanced by this style include lambics, fruit beers, and weizenbocks.

While snifters may often be associated with liquors, such as brandy and cognac, they have their place in the beer world as well.  The tapered mouth of the glass helps trap and enhance aromas.  The wide bowl allows ample room for swirling the beer, which can agitate the volatiles.  Styles of beer that work well in snifters include barleywines, Imperial IPAs, Imperial Stouts, and lambics.

The aptly-named tulip glass has a lip to help capture volatiles and enhance the head of the beer.  Like a snifter, this glass can be used to serve aromatic beers such as ales and barleywines.

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9 Comments on "Know Your Beer Glasses"

  1. Cheryl Harrison April 11, 2011 at 2:31 PM · Reply

    I need to diversify my barware collection.

    • Brandie April 13, 2011 at 6:06 PM · Reply

      Yah I thought I had a pretty wide variety of glasses from all the free stuff I’ve gotten from Winking Lizard, but realized I only have 3 different kinds, plus a mug.

  2. Jason Crowe April 11, 2011 at 4:07 PM · Reply

    Wow, lots of great info here. I wonder if I have a stop at crate & barrel in my future so that I can own two of everything!

    • Cheryl Harrison April 11, 2011 at 4:38 PM · Reply

      Cool – I’m just gonna wait a few weeks and rob Jason ;-)

  3. Rob Pumphrey April 15, 2011 at 6:05 PM · Reply

    Being a glassware collector myself (over 200 all in pairs), I love what I just read. Well done. You should look up the Aventinus glass. A form of a Weissbier glass with a very unique look. Thank you for the read.

    • Brandie Williams April 17, 2011 at 3:19 PM · Reply

      Thank you very much for the comment Rob! I’ve always wondered about this topic, so it was fun pulling together the information. I’m going to have to swing by your bar to drink from all your crazy glasses! :)

  4. Rob Pumphrey April 19, 2011 at 2:49 PM · Reply

    Your welcome Brandie. Swing on by! I have three beers on draft to pour into my glassware as well (full bar in my basement.) Is that your collection in the pic? I could help you add to it, sell or maybe trade?

  5. Troy Rieder April 25, 2011 at 9:44 PM · Reply

    I love what you guys are doing with this site. One comment:doesn’t the mug still have a place? Just wondering.

    • Brandie Williams April 26, 2011 at 6:58 AM · Reply

      Hi Troy! Thanks for your comment! You’re right – I did omit mugs from the article. I toyed with it for a while, since I have my own favorite mug at Bob’s Bar which I’m awfully proud of. In the end, it was my understanding that the main function of mugs is just to get as much beer as possible into your glass (and then your belly!). While this definitely has it perks, mugs don’t really help bring out any particular components in the beer. For that reason, I decided to omit mugs.

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