We’re one of the many people who likes to drink beer straight from the bottle. We believed, as with sparkling wine, that the narrower the opening, the more the carbonation stays in. A cold bottle from the fridge keeps the beer colder than a room-temperature glass. And, we don’t particularly care for a foamy head.
But according to Spiegelau, a manufacturer of fine glassware in Bavaria, Germany, we have it all wrong. You only get about 15% of the flavor of the beer when you drink it from the bottle.
That’s because smell, not palate, is the major component of taste (and explains why you can lose your taste when you have a badly congested nose and can’t smell). You get zero aroma through the narrow neck of the beer bottle, covered by your mouth as you take each sip.
When you pour beer into a glass, the head* releases the bubbles (carbon dioxide) that burst into aroma.
On top of that, different types of beer benefit from different shaped glasses, engineered to bring out the special attributes of the beer (Riedel, the parent company of Spieglau, was the pioneer in developing different wine glass types).
Engineered to bring out the best in American craft beers: from left, IPA, wheat beer and stout glasses. Photo courtesy Spiegelau USA.
Different regions have long made different glass shapes for their beers. Think beyond the German stein to the British pint glass; the tall, tapered Pilsner† glass; the stemmed snifter for Belgian ales and IPAs; the tankard for ales, lagers, stouts and porters; and others. See the different types of beer glasses in the chart below.
*The head is produced by bubbles of carbon dioxide gas that rise to the surface. The carbon dioxide is produced during fermentation.
†Pilsner is the English spelling of Pilsener, the German spelling. The name derives from the town of Pilsen, a city in western Bohemia in the Czech Republic, where the style was originally brewed in October 1842—a new, clear, pale golden beer created from new malts, Pilsen’s remarkably soft water, Saaz noble hops and Bavarian-style lagering. It was a sensation. The Czech spelling of the town is Plzen.
CRAFT BEER GLASSES FOR SPECIFIC STYLES OF BEER
Spiegelau has developed a Craft Beer Glass Collection, with custom-designed glasses for the three most popular American craft beer styles: IPA, Stout and Wheat Beer. Each glass is designed, according to the company, to highlight “the complexity of aromas on the nose while demonstrating the optimum beer texture, balance and flavor intensity on the palate.”
Riedel has done this for wine glasses with great success (you won’t believe how much better the wine tastes in a specially engineered wine glass than on a generic one). Now, they’ve done the same for beer.
An expert panel of master brewers tested multiple glass shapes before finding the optimum shape for each beer type. Here’s what resulted:
The IPA glass was engineered to “showcase the complex and alluring aromatic profiles of American ‘hop-forward’ IPA beers, preserve a frothy head, enhance taste and mouth feel, and present a comfortably wide opening for the drinker to savory each beer.”
The Stout glass is designed to “accentuate the roasted malt, rich coffee and chocolate notes that define the Stout beer style.”
The Wheat Beer glass (wheat beer is one of the world’s most popular styles‚, has a large, voluminous bowl to harness the delicate aromas. The mouth opening was designed to spread the beer across the palate to “enhance mouth feel and harmony of sweetness and acidity.” The “open bottom glass base drives beer and aromatic foam upward into the main bowl after every sip.”
And you thought a glass was just a glass!
Custom-shape beer glasses isn’t hype: It’s precision engineering and it works. Buy yourself a set and test it against what you’re currently using. We had great results with the Spiegelau glasses.
Beer glasses are a great gift for beer connoisseurs, and other companies have gotten the custom-shape message.
Wrong! These are traditional Pilsner glasses, specifically designed to bring out the best qualities in a Pilsener beer. That means that they won’t enhance the flavors of stout (left) and amber ale (center). But wait: The Lenox Pilsner glasses are totally different—a stemmed tulip glass! Photo courtesy WiseGeek.com.
MORE BEER STYLE-SPECIFIC GLASSES
Lenox has a new line of beer glasses in four styles: IPA, Pint With Crown, Stemmed Pilsner and Wheat Beer. And surprise: The shapes are totally different from conventional designs—as well as from the Spiegelau designs.
The Pilsner is a stemmed tulip, like the traditional Belgian Ale glass. The IPA and Wheat Beer glasses are tall and narrow with a tapered waist, like the conventional Pilsner glass. The Pint With Crown is a sleeker version of the pub pint glass.
Here’s what they say about their shapes:
The Stemmed Pilsner’s tulip shape “traps the rich aromas and helps maintain a frothy head. The thin flared rim places the beer evenly on the palate, elevating the overall taste experience.” Lenox also recommends the shape for stouts and dark beers.
The India Pale Ale glass, tall and slender, “is a perfect complement for IPAs and lighter ales. The contoured shape preserves a frothy head, while maximizing aroma and enhancing taste.”
The Wheat Beer glass has a large mouth and a narrow body, “making it the ideal vessel for wheat beers and most pale or blonde beers. By tipping the glass back, the aromas that characterize these brews are pushed to the nose, thus allowing the drinker to enjoy the beer’s full flavor.”
The Pint With Crown is the English-style pub glass that serves an official imperial pint, approximately 20 ounces. “Ideally sized for generous pours of pale ales and lagers, this pint’s curved lip cultivates foamy heads.
Frankly, we bet on the precision of the Spiegelau glasses. We’ve tasted with them, and they work! There are no better glassware engineers on earth than Riedel, the parent company of Spiegelau.
We haven’t tried Lenox or other contenders, and you can’t be sure without trying. So we’ll keep testing, and will keep you posted.
Lenox Tuscany Beer Glass Collection, set of four styles, $32.12
Spiegelau Tasting Glasses, set of four styles, $34.99 (includes the glasses described above plus a lager glass)
CAN’T WAIT TO TRY THE GLASSES?
Libbey, set of six styles, $19.99 (these glasses are traditional styles, not made with modern engineering to optimize the flavors and aromas)
If you don’t care about precision engineering but like the idea of different glass shapes for different beers, try:
TRADITIONAL BEER GLASSES
See the original chart at DailyInfographics.eu.