It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Hey Bill, can you believe I stopped in for a quick beer at the new place in the East Village down
from our office last night and ordered a bottle of Founders Porter and the bartender asked me
if I wanted a glass. Huh? Did he think I had ordered PBR? Now don't give my that 'you're a
snob' look. I'm the first one to enjoy an ice cold lawn mower beer on at a picnic on a sunny 95
degree day but this wasn't that. Being in a good mood (which I always am, right Bill? Ha) I
decided to enlighten him. It's simple, I said. If you drink the beer straight out of the bottle or a
can, you don't get the full appreciation of its flavor because a good part of the taste from beer
is detected through the nose. By dangling your nostrils in the beer—in the head space above
the liquid—you actually get a full appreciation of the aroma. The second reason you want to
pour it in a glass is so that you can admire the foam, and the appearance of the product. I
don't think he was really listening which was too bad since I was getting more passionate each
minute. For me, putting the right beer in the right glass is mandatory!
Consider this Bill - wine connoisseurs and cocktail aficionados have long had their specialty
glassware—just think of the different sizes and shapes of glassware for basic reds, whites, and
sparkling wines, to say nothing of the variety in cocktail glassware, from Highballs to shot
glasses. 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. But it's only in
recent years that an assortment of beer glass styles has become common in the American
craft beer and bartending scene.
If I order a Belgium Dubbel or Tripel I expect it to be served in a Chalice. If I'm enjoying a
Pilsner Urquell a want it to be in a pilsner glass; for a Dogfish Burton Baton I'll go with a tulip
and be sure to put my Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse in a Weizen glass. For me each glass brings
out hidden layers of flavors, a wider range of colors, and subtle aromas. Drinking good beer
should be an experience and the proper glass makes it just that.
That standard shaker pint is certainly utilitarian, but that's about it. Bars stock them because
they are cheap and easy to stack. Besides, it made little difference what you served the macro
beers in. It would taste the same in a golden mug or a coffee cup. We know that's not true of
Having said all of that and before you bemoan all the glasses I'm suggesting every bar (and
home) have let me leave you with something from Brewmaster Garrett Oliver, ("The
Brewmaster's Table"), who wrote" if you worry about all the different glass types for beer
consider using wineglasses. They are designed to help you get the best out of your wine.
Almost any stemmed wineglass will do the same for beer."
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next month.
Hey Gina, you saved yourself near the end. No way I would ever disagree with Garret Oliver.
Look, of course I know there are dozens of beer glasses out there, but it's not necessary for a
home bar to offer one of every shape.
Come on Gina, you don't really think if you put an abbey ale in a Pilsner glass, it's going to taste
very different, and vice versa, do you? Please appreciate the fact that there's a tremendous
psychological factor at play with your glass choice. What you see can effect how you evaluate
taste. I understand that some of the great beer makes like Samuel Adams and Dogfish Head
have invested in special glassware but frankly I haven't seen enough scientific research that
conclusive shows the effect glassware's has on the taste of beer. There's a lot of opinion out
there but opinions are a lot like noses - we all have one.
I have a drinking buddy Brian who, like you, is strongly against the traditional shaker pint beer
glass. He does not believe that it actually presents beer to its best advantage. But, unlike you,
he gladly accepts his beer in it. Ah, but he has an additional take on the issue. Despite being ok
with the pint glass he gets intensely upset if the glass has the wrong name on it. To him, and yes
it bothers me too, is to have a certain beer presented in a glass with the wrong name on it. I
know it bothers you too. Actually I even find it hared to fully enjoy a bottle of Chimay if it's served
in a Duvel glass. Hey, stop laughing at me, Gina.
To get to the bottom line, let me go on record as saying that the single most important factor to
consider in a beer glass is less the shape and more the cleanliness of the vessel: Residual fat or
grease on a glass can kill the foam, which as you mentioned carries aroma and creates a
pleasing appearance. How you pour the brew is also crucial. And that's where I think many
bartenders are weak at best. They don't pour with any vigor. They go to the side of the glass
first instead of to the bottom to as they've told me "keep down the foam". Well, liquid will start to
drain out of that foam, but the foam will become more stable and the material in the beer will stick
together. Gradually as you top up the glass with the beer from the bottom of the bottle you'll end
up with a picture perfect glass. It's just a beautiful thing, like, if I may say so, you Gina!
If you get a chance check out our BeerNexus colleague Vince Capano's story about an incident
in a pub over this very topic - The Saga of the Blue Glass. I really liked it even if he sounds like
Here's looking at you, kid! See you next month.