Like a DJ, I am loving the requests. Ever since the post, “Choose the Best Wine Glass,” I’ve received requests to analyze other beverage glasses, notably beer glasses.
I am not an experienced beer drinker, and I gravitate to the wheat beers and Belgian ales (well, just Duvel). I also love Blue Moon in the summer, no doubt for the nostalgia of the 80’s favorite, Corona with lime. That’s the extent of my beer experience.
My family, though, not only loves the flavorful stouts and hoppy IPAs, but they actually brew their own concoctions in the basement. They are experienced brew masters. For that, I am grateful, because it wasn’t so long ago that we had a major brewing mistake. A batch of stout was bottled too soon, and erupted into shards of sticky glass plastering the basement walls, carpets, and shelves. I was home alone, and I thought a tree had fallen on the house. That is how loud it was, and how violently it shook the walls. I am still finding pieces of glass in odd places.
So, you see, my history with beer leave me slightly ambivalent toward the beverage.
When I was a girl, my dad taught me how to pour a glass of beer — slowly, down the side of the glass, then straight in the middle to create a plump head of foam. I remember beer being pilsner. I don’t remember any other kind back then. It was light and champagne colored. It was served in a glass that is called a pilsner glass: a tall column, slightly wider at its top. That top was meant to showcase the foam head
So, what about the other beer glasses? Steins were something I only saw on my grandparent’s high kitchen display shelf. Glass mugs were what cartoon characters and cowboys drank from (Yes, there was drinking in cartoons back then!). Pint glasses? Those were in movies made in England and Ireland.
When I order Duvel, it is always served in a goblet with a slightly flared top. It is aromatic and citrusy. Does that goblet make the difference? Is there a best beer glass? Or, is it just as good straight from the bottle? Does it matter what kind of beer you are drinking?
Here’s the scoop. Yes, the glass matters. Similar to wine, beer is best enjoyed when its aromas, color, and carbonation can be appreciated. Some beers produce a lot of foam (light ales and pilsners being up there) and some produce very little (stouts). The more alcohol content, the less foam. The wider the lip, the more aroma is released. If the glass is slender, you don’t get as much aroma, but you do preserve carbonation (foam) – kinda like a champagne flute. So, logically, less aromatic but more carbonated beers should be served in the pilsner-style glasses, while full-bodied beers like ambers, bocks, and stouts do well in pint glasses with wider tops.
Because pilsners and light ales are less aromatic, the preservation of the carbonation allows the aroma to be released slowly as the foam pops. This gives you a fuller appreciation of the subtle aroma. The foam also creates a creamy mouth-feel, something already inherent in, say, a stout.
Special brews like Duvel are served in goblets with flared lips. It is the best of both worlds. The wide bottom tapered at the top showcases the foam head, while the flared lip allows the aromas to be enjoyed.
Beer glasses with handles keep your body heat from warming the beer, similar to stems on wine glasses. However, the thickness of the glass detracts from the mouth-feel of the beer.
Steins aren’t used much anymore. You can’t appreciate the color of the brew in a stein. They were popular back in the time of plagues; the reasoning was that the lidded container kept the beer from becoming contaminated.
What about drinking straight from the bottle? Well, it does get the job done, and it saves on dishes. I guess it depends on what you are going for… . In the end, what matters is that you enjoy your brew. Hopefully, I’ve helped you find what’s best for your tastes.
Cheers to you!
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