With the explosion of craft beer in recent years, a slew of merchandise has come along with it: growlers, artist-designed t-shirts, and speciality glassware for particular styles of beer. We’re used to grabbing a certain glass for a particular cocktail, and it’s standard to have different glassware for red wine, white wine, and champagne. But considering how standard the pint glass is, does it really matter for beer?
“Glassware makes a big difference,” says Andrew Bartle, head brewer of Northwinds Brewhouse and Eatery in Collingwood, Ontario. “The glass is pretty special. It’s the first thing you see and presentation is everything. Beer that looks pleasing to the eye has already started the mental process for positive thinking and enjoyment.”
And while there’s certainly a visual element to consider with beer glassware, it can make a difference in your enjoyment of the brew as well. The shape of a beer glass affects the formation and retention of head, according to Beer Advocate and in turn the foam acts as a net of sorts for the beer’s volatiles: compounds—including hop oils, spices, and fermentation byproducts—that evaporate from beer and give it its aroma. That means that a healthy head of foam can help retain volatiles, and using different glassware allows for different levels of head retention, which in turn affects the aroma of your drink.
That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy beer if you don’t have a collection of fancy glassware. “I’m not overly picky myself,” Bartle says. “I have favorites that work for the majority of beers I drink and serve, but I’m also just as content to drink from a mason jar.” That said, when selected properly, glassware can add to your enjoyment of a great brew. “Like food,” Bartle says, “the aroma of beer is a huge percentage of what one tastes.”
Here are 10 proper vessels for your favorite beers.
You Have: A Belgian IPA, dubbel, tripel, or Belgian strong ale
You Want: A goblet (or chalice)
This wide-mouthed glass is designed to help a beer maintain head, and allows the drinker to take deep sips. Goblets are more delicate, with a longer stem, while chalices are heavier and have thicker walls. Some are scored inside to maintain a certain level of head at the top.
You Have: An American lager, bock, pilsner, or blonde ale
You Want: A pilsner glass
This tall glass showcases carbonation and color, but helps the beer retain its head and enhances its volatiles. It’s the right choice for paler lagers with a lot of carbonation, and unlike a weizen, a true pilsner glass has no curvature.
You Have: A Belgian dark ale, double/imperial stout, double/imperial IPA, India pale ale, or saison
You Want: A snifter
More commonly associated with brandy, a snifter glass is a good choice for capturing and enhancing aromas and volatiles, making it a solid choice for stronger varieties. “Snifter glasses keep all of the aroma in,” Bartle says. “For big sweet beers, it really works.” You can also swirl these glasses around to release aromas (and look classy).
You Have: A saison, Scotch ale, Belgian pale ale, Belgian strong ale, or double/imperial stout
You Want: A tulip glass
With this curvy shape, you get to have a big foamy head while volatiles are captured and enhanced. “I love tulip glasses,” Bartle says. “They make aromas so much brighter.” If the head is key for a particular beer, this is a good glass to go with. Tulips are preferred for strong brews or high-gravity beers like tripels and quads.
You Have: A Weizenbock, wheat ale, kristalweizen, or dunkelweizen
You Want: A Weizen glass
This glass shape, long and widening at the top, is designed for head and volume. It also helps maintain the beer’s aroma. This variety shows off the color and head of wheat beers well, while trapping the sediment often found in them at the narrow bottom of the glass.
You Have: An American pale ale, oatmeal stout, Scottish ale, Irish dry stout, or English bitter
You Want: A mug (or stein)
This familiar handled glass makes for easy drinking and allows for plenty of volume, and helps to keep your beer stay cold longer because your hand isn’t directly on the glass. A tankard mug has a thick bottom and straight sides, and the stouter krug mug is curved with a dimpled surface.
You Have: A biere brut, biere de champagne, Vienna lager, lambic, or Flanders red ale
You Want: A flute
Just as with champagne, a flute glass enhances and showcases carbonation in a beer. It also allows for the quicker release of volatiles, resulting in a more intense aroma.
You Have: A rye beer, lambic, gueuze, bock, or gose
You Want: A stange
This tall, slim, up-and-down glass is a traditional German style that allows for a tighter concentration of volatiles. This is a good style for more delicate varieties. Don’t have one of these handy? Sub in a Tom Collins glass.
You Have: A double/imperial IPA, double/imperial stout, India pale ale, brown ale, or porter
You Want: A pint glass
“The standard pub shaker, though a staple image of the beer vessel, is really bad for beer,” Bartle says. “All the aroma and gas just escapes.” But it does make for easy storage and drinking. A shaker, or American pint glass, is tapered with straight sides, and a nonic or British pint has a curved notch about two inches from the rim that makes for easier gripping. An imperial or Irish pint is tapered and curved from the middle up, and usually used for porters and Irish stouts.
You Have: A Belgian dark ale, Belgian IPA, saison, Belgian pale ale, or American black ale
You Want: An oversized wine glass
Yes, a wine glass—a big one. A 22-ounce wine glass is actually great for serving Belgian ales, the Beer Advocate writes. It can also make do where you might use a tulip or goblet, if you don’t have one on hand.