Glassware is a much overlooked subject when it comes to beer, but there have been some fantastic revolutions that are slowly overtaking the craft beer world that help us realize just how important it is to pour beer into the correct vessel.
The Belgians have realized this fact long ago, and in visiting the country it is quite obvious just how serious glassware is to the drinking culture. Whatever beer that is ordered must be poured into the correct brewery’s glassware, and if a glass is unavailable at that time, then one must wait until the proper glass is returned before receiving the beer.
The Belgian glasses have long been seen as different glasses when visiting a favorite bar, whether it be the popular Chimay glass, Duvel tulip glass, or the unique Orval glass. Not only do the glasses have the brewery logo, but they are specifically designed to highlight each beer’s unique quality by capturing the aroma and also through unique etching to help the beer continually circulate carbonation to aid in aroma release.
For far too long, America has been stuck in a sad state of glassware options for beers. The most common glass we see is the standard shaker pint, and the most exciting characteristic is a possible brewery logo attached to the beer that is within the glass. The shaker pint does a huge disservice to the beer within, as it does nothing to aid the drinker in the enjoyment of the beverage inside the glass.
The biggest issue with this glass is the lack of its ability to trap the beer’s aroma. This is very important, as about 90 percent of our tasting ability comes from the smell of the food or drink, so the lack of a strong aroma creates a different flavor experience for the beer.
Fear not, faithful craft beer lover, as there is a renaissance happening with proper beer glassware here in America. This is being led by breweries teaming up with glassware producers to do some research and development on beer styles to find glasses that accentuate specific qualities of these beers.
One brewery that released its own glass a few years ago was Sam Adams. Owner Jim Koch spent a number of years developing the glass with many attributes that not only aid in the drinking experience, but have a very unique look. The shape helps to trap aroma, deliver the malt in a smoother manner, and circulate carbonation.
Breweries Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head collaborated with glassware producer Spiegelau to create the IPA glass. Dogfish Head owner Sam Caligione was not super happy when he first saw the design of the glass, the reason being the odd shape with ridges on bottom and a top that slopes inward with very thin walls. As they tested a wide variety of glasses, it was apparent that this was the one. The glass managed to deliver IPAs in the best manner possible by trapping the aroma and allowing the beer to stay a constant temperature.
Spiegelau also recently collaborated with Rogue Ales and Left Hand Brewing Co. to create a brand new stout glass. Spiegelau certainly knows the right breweries to work with in creating glasses to fit the styles and, again, this is a glass that fits the beer perfectly.
If the investment in a lot of glassware seems a bit much to you, then start small by having wine glasses and brandy snifters in the house; this change alone will start to make you look at beer glassware differently.
While it may seem like a gimmick to some to have such specific glassware, a side-by-side test between the standard shaker pint and proper glassware will make it immediately apparent that it is certainly not a gimmick, and you may just find yourself turning away from the shaker pint all together and demanding proper glassware next time you are out at the bar.