If your beer-drinking methods rotate between bottle, can, and pint glass, you’re missing out on the best of your brews. Like wine, the nuanced taste of beer shines best when you drink it from specific glassware.
Those who frequent bars or breweries have probably noticed some beers are served in different glasses, like tulips or goblets. Even though many establishments will be closed on National Beer Day (April 7) due to the pandemic, you can still celebrate at home. Since you won’t have a trusty bartender to pour your beer into the proper glass, though, it’s time to learn how to do it yourself.
You’ll be amazed at how much impact a simple glass can have on the taste of your beer. So, pick up a variety pack from your favorite local brewery, and learn to serve each brew in style!
Why Beer Glassware Matters
As this century’s craft beer revival has shown, beer isn’t a one-sided beverage. It’s every bit as dynamic as wine, with the potential to highlight a host of fascinating flavors. However, if you serve a brew in the wrong glass, the flavor loses its potency.
That’s because the senses of smell and taste are integrally linked, and some glasses block a beer’s aroma. Our sense of taste provides basic information about what we’re consuming, but the full flavor experience requires us to be able to fully smell what we’re ingesting. This is why food tends to taste bland when you have a cold.
Glasses of certain shapes allow the scent of a beer to release properly. Because you can smell it completely, you taste it completely, too. Certain brews actually taste very different after you pour them into a properly-shaped glass.
The shape of a glass also helps keep beer at its ideal temperature for consumption. Glasses with wide, flat sides, like a pint, allow your hands to warm the beer faster. This can increase the beer to a less-than-ideal temperature before you have a chance to finish it.
Beer served in a glass engages your sense of sight, too. While this won’t affect the flavor, seeing the color, clarity, and foam helps create a more complete sensory experience. When your beverage looks attractive, it primes your other senses to enjoy it. Think about it in terms of food; you’ll probably enjoy something that looks delicious more than something that looks bland (even if it tastes the same).
The Best Glasses for Brews
While you don’t have to blow a bunch of money on glassware, it’s worthwhile to have a few different options on hand if you’re a beer lover. Below, you’ll find the most common types of beer glasses and the beers you should pair them with.
Wheat Beer Glass
Also known as a Weizen glass (“weizen” means “wheat” in German), wheat beer glasses exist specifically for wheat brews, like hefeweizens, dunkelweizens, and witbiers.
These tall glasses are wider at the top than the bottom, creating the properly foamy head for this style. Meanwhile, the extra sediment that’s often present in these brews gets trapped at the bottom of the glass.
It’s equally easy to know which style of beer to put in a pilsner glass (pilsners—duh!). In addition to pilsners, though, these glasses work well for blondes, lagers, and other lighter beers.
The tall shape of a pilsner glass looks similar to a wheat beer glass. Both really showcase the carbonation and color of light beers, while the narrow bottom allows the bubbles these styles are known for to rise.
The wide mouth allows for enough foam to really capture the subtle flavors.
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For you IPA lovers, it might make sense to invest in a glass designed specifically for your brew of choice. IPA glasses look a bit like goblets, but they have a thicker base that also holds beer.
The base agitates the beer as you drink it, which fully releases the hoppy scent. The rounded upper part of the glass traps those scents to enhance the taste when you take a sip.
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Mugs work for any type of beer that tastes best cold because the handle prevents your hand from warming the beer through the glass. The thicker glass beer mugs are made of also provides insulation to keep the beer colder for longer.
Beers have a range of ideal temperatures depending on their style. Generally, though, lighter styles, like pale ales and lagers, are best at colder temps.
Tulip glasses work nicely with strong or delicately-flavored beers, including saisons, Belgian pales, or double stouts. The bowl shape and fluted edge fully release the aromas of the beer. The fluted edge also traps the perfect amount of foam.
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Snifters also work really nicely for strong brews (plus, they’re smaller, making it easier to pace yourself with a high-ABV beer). IPAs, double IPAs, double stouts, saisons, and Belgian darks all tend to work well in a snifter.
The size and shape of a snifter glass allows for easy swirling, which is a great way to spur the release of a beer’s aroma. The shape of the glass traps the scent inside so you get the full experience.
To get the most out of your snifter glass, avoid filling it all the way; this leaves room for the fragrance of the brew to linger.
Goblets are the glassware of choice at many Belgian-style beer bars, and not just because they look fancy. They actually pair best with many Belgian-style brews, including Belgian IPAs, strong ales, dubbels, and tripels.
The wide mouth of a goblet helps a beer maintain the right amount of foam, which releases the full aroma of these styles.
Goblets also allow you to take large sips of beer that bring the brew to the back of your tongue. This engages more of your taste buds, so you can more fully enjoy the time-tested flavors of Belgian-style brews. If you don’t have a goblet on hand, an oversized wine glass also works.
What About the Pint Glass?
While this isn’t a comprehensive list of every type of beer glass in existence, it will get you off to a good start. However, you probably noticed the most common beer glass didn’t even make our list—the pint glass.
There’s nothing wrong with drinking your beer out of a pint glass. If you’re serious about fully experiencing a beer, though, the pint glass isn’t your best choice.
The 16-ounce American pint glass originally served as half of a Boston cocktail shaker (and they’re still used for that, too). They weren’t designed to be used as drinking glasses. However, they caught on as catch-all serving glasses because they’re cheap, hard to break, and easy to stack to conserve storage.
However, the straight sides of a pint glass do nothing to highlight a beer’s pleasant aroma and foam. It also requires maximum hand-to-glass contact, which warms your beer too quickly. So, you get a blander-tasting, warmer beer whenever you drink it from a pint glass.
That doesn’t mean you have to abandon pint glasses completely, though. If you like that style of glass, consider using a nonic pint glass instead. Nonic pints have slightly narrowed mouths to help trap aromas and foam. The curved sides mean you use less of your hand to hold the glass, keeping your beer cooler.
Most beers work well in more than one type of glass. Your personal preference also plays a role, so don’t hesitate to experiment and break the “rules.”
If you always drink your beer from a pint glass, can, or bottle, though, you’re missing out on the full range of flavors. So, in celebration of National Beer Day, why not update your glassware so you can fully enjoy your brew?