We enjoy a fine beer with most all of our senses. Of course the tongue is the major tool in our enjoyment but vision and smell are part of the equation too. Nothing outside our senses helps us enjoy a good beer more than a good beer glass.
A glass allows us to see the color, the clarity, and the pillowy head, or the lack of these. Additionally, pouring a beer into a glass stirs up and releases the elements that we taste and smell when we take a sip. A large part of being able to taste the nuances of a beer relies on the aromas. If you drink a beer from the bottle you cannot smell it, therefore, you cannot fully taste it.
It always amazes me when I order a bottled beer and the server brings just that – a bottle of beer – no glass. If I ordered a bottle of wine would they just plop down the bottle in front of me? Of course not! Beer actually has more discernable elements than wine, and serving beer in a glass is the best way to experience those characteristics.
Just like wine, there are preferred glasses for particular styles and restaurants should be aware of that. For home use investing in just three or four quality glasses will enable you to get the most out of your beer. However, if you are like me you will not be able to stop at three or four. Over the years I have expanded my beer cellar and my glass collection greatly. Many of you are right here with me, but in case you are new to the joys of beer glasses my suggestions for the basic beer glass collection are: a snifter, a Samuel Adams Perfect Pint glass, and a footed tulip.
A snifter is great for stronger beers, especially stouts and barleywines. I love Samuel Adams’ Perfect Pint glass for most IPA and APAs. A big lipped tulip glass that helps capture and concentrate the aromas of the more subtle beers.
After I accumulated the basics I expanded to the beautiful Spiegelau IPA glass and the Teku glass from Italy. Those glasses are beautiful and they make me feel fancy. If you can’t stop there (and who can?) you can find dozens of different shapes and sizes available.
Several bars in town have regular “pint nights” where you can purchase the beer and take home the glass. Often the giveaways are simple shaker pints that really don’t enhance your beer, but you can sometimes find more interesting glasses. Anything from German boot glasses to delicate branded stemware. Be warned – beer glasses can be addictive. There is an entire forum section on BeerAdvocate dedicated to breweriana and glasses.
Most breweries carry specialty glassware available on their websites. You can find some assortment of specialty beer glasses at The Keg Liquors, but if you want to geek out – you may want to check out The Louisville Beer Store or several online retailers. One of my favorites is: http://www.truebeer.com.
For mouth blown, hand crafted beer glasses check out Matt Cummings at The Pretentious Beer Glass Co. online or at their studio here in Louisville.
If you can’t find a beer glass that enhances your beer drinking enjoyment – just go back to drinking your beer wrapped in a paper bag.