For many beer enthusiasts special beer glassware has added something extra to the experience of drinking a beer. While drinking right from the bottle or can is fine, there is something special about pouring the beer into a glass and watching it creep up from the bottom, cheery foam rising above the golden elixir chasing it to the top of the glass (and maybe run over the top). Even better if it’s a “special beer glass”.
Many from the older beer drinking set can think back to old beer advertisements – really old German or American ads from the late 1800’s with tall v-shaped pilsener glasses, beaded with moisture, with tiny pearly bubbles rising from the base. Others showing the clinking of frosty mugs with foam flying off – others of a smiling man sitting with a schooner of beer and his book.
As an early fan of Belgian beers like Chimay, Orval, Duvel and other more unusual brands I learned that they all had their own distinctive glass – branded and paired with their own delicious liquid offering. It was simply “the proper way” to drink the beer. Once in Brussels I found myself watching the head in my Duvel goblet just sit there – clinging to the glass, and I recalled Tom Peters (of Philadelphia’s avatar for great beer bar “Monk’s”) tell me a similar story in 2004.
He said the first time he had a the Duvel in a Duvel goblet in a bar in Belgium, after it was poured he sat at the bar and waited. The bartender said “…What are you waiting for?” Tom related: “I am waiting for the head to go down”. The bartender explained “It won’t – it’s not supposed to – drink through it”. Tom then dove in and revelled in the experience. The Duvel goblet was designed so that when properly poured the beer/foam line should bisect the golden “Duvel” logo on the glass.
Then as craft brewing really took off in the 80’s – as many of the craft brewers were making copies of or “american versions” of British or Belgian styles – the use of special beer glassware took off as well. All kinds of different appealing shapes, designs and brands made it a fun collectible souvenir for the beer appreciator and a source of extra money for the brewery.
But of course there’s more to the glass than the look and a reminder of the beer and brewery. Form follows function as they say, and some of the most common shapes are that way for a reason. The tall and slim pilsner glass kept the beer as cold as possible, minimized any skunky aroma and showcasing the rising tiny pearl-like bubbles which resembled champagne. The wide mouthed goblets favored for the rich darker beers were easily warmed in the hand to elicit more aroma and flavor, and focused the aroma directly into the nose to accentuate the experience.
For real beer fans (no, not beer snobs) the usual and popular pint glass (called by most the “shaker pint” as you can use it to mix drinks with ice) is anathema. It is considered the worst thing you can drink out of. Why? It’s heavy and thick so warming the beer to room temperature quickly, with a wide mouth that allows aroma to disburse immediately. Also it is typically pitted and scratched after multiple use and stacking making it hard to really clean. Don’t ask what is stuck deep in those tiny cracks!
Some of you may recall when Sam Adams announced that they had designed the “perfect pint” beer glass back in 2007 with all kinds of scientific features to accentuate certain aspects of the beer (primarily Boston Lager). It had an “outward turned lip to place the beer at the front of the palate” and laser etching on the bottom “to create constant bubbles for constant aroma release”. Jim Koch, owner of Sam Adams said at the time “I hope this peaks the interest of other brewers. When we consider glassware let’s consider what it does to the taste of the beer”. I know plenty of beer appreciators who rolled their eyes at the “scientific beer glass” concept but others would say: “anything that gets people to drink good beer and pay attention to the taste is a good thing”.
Not to be outdone, about six years later in a collaboration with Sierra Nevada, Sam Calgione and Dogfish announced that they had designed the “new standard for IPA glassware”. The design included “Wave-like ridges to aerate beer on its way in and out of the glass, a wide mouth, allowing drinkers to comfortably nose the beer and a laser-etched logo on the bottom of the bowl to sustain carbonation and head.”
Sounds much like Sam Adams’ glass, but the IPA glass did add the “wave like ridges”. Now that they are the same company together, it’s all good fun.
I have collected some 80 – 90 different beer glasses over the past 25 years (not including a couple of dozen of the despised “shaker pints” with logos on them). Some I got in Belgium others Germany and lots in the US from many a craft brewery experience. For the past 10 years I have tried to only add glasses with really interesting logos and/or shapes, though I admit to having slipped up once and a while on maintaining that vow.
Stuck in the apartment, sheltered in place thanks to COVID-19, and being an avid photographer with time on my hands, I decided to photograph at least my “top 70” beer glasses – all full of beer of course. It took a few weeks to accomplish and a good amount of pouring and drinking beer – but that was the easy part!. You can find my gallery on beerappreciation.com, and judge for yourself.
You know what’s funny about liking to use specialty beer glasses? You often break the ones you use the most – which are the ones you like the most. So ironically – you want to keep your favorites out of harms way, but you want to use it all the time. So what to do? I try to rotate my glassware – most are stored away in a display case (where I can fondly gaze on my collection, reminisce about certain breweries, and remember good times and great beer), and about 20 or so are in the kitchen cabinet for regular use. Using the “hearding concept” of glassware is one way to protect the best.
When I shared my beer glass gallery with some of my like minded friends, a surprising thing happened – I started getting unsolicited beer glass photos from friends and acquaintances. So many that I can only share a few here. I encourage anyone with a favorite beer glass and/or favorite photo to go ahead and share it with me, and I will post it out there in the virtual the beer world. It’s a great way to connect, and a way to share in beer enjoyment in a healthy and socially distant manner.
Here’s a few – and my thanks Mark, Brian, Matt, Larry, Mike, Seamus, Joe, Todd, Paul and all of you who checked in.
Beer glassware is great – makes the drinking experience better, can make the beer taste better, and just adds to the fun. So, cheers to beers and their valuable and enjoyable vessels! Stay home and watch the foam.