Glassware for Beer
Still think it’s just marketing? Well the sophomoric pun “head is good” has a mature side. Scientific studies show that the shape of glassware will impact head development and retention. Why is this important? The foam created by pouring a beer acts as a net for many of the volatiles in a beer. What’s a volatile? Compounds that evaporate from beer to create its aroma, such as hop oils, all kinds of yeast fermentation byproducts like alcohol, fusels and fruity esters, spices or other additions. So a glass that promotes a healthy foam head may enhance the trapping of certain volatiles. And as varying levels of head retention and presentation are desired with different styles of beers, different styles of glassware should be used accordingly. Presentation marries science.
So which glassware do you use? The answer can often be overwhelming. In Europe, especially Belgium, each brand of beer will often have its own glass. In fact, some breweries have been known to engineer the glass before the beer, and many bars will also stock unique glassware for every brand of beer they serve, which could be hundreds or thousands. And while it’s always a good idea to use glassware designed by the brewery for a specific brand of beer, sometimes this is not an option. But fret not! We’ve complied a quick guide of recommended glassware that will cover most beers and arm you with a very versatile arsenal of glassware.
While there are multiple kinds of pint glasses, the American pint glass is probably the most common glass for beer, in the United States at least. This is the glass that you will likely be served in a bar or restaurant. The American Pint Glass, sometimes called a Shaker glass, has a simple and somewhat skinny cylindrical shape that gets wider as it goes up. This type of pint glass typically holds 16 oz. and is common to use with most type of beers, including ales, IPAs, stouts and lagers.
The English pint glass, also commonly referred to as an Imperial or Nonic glass, is shaped much like the American pint, but has a slight lip near the top. The English pint also holds 20 oz. and is usually preferred for drinking English ales and lagers.
This type of glassware is cheap to manufacture, cheap to buy and easy to drink out of. Bars love to stock the pint glass because they’re easy to clean and simple to stack. All of which is probably why it’s the go-to glassware for most beer enthusiasts.
The beer mug is my personal favorite, because it’s incredibly robust, easy to use and holds a lot of beer. Common in England, Germany and the United States, this type of beer glass comes in all sizes. Its main characteristic is its wide cylindrical shape with a handle on the side. The thick glass walls helps insulate your brew to keep it cool, while the handle helps prevent your hands from inadvertently warming up your beer (or dropping it when you’ve had too many).
Sometimes beer mugs will have dimples throughout the glass. While most believe this is merely for decorative purposes, others argue that the dimples help a drinker appreciate the overall color and clarity of their beer. No matter what you believe, there’s no denying the popularity of this beer glass. They’re easy to use, strong enough to toast your friends in a hearty manner, and it holds plenty of beer!
The beer stein is very similar to the mug. In fact, so common that these two types of beer glasses are often confused as the same, but they are not. While they have the same shape, steins come equipped with a hinged lid and a lever for your thumb to open said lid easily. Additionally, steins are traditionally made out of a wider variety of materials, including porcelain, stoneware, pewter, silver and wood.
’Stein’ is an abbreviated form of Steinzeugkrug, the German word for stoneware jug or tankard. Historically, steins were preferred because it was widely believed the lids were more sanitary and would ultimately prevent the bubonic plague. In fact, in the early 16th century many communities throughout Europe had passed laws requiring food and beverage containers have lids.
While beer steins are still commonly used today, they are mostly regarded as ornamental or souvenir glassware amongst the majority of beer drinkers. Most people prefer the convenience of a pint glass, over the traditions of a stein.
Goblets & Chalices
Goblets are one of the larger, more extravagant types of glassware that beer drinkers come across. Unlike pint glasses that hold a specified amount of liquid, goblets can be found in a variety of sizes. Goblets can be described as having a long thick stem, with a bowl sitting on top. Chalices are another common name for goblets, as they have the same shape. Chalices usually have thicker glass walls and may be heavier. You may find some goblets and chalices even have a gold or silver rim. This is merely decorative and serves no real purpose in terms of improving the quality of beer.
Goblets and chalices are great choices for heavy, malty beers, such as Belgian ales and german bocks. This type of glassware has a wide opening that assists a beer drinker in analyzing the overall flavor profile and aromas.
This type of beer glass is tall and skinny with little-to-no curvatures as it goes up. The pilsner glass is designed and used primarily for lighter beers, such as pilsners, of course.
Typically, there are a variety of sizes of pilsner glasses, but for the most part they all hold slightly less beer than a pint glass. The slender design allows drinkers to appreciate the colors and carbonation bubbles within their beer. The slightly wider top of the glass also helps retain the foam head of your beer, and bring out its true flavor profile and aromas.
This type of beer glass is incredibly popular amongst Americans and Europeans, with its popularity only growing as the years go on. They’re not only fun to drink out of, but they enhance your ability to appreciate the true taste of your beer. The only downside, is that they typically hold less beer than other types of beer glasses.
Weizen glasses are often confused with pilsner glasses, due to their similar shape and size. The main difference between these two styles, is that the Weizen glasses have more curvature to them. Starting with a strong, narrow base, the glass has a distinctive curve to it as it goes up. This type of beer glass is much taller than a pint glass, and usually holds at least ½ a liter of beer.
Another important characteristic, weizen glasses are designed for and primarily used for wheat beers (Weizenbier). The curved lip at the top of the glass helps trap and encourage a thick foam head, allowing for you to appreciate the full aroma and flavor that comes along with wheat beers. However, be wary of the fruit that is usually served on the rim of wheat beers, especially at bars, as the acidity and juice of the fruit could destroy the foam head.
This type of beer glassware is somewhat rare to find out in public. However, don’t let that stop you from trying it out. You may have already heard of the snifter glass, as it is usually used for tasting cognac and brandy, but many people don’t realize that it’s also great at enriching the aromatics of beer. The unique shape of the glass allows you to swirl your beer around, stirring up the volatiles which helps bring out the full aroma of your brew.
This type of glass looks kinda like the offspring of a wine glass and a goblet. It’s small with a thin stem and footer, but the large bowl on top holds plenty of liquid. Despite how much it can hold, with this type of glass you probably don’t want to fill it all the way up to the rim, as it’s typically reserved for beers with strong flavors and aromas. If you fill it up to the rim it may prohibit you from enjoying the full experience. This type of beer glass is typically used for stronger beers, such as Double IPAs and Belgian ales, and is a favorite amongst beer enthusiasts.
Tulip & Thistle Glasses
Another fun beer glass to try out is the Tulip. Designed to trap and maintain the foam head, the tulip glass helps enhance the flavor and aromatics of hoppy and malty brews. Much like the goblets and snifters, this beer glass has a small stem and footer with a unique, tulip-like bowl on top. The top rim curves outward, forming a lip that helps ensnare the foam head.
The thistle glass resembles a stretched-out version of the tulip. It has the same stumpy stem, with a bulb-like bowl, but it’s slightly taller and has less curves around the lip. The thistle glass is typically reserved and designed for Scottish Ales, as the “thistle” is Scotland’s official flower. Much like the snifter, the tulip glass is commonly used for stronger brews, such as Double IPAs, Belgian ales and barleywines. The bulb-like bowl allows you to generously swirl around your beer, releasing the full aromas. This is another type of beer glass that is a popular amongst beer geeks.
The stange glass (or stangen glass) is also commonly referred to as a strange glass, stick glass, pole glass or rod glass. This type of beer glass is named this not because it’s a weird looking glass, but because “stange” is the German word for rod… and that’s exactly what it resembles. The stange glass is tall and slender, much like a “Tom Collins” glass. It’s easily the most boring looking beer glass on this list, but its use can be traced back for decades. No beer glass list is complete without the stange.
The shape of this glass is generally the same, but the size can vary. Generally, this type of beer glass will hold around 6.5 ounces, but it seems that in recent times larger versions are making their way out onto the market. This glassware is typically reserved for delicate beers, such as German Kölsch, to help intensify the flavors and aromas. The main benefit of this type of beer glass is that it has a firmer concentration of the important volatiles within the beer, allowing you to get a real sense of its flavor.
Tasting & Sampler Glasses
The tasting glass, also called a sampler glass, can be found in all shapes and sizes. We add it to our list of beer glasses, because they are commonly found throughout brewery tours and pubs. Not to mention, every beer geek I know has their own special collection of tasting glasses at their home.
Taster glasses typically hold a fraction of the amount of a pint glass, ranging from 2.5 to 6 ounces of beer. They’re purposely designed this way so you can sample a beer, without becoming intoxicated. Taster glasses are also handy for sampling a couple of draft beers at your local pub, without committing yourself to the full pint. Or, if you and your buddies buy a rare, expensive brew, taster glasses are a great way to split it up and allow everyone to experience the full flavor.