Even the most rudimentary tasting session can be improved with the right glassware. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be a tasting session – pouring the right beer into the right glass will only enhance the experience.
I can’t emphasize enough just how important it is to get your beer out of the bottle and into the glass. If you don’t, and you choose to drink it straight from the bottle or can, you’re missing out on half the experience.
In particular, you’ll be missing out on the aroma, big time, and since 70 – 75% of what we perceive as taste actually comes from our sense of smell, I’d argue glassware is pretty damn important!
But which glass is best?
The answer to this question depends partly on personal preference, but there are certain guidelines/recommendations you can follow when choosing a vessel based on style and the kind of experience you want. The following should be enough to get you started:
Standard Pint Glass – Conical/Nonic/Tulip
Interestingly, the form and size of your typical pint glass depends on where you are in the world. In the UK, a pint glass holds 20 imperial fluid ounces (568 ml), whereas in the United States a pint glass holds 16 US fluid ounces (473 ml). If you’re in Canada, it gets even more complicated as both types are used depending on the pub/bar or where you’re located in the country.
Conical, tulip, and nonic glasses are the default options for a wide variety of beer styles. They are popular with bars and pubs because they’re easier to stack and relatively cheap to replace. The focus here is really more on convenience than drinking experience; they’re good for pub sessions, and establishments won’t cry too much if you drop one.
Suggested styles: British Ales, American Ales, British/American Lagers – anything sessionable really.
While not as convenient for the drinking establishment, the English dimpled pint pot – or the German Stein – have many advantages for the drinker. Firstly, they hold plenty of beer, but also, they’re sturdy, easy to drink from, and their thick design helps to keep your beer cooler for longer. Interestingly, German Steins often have a lid, which is thought to date back to the Black Death (or Plague), when the lid was used to prevent flies getting into your beer!
In most establishments across the UK and US, the Mug style glass is now a rarity – mainly down to convenience. In recent years, however, some pubs have chosen to bring them back as a way to differentiate themselves. It would seem that beer drinks are finally getting bored of drinking from boring straight glasses.
Suggested Styles: British & American Ales & Lagers (German Beer in a Stein)
Thin, tall, and slender – the Pilsner glass is designed to showcase the sparkling effervesces of Pils through height. When poured correctly with a bright white head, the bubbles rising through the bright-colored body is rather attractive.
Suggested Styles: Pilsner
Tall and thin, a Weizen glass is designed to showcase the attractive orange hue of German style wheat beer. With a narrow base and wide mouth, they also help to enhance the beer’s aroma and head.
Suggested Styles: Wheat beers/Hefeweizen/Dunkelweizen
Another glass derived from Germany, these tall, slender glasses focus on the aromatics of more delicate beers – helping to concentrate flavor and aroma.
Suggested Styles: Czech Pilsner, Bock
Perfect for Belgian-style ales, the Goblet is a feast for the eyes. Belgian Goblets deliver almost perfect head retention and are sometimes etched inside the bottom of the glass to help give carbonation a place to start. The constant stream of bubbles coming from the scratch should maintain the head from start to finish.
They can be thin and delicate, or thick and ornate. If you’re looking for a dinner table beer glass, the Goblet is certainly classier than a big chunky pint glass.
Suggested Styles: Belgian ales, strong ales
Very obviously named after its Tulip shape, the rim of this style helps to capture a billowing head. The result is an attractive beer with projected aroma.
Suggested Styles: Belgian ales, IPA, Lambic beers
The snifter glass has a slight stem and wide bowl closely resembling a Brandy glass. The shape is perfect for swirling, which helps to release the aroma and form attractive lacing around the glass. They are a popular choice for darker, heavier beer styles. However, snifters are actually an ideal glass for judging or grading a beer during more formal tasting sessions.
Suggested Styles: IPA, Barley Wine, Winter ales, Chocolate Stout
Wine Glasses & Champagne Flutes
It might seem strange to recommend a wine glass for beer, but they can actually work rather well. For example, an oversized wine glass works great for heavier, darker styles from Barleywine to Belgian ales – allowing for plenty of swirl room and making beer acceptable at the dinner table.
The Champagne Flute is another wine glass with distinct advantages – the main highlight being the carbonation. Similar to how a Flute glass emphasizes the sparkle of Champagne, they can also deliver similar results for pale, highly carbonated brews.
Suggested Styles: Strong/dark ales, IPA (Light and effervescent beers in a Flute)