Better Beer Glass, Better Beer Taste?

There’s something to be said for sipping from the proper beer glass at home. Here, the special seven vessels for home brew high life.

By Kristin Belz June 5, 2013

Proper glassware for beer drinking has moved beyond the traditional types (like the tall Pilsner on the left) to the special IPA glass, designed by Spiegelau (of Germany) with brewers from Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head.

It’s official: beer-drinking season has begun. I know, I know—we’re in Portland and beer drinking is a year round activity. It can’t possibly have a season.

And yet, there’s something about the weather warming up and the sun shining that makes the tastebuds tempted to quench our thirst with a healthy swig of beer. No wonder there are so many beer festivals coming up! (Read further about the Portland Fruit Beer Fest June 8-9 and others below.) 

Wherever there’s a drink, there’s a vessel, even if it’s the bottle (or can) itself. There’s also, however, a proper vessel—not just the most obvious or easiest (or ubiquitous. Red SOLO cup, we're looking at you). Somewhere out there, the right glass for the particular beer you are savoring is waiting. 

Girls Can Tell tea towels tell the story of which beer to serve in which type of glass. Rejuvenation carries the tea towels (also the espresso version) in Portland.

Proper beer glassware lends itself to sipping and savoring, not chugging or swilling.

The easiest way to learn which beer goes in which glass is to have a tea towel teacher on hand: Girls Can Tell makes 100% cotton floursack tea towels that illustrate and explain the seven basic types of glasses from which one should consume one’s beer. Philadelphia architect and illustrator Sara Selepouchin created the beer lovers tea towel (and other delightfully hand-drawn creations for home life).

Upping the ante, however, is the Spiegelau glass company. The 500 year old German company is the beer-drinking side of the Riedel wineglass family (Riedel bought them in 2004), so you know the quality should be good. Spiegelau has come up with a new beer glass specifically designed to "showcase varying aromatic profiles for the American 'hop forward' IPA beer, preserve a frothy head and volatiles and maintain a comfortably wide opening for the drinker to 'nose' the beer." The design was a collaboration between Spiegelau and brewers from Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head.

Matt Rutkowski, Vice President of Spiegelau, told Dwell magazine that the only excuse for drinking beer from a can is if you're "whitewater rafting or canoeing." Having attended plenty of brewfests myself, I politely disagree with him, but am eager to try the special IPA glass nonetheless. Its narrow bottom is new to me. (New Seasons carries a version of it with the Sierra Nevada logo.)

Rutkowski informs us that the typical "pint" glass is totally the wrong glass to drink out of. Of course, one could argue that there's never a wrong way to drink beer in the first place, but he may have a point, especially as it concerns drinking in the comfort of one's own home.

Which glasses go with which beers? A guide:

  • Normal pint glass - not so good for anything - see explanation above - but it'll do the job.
  • Stemmed pilsner or tulip glass - good for a pilsner or a scotch ale because the tulip shape (tapered at the top) traps the aroma, and helps maintain the typically large head of a pilsner.
  • Tall pilsner - plenty of height to show off and accomodate the color and lovely foamy head of a light, golden wheat beer or pilsner.
  • Weissen - for a wheat beer, the tall size and tapered silhouette help hold the ample head and allow the unfiltered wheat to settle at the bottom.
  • Snifter - for a strongly aromatic (and strongly alcoholic) beer like a typical Belgian, which is savored for the fragrance and imbibed more like a fine wine than a brew. Also for strong beers like barleywine or doppel.
  • Dimpled mug - for a "session" beer, i.e., a beer to drink many of in a single session of drinking. The mug's thick glass walls and its handle make it easy (and safe) to hold and clink "salut" to your buddies over a long, raucous night at the pub.
  • Goblet - similar to a snifter, but thicker glass and scored just above the stem to encourage bubbles; good for IPA, duppels and trippels. 

No matter what vessel you imbibe from, it is time for the brew celebrations to start in Portland. Beer events worth leaving your home for: 

  • Portland Beer Week, June 6-16, 2013. Events feature several out-of-town brewers, including Fal Allen of Anderson Valley.
  • The always chill and scenic North American Organic Brewers Festival is June 27-30, 2013 in Overlook Park in North Portland. Rain or shine, it's a good time and family-friendly.
  • Oregon Craft Beer month takes over all of July (including the mega mania on the waterfront July 24-28, 2013).
What's your favorite way to drink a beer? Does the shape and style of the glass affect your taste or enjoyment? Is the best beer glass a full glass? Share your boozy brewy thoughts with us!
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