Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Nice Piece of Glass

I love craft beer.  My friends and family are well aware of this.  What some may not realize is that I also have a special affinity for drinking glasses.  It started out as just a collection.  I collected pint glasses, the standard drinking glass you would find at any regular old drinking establishment.  My collection grew and grew.  As of today I think I probably have around 60 pint glasses.  I also have 12 or so specialty glasses such as Tulips, Snifters, Globes, and Imperial Pints.  I love glasses, not quite as much as I love beer, but it's close.

I was at a friends house a month or so ago and when we arrived for this beer tasting, my buddies wife brought out the good old "frosty mug".  Inside I cringed.  I couldn't possibly drink one of these fine quality beers from a frosty mug, but I wasn't going to be rude.  It was the first time I had been to this guys home and so I was determined to just suck it up and deal with the inadequate glassware.  A conversation ensued about craft beer and appropriate glassware which inevitably led to us switching to different glasses. After we switched to different glasses, a buddy of mine remarked at the astounding difference in aroma the beer had when poured into the more appropriate glass.

You are probably asking, "what's wrong with the frosty mug?  I have two in the freezer right now waiting for my next after work beer".  Do yourself a favor and, unless you are going to drink a Coors Light out of the frosty mug, please take the frosty mug out of the freezer and put it back in your cupboard.  Or find another use for it, like making root beer floats.  Just please, don't use a frosty mug for a good quality craft beer.  Craft beer is complex.  You want to enjoy your craft beer the way it was intended for you, right?  On this occasion at my friends home, we started with New Holland Dragon's Milk, a robust and rich Imperial Stout.  The frosty mug is one of the biggest enemies to a beer like Dragon's Milk.  It's essentially like dropping an ice cube or two into the beer.  The condensation from the inside of the glass turns into water which then dilutes what was a rich and robust stout and turns it into a watered down unhappy version of itself.  Please don't make your beer sad. Coors light and those other yellow fizzy "beers" are already watered down, so really you aren't doing any damage to them.....not that further damage can be done to the already inferior product...unless you add Clamato and Chelada to Bud Light....but that's for another day.

Back to the discussion of glassware.  I'm not going to go into all the varieties of glassware out there, just the ones I think you should know about.

First: Let's Talk Tulip:

Palate Wrecker 
The Tulip glass is probably my all-time favorite glass to consume beer.  This glass has a stem and is in the shape of a, you guessed it, tulip.  The body of the glass is rather bulbous, with a slight inward curve in the middle, and at the top the glass flares out slightly.  It's no coincidence that my favorite glass is also the proper vessel for my favorite style of beer....the IPA or Imperial IPA.  Why is this the best glass for this beer?  Well, IPA's and Double IPA's have the highest hop content of most, if not all, beers.  Hops provide intoxicating aromas and when drinking an IPA you want that aroma to stick around as long as possible.  Once you open the beer, you inevitably start to lose some of that sweet hop aroma goodness.  The Tulip glass helps to prevent against aroma loss.  The curve in the middle keeps the majority of the beer below and the glass promotes incredible head retention, which also helps to keep the aromas in the vessel, unlocking them slowly and creating an incredible beer drinking experience as you work way through.
Zombie Dust in Tulip glass.  I know, Zombie dust is a Pale Ale, but it's so heavily hopped that a Tulip is  optimal.

Second: Snifter's.
Snifters are usually paired with Cognac or Brandy, but they are also the perfect choice for stouts, porters, barleywines, strong ales, scotch ales, and other heavier beer styles.
One of the most attractive qualities of a stout or a porter is complexity.  These beers offer a much more complicated aroma and flavor profile than most beers.  Snifters have a rather wide base and therefore it supports the "weight" of these heavier beers.  Fat glass for a heavy beer....makes perfect sense to me.  What does that wider base do?  Well, stouts and porters typically get better as they warm up.  This unlocks more layers of aroma and flavor along the way.  The wide base of the snifter provides more surface area.  More surface area means that heavy beer can spread out all over and inside that glass, which allows it to get comfortable and warm up a little sooner than if you were to put it in a regular pint glass. The other advantage of a snifter is the narrowed rim.  The narrowed rim again keeps the aromas inside the glass better than any other vessel.  It's also usually quite perfect when taking those precious sips because the rim will literally encircle your nose, trapping it in the glass and allowing you take a massive inhalation of aromas while your beer floods your taste buds.  This makes for the perfect stout/porter drinking experience.  If you don't have a snifter, a globe glass will essentially do the same thing
Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin in Snifter
Goose Island Bourbon County Stout in  Globe glass
Founders KBS in Globe
The Pint Glass:

There's nothing fancy here.  Pint glasses are probably the most well-known type of beer glass, and there are a lot of different ones out there.  I generally use the pint glass for American Pale Ales and Lagers.  These glasses are just easy to drink out of and are a solid choice when you aren't so concerned about intense aromas and complex flavors.  If I have been mowing my yard and I need to have a thirst quencher, I go with the pale ale in a pint glass.  Mostly just trying to enjoy a craft beer quickly and efficiently.  It's a versatile glass also, and if you are in a bar and want to enjoy an IPA or a Stout and they don't have a Tulip or a Snifter, then a pint glass will likely be an adequate replacement vessel.

Sun King Osiris Pale Ale in Sun King Pint Glass

Finch's Threadless IPA in an Imperial Pint Glass

The last glass we will look more specifically at is the Goblet or Chalice glass.  Goblets and Chalices have a stem and the body just flares straight out and up.  They don't narrow back inward at any point.  Goblets tend to be more thick and heavy.  Chalices are usually more delicate.  They both tend to resemble each other in style though and are rather majestic.  I like to think of them as glasses fit for a king.  Especially the Goblet.  It really is a solid piece of glass that you can wrap your big mitts around and they just make you feel like you are drinking something special.  They are designed to maximize head retention and the wide mouth enables you to take bigger sips.  They are also just badass to look at and you feel like a king when you use one.
Avery Goblet

Westvleteren 12 Chalice
There are also other styles of glasses out there.  From the flute to the pilsner to the stein, there are many options at your disposal.  To learn more about proper glassware, read this article presented by the experts at Beer Advocate.  Make your beer happy and use an appropriate glass, and please, promise me, no stouts/porters in frosty mugs. 

What are your favorite drinking glasses?  Pics are welcome!!


  1. Can any glassware collection be complete w/out a glass boot?

  2. I don't think so....and alas, my collection remains incomplete...

  3. Rye'd da lighting! In my large snifter.

  4. certainly an acceptable choice danny....cheers!

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  6. Let your wedding guests toast your love with these personalized pint glasses! These glasses serve as a fun reminder of your special day and can be used over and over again! Pint glasses can be personalized with pad printing in a variety of designs and colors to suit any theme.