Imagine pouring a pint of your favorite craft beer.
Let’s say it’s an American IPA. The smell of Cascade hops waft upward as the evenly carbonated suds flood the glass, eventually settling with a straw-hued glow and resilient foamy head.
Now, picture the same beer, served in a plastic cup.
Not quite the same romantic experience, is it? There’s no way to evaluate the glistening golden complexion of the liquid or judge effervescence levels. The head won’t seem to coalesce and the smell of factory plastic masks the citrusy hops altogether.
The educated craft beer enthusiast will be the first to point out that like wine, beer is only as good as the vessel in which it is served.
Opting for a sturdy pint glass over a solo cup is a step in the right direction, but when both form and function are considered, choosing the right stemware can elevate the drinking experience. Some glasses are designed to enhance aromas or encourage a tight creamy head formation, whereas others are shaped to optimize flavor and control temperature fluctuations.
Here are a few glassware styles and the brews that will sing when paired appropriately.
Many bars and restaurants default to serving in shaker pints because they are cheap and durable, says Jacob Storbeck, a Certified Beer Server at Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden in Austin, Texas. Also used to mix cocktails, shakers are the most nondescript and utilitarian style of beer glass. There’s certainly nothing wrong with sipping an easygoing beer out of this simple shape, but they aren’t devised to draw out nuance or personality from the beer.
Good for: Amber Ales, American Lagers, Bocks, Pale Ale. Avoid exotic, complex, or high ABV brews.
The slightly fancier version of the shaker is marked by a protruding ring near the top, which aids in handling and developing a slightly more substantial head than the shaker pint would. Concentrating the inherent aromas of the beer in the frothy head allows for a more fragrant entry into the first sip. Storbeck likes this style primarily for Stouts and beers served from nitrogen taps, which typically have exaggerated creamy demeanors.
Good for: Most English and American styles, including IPAs under 8% ABV, English Bitters, Porters, Brown Ales, Pilsners, Stouts.
The tulip glass takes the notion of accentuating a beer’s natural perfume a step further with a dramatic inward taper. The curvature helps confine the head to the narrow opening at top of the glass, trapping the bouquet in a more prominent way than the Nonick pint, and the flared rim provides a platform for lips to rest on comfortably. Storbeck recommends serving bottle-conditioned beers like Saisons and beers with higher levels of carbonation in tulips, so the lively bubbles will rest mostly undisturbed in the bowl-like base.
Good for: Saisons, Belgian Ales, Bières de Garde, Double or Imperial IPAs, Scotch Ales.
Snifters are often reserved for high-alcohol brews because they demand a smaller pour, helping to ensure that an appropriate amount of alcohol is consumed at a reasonable rate. Storbeck says that as you cup the bell shaped base with your hands, the glass will warm over time, teasing out new and interesting characteristics of the heavier beers as the temperature changes. Beeradvocate.com also encourages swirling to agitate and enhance volatiles, bringing out more complex elements of hops and malts.
Good for: Beers above 8% ABV. Imperial Stouts, Scotch Ales, Barleywines, Strong Ales, Belgian Dark Ales, Tripels, Quadrupels, Barrel-Aged brews and Belgian Sours.
Belgian Chalice or Goblet
With a shape that tends to vary depending on the manufacturing brewery, chalices typically have wide openings good for easy drinking and round oval-shaped bodies that invite examination of color and clarity. Storbeck suggests saving these primarily for Belgian style brews, because the slight stem prevents hand heat from transferring to the glass, guaranteeing that the delicate yeasty beers won’t warm too quickly.
Good for: Belgian Wits, Tripels, Farmhouse Ales, Dubbels, and Belgian IPAs.
These monsters are all about volume, meaning low-alcohol beers should be the primary inhabitants. Storbeck says these are ideal for extended afternoons of imbibing because “you can sit there and drink it all day and you won’t be rubber-legged later.” The glass is usually more dense than other styles, which make them extra sturdy, and the external handle helps keep the beer appropriately chilled.
Good for: German beers including Oktoberfests, Schwarzbier, Bocks, Pilsners, Hefeweizens, fruit beers, and low ABV American and English style beers like pale ale, Blonde Ales, Amber Ales, and Bitters.