Selecting the Right Type of Glass for Your Beer

Image Courtesy of farbrew.com

Just like wine, different beers have different characteristics that require special glasses to fully capture the flavor profiles of each type.  As soon as the beer hits the glass, its color, aroma and taste is altered – the subtle and hidden characteristics can become more pronounced, colors begin to shimmer and aromas burst.

The shape of glassware will impact head development and retention. The main goal of the glass is to promote a healthy foam head and enhance the trapping of certain volatiles. As different styles of beers have different foam levels, different styles of glassware should be used accordingly. So which glassware do you use to achieve that maximum level of enjoyment?

The original purpose of the shaker pint glass was originally used to shake cocktails, but in the 1980’s it started to be filled with beer. Due to its straight sides and large mouth this glass is ideal for most ales, however, it also allows the beer to get warm and flat fast, which can show off the malty notes of some English-styled ales. Many bartenders love to use this glass because they are sturdy and easy to stack and provide an equal serving size for each beer your pour.

The tulip pint is the classic glass for Guinness beers and other dry stouts. Named appropriately after the flower it most represents, it is easily identifiable by the way it flares above the center before gently tapering near the mouth. This glass does a good job of capturing a beer’s aromas than a more straight sided glass or one that flares towards the top because the deep bowl shape helps trap aromas. According to Guinness, a perfect, two-part pour that lets the head rest before topping off should take exactly 119.53 seconds.

The nonic pint glass bulges out a couple of inches from the top. This is partly for an improved grip, and to prevent the glasses from sticking together when stacked, and partly to give strength and stop the rim from becoming chipped or nicked; the term “nonic” even derives from “no nick”. The major benefit from this glass is that they are cheap to make, easy to store and easy to drink out of. The nonic pint glasses are frequently marked with a fill line, to encourage pouring with a 1-inch head. This wasn’t always the case and bartenders would fill them usually to the rim of the glass.

The snifter glass (also known as the balloon glass) is a short-stemmed glass whose vessel has a wide bottom and small mouth opening to concentrate aromas while minimizing the amount of foam. The snifter glass is perfect for barleywines, quads, eisbocks and big stouts. This type of glass helps allow the beer to warm a bit while the glass is in your hand. The snifter glass can also be used for brandy and cognac, volumes will range in these glasses but they all provide room to swirl your drink and allow aromas to burst.

Not to be mistaken with the tulip pint, the tulip glass has a bulbous body but has a flare out at the top to form a lip, which helps head retention. The tulip glass not only helps trap the aroma, but it also aids in maintaining large heads, and creating a visual sensation. This glass is recommended for serving Scottish ales, double and imperial IPA’s, barleywines and Belgian ales – anything flavorful that you wouldn’t drink a lot of.

The goblet glass is shaped to keep your grip low in the step to help the beer inside keep cool. A wide mouth dissipates the carbonation fast, letting strong abbey beers show off their flavor. Goblet glasses range from delicate to long stem to heavy and thick walled. The more delicate ones may also have their rims laced while the heavy boast sculpture-like stems. Some goblets are designed to maintain a two-centimeter head. The best aspects of these glasses are they are designed to maintain head and are wide mouthed for deep sips.

Now that you have a basic knowledge to the differences between the different beer glasses, you should be able to hold a party for your own home brewed beer. Just remember when you’re at the bar; never accept a frosted glass from your bartender. As the beer hits the frosted glass, condensation will occur and dilute your beer, while at the same time altering the serving temperature.