You’ve probably seen craft beers served in a variety of glasses, from stem to tall, and tulip-shaped.
While this might seem pretentious, there’s a logic behind this. Glassware can enhance and affect the way that a beer looks, smells and tastes.
Aromas and flavours can be intensified by the curve of a lip or the tapered shape of a glass. Even the correct temperature of the beer can be maintained with a stemmed glass.
In particular, aromas can be emphasised with a vessel where the top is narrower than the middle (think about the geometry of a wine glass); this ‘inward taper’ can help keep aromas inside the glass. Meanwhile, an outward taper can help maintain a nice, foamy head, desirable with certain styles like wheat beers.
It’s not just craft breweries who understand that glassware can play an important part in our enjoyment of beer—many beer styles have traditional glasses designed to elevate specific characteristics.
Some considerations about the glass types have to do with the strength (ABV) of the beer and whether it should be poured with a big, foamy head.
Shaker and Pint Glasses
In the UK, the nonic pint glass is an Imperial pint and the most common glass you find in pubs. It’s easily spotted due to the bump under its rim, making it less likely to chip and easy to drink from when standing. Serve up a Saucery Session IPA from Magic Rock Brewing in one of these.
In the US, the shaker pint glass is common, which is a straight glass. The shaker doesn't offer anything to enhance the beer inside the glass, but became popular in US craft beer bars in the 1980s due to its large serving size. This is the perfect glass for serving a Voodoo Ranger IPA from New Belgium Brewing.
Belgian, Czech and German Glasses
In Belgium, where glassware is taken very seriously, you can expect stronger Belgian beers to be served in a stemmed tulip-shaped glass. The inward taper maintains the beer’s aroma and an outward flare promotes good head retention. Try serving a Magic Rock Brewing Dark Arts, or Clairvoyance in one of these.
In the Czech Republic, where pilsners reign supreme, these are served in a tall, narrow and tapered glass. It’s an elegant choice for a delicate beer and would suit a Fourpure Lager.
German wheat (Weisse) beers are traditionally served in tall, curved weissbier vases, which offer plenty of room for the desired foamy head.
And then there is the iconic Bavarian Seidel glass. Often referred to as ‘stein’ glasses, they have become popularised by Oktoberfest for enjoying Pilsner, Helles and other lagers in large portions!
Glassware for Stronger Beers
With stronger beers, such as imperial stouts, snifters (or another smaller serve glass) are recommended due to their size. Snifter glasses became popular in the 20th century, used for serving brandy and are shorter with a curved shape (perfect for holding smaller pours), in modern times, the serve have been replicated in the Teku glass. These are perfect for Magic Rock Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady, a decadent imperial stout!
Glasses should be washed thoroughly to ensure that they are ‘beer clean’, which is something that can cause frustration with craft beer drinkers who will pay a premium for their beer.
Your customer can tell that their glassware isn’t clean if they see bubbles gathering on the side of their glass, indicating that this is a dirty surface because liquid can’t sit on it, which is all very common in pubs, even today!
There are ways that you can check if a glass is ‘beer clean’ before serving: the sheeting test and the salt test.
For the sheeting test, a glass is submerged in water and lifted out. Check to see if the water coats the sides of the glass evenly, indicating that it’s beer clean.
For the salt test, take a wet glass and sprinkle salt inside of it. If the salt doesn’t stick, it indicates that surface area is dirty and the glass isn’t clean.
Want to learn more about glassware? Check out our guide on The History & Everything you Need to Know about Beer here.