Tulips, shakers and snifters, oh my! Choosing the correct glass for serving beer can be a daunting task. In Belgium, using the proper glassware to serve a beer is practically a religion. No self-respecting bartender in that beer-loving country would ever serve Flanders Red ale in a shaker glass. It’s all about presenting the beer at its best, to accentuate its characteristics and create a memorable experience for the drinker.
As craft beer drinkers become more sophisticated though, more and more they demand proper glassware. With hundreds of beer styles, each with recommended serving glassware, stocking the correct vessel is an expensive proposition for bar owners and home beer aficionados alike. But, concentrating on just a few styles of glassware and using them properly can reduce the cost and still insure a better beer-drinking experience.
In the United States, the pint – or shaker — glass is the most commonly used glass to serve beer. Walk in to any bar, tavern or tap room and you are likely to see them stacked behind the bar, emblazoned with logos from a variety of breweries. While it is not the best suited glass for all beers, it is inexpensive and holds approximately 16-ounces of beer. A variation on the glass is the “nonic” style used throughout the United Kingdom. This style features a bump out around the upper portion of the entire glass to make them easier to hold. This glassware style is most appropriate for beers like Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Porter and Stout.
In Germany, Pilsners are one of the most popular styles of beers. And, because of that distinction, the German Pilsner Glass was developed as a tall thin glass to showcase the beautiful golden color of the beer style. The tall shape also highlights the bubbles running up the inside and concentrates the fluffy, aromatic head. Other beer styles that will benefit from being poured into this glass include: Blonde Ale, Hefeweizen, Pilsner, California Common/Steam Beer, Japanese Rice Lager, Witbier.
Snifters have a large bowl area with a narrower mouth. Because og this shape, drinkers can experience highly aromatic beers as brewers intended. The bowl provides plenty of room for swirling the beer to bring aromas out while the narrower mouth serves to concentrate those aromas. Tulip glasses are very similar to snifters, but a bit taller, thinner and with a turned-out lip. Beers to try in a snifter include: Old or Strong Ale, Barleywine, Double/Imperial IPA, Double/Imperial Stout, Belgian Dark Ale, Belgian Pale Ale, Quad, Tripel. Beers that are highlighted in tulip glasses include: Goze, Geuze, Berliner Weiss and Scottish Ales.
Sturdy, yet elegant, the goblet is generally composed of a large, wide-mouthed bowl on a sturdy stem. Often these glasses are very ornate and may include gold or silver leaf designs. The goblet’s main purpose is to create a large surface area for copious amounts of aromatic head. Beer styles this glass is most appropriate for include: Belgian IPA, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Dubbel, Tripel, Quad.
With these four beer glasses in your collection, you will be able to accommodate the majority of beer styles adequately. But, if you are a purest and want to serve beer in only the most appropriate glassware, prepare to invest in hundreds of styles of glassware.