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Beer Goggles? Nope, Beer Glasses!

We talk so much about the different types of beer, but what about HOW we’re drinking it? Cans, bottles, red Solo cups – those are all givens. So let’s talk about glassware. We all have our favorite pint glass in our cupboards, (Mine happens to be my Le Moyne College Class of 2006 glass that we received for our senior pub crawl), but your classic pint glass is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to glassware. Exploring all the different types of glasses available will only serve to enhance the brews you’re drinking and exemplify the entire craft beer experience.

Flute

Flute – Just as one would drink bubbly champagne out of this glass, American wild ales, Lambics, Saisons, Helles Lagers are all craft brews that benefit from such glassware. These particular beers tend to have more carbonation and intense aromas which are thus showcased by the long and narrow shape of the glass. Stems of the flutes may vary in length; there is no standard of this.

Goblet, Chalice – Both glasses evoke a sense of medieval royalty or are perhaps even reminiscent of the Holy Grail scene out the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: “He chose … poorly.” A goblet has a long, thicker stem with a bulbous top, while a chalice is similar but has thicker glass and is therefore heavier. They might be fancy and have a gold or silver rim. Likely the most famous beer chalice you have seen is the Stella Artois chalice, and they have plenty to say about what the chalice can do for you: “The authentic shape of the body encourages the perfect balance of C02 and liquid, enhancing head retention and flavor. The angles at the bottom cause a wave that works in harmony with the liquid alchemy. The stem provides a means to hold the chalice so that the Stella Artois stays cold longer and it’s embellished with a star to honor our history.” Use with Belgians, Berliner Weissbeir,
German Bocks, all while sitting on a throne.

To note, the one thing that’s going to continue to pop up as we continue through this glassware lesson is the continued use of “head” on the beer and how the different glasses enhance it. Head is the foam that tops your beer when poured. Head is good. (I can hear all y’alls inner thirteen-year-boy snickering now.) The foam contains compounds such as hop oils, yeasts, esters, spices and other by products of the fermentation process. All of these elements are called volatiles and they create the aroma of your beer. Aroma is not only smell, but taste too; the two senses go hand-in-hand. Thereby making the head of your beer vitally important to the craft beer tasting experience.

Stien

Stein, Seidel, Tankard, Krug – All are beer mugs of sorts, which sport handles instead of stems. All can be made out of glass, but can also be constructed of porcelain, wood, stone, pewter, and silver. The handle is purposeful in that your hand doesn’t warm up the beer contained inside. Literally any type of beer can be consumed out ofa beer mug.

The Stein and Krug are both shortened versions of the German word “Steinzeugkrug,” which means a stoneware jug or tankard. Steins have a hinged lid on the top, and you flip the lever with your thumb while gripping the handle. Fun Fact: The Stein originated in the 14th century when the area of what today is Germany, passed laws calling for food and drink to be covered to prevent the spread of the Bubonic Plague or Black Death. Perhaps the most famous Steins, especially in relation to the Central New York area, are the Schultz and Dooley Steins that originated in the 1950s and were marketed by the West End Brewing Company (WEBCO) during commercials for Utica Club beer. The lids of the steins had faces and in the television commercials they spoke to each other —Schultz with a German accent and Dooley with an Irish accent— with the two characters adventuring from a “duck ride” at a fair, to landing on the moon made of “moon-ster (muenster) cheese.” (YouTube this, you will not be disappointed) Today these original steins are worth hundreds to a couple thousand dollars.

The Krug, Seidel and Tankard are generally large glass drinking mugs, sometimes with decorative etchings, that hold large quantities of beer, and are generally what you see when folks are “Prost!”-ing and heartily clinking their beer mugs together at Oktoberfest. (Of which I’ll actually be attending in Munich in a few weeks time, so stay tuned for an exciting article in the weeks to come!)

Stange

Pilsner, Pokal, Weizen, Stange – These glasses tend to have more of a trumpeted to cylindrical shape. The Pilsner glass is tapered at the bottom to maintain carbonation while the wider rim at the top holds and maintains the head, aroma, and flavors of each brew. The Pokal is a European Pilsner glass with a small stem. Use both with lighter beers including pilsners, ambers, witbiers, lagers.

The Weizen is used for … *drumroll please* … Weizen beers! Hefeweizens, Weizenbocks, Dunkelweizens–  all your wheat beers, essentially. The Weizen glass has slightly more curvature to the top than a Pilsner glass. This curvature traps and encourages the foam head to stay thick and thus allows for the flavors and aromas and volatiles of the brew to accumulate.

The Stange glass is completely cylindrical in shape and is the same circumference from base to top. The word “Stange” is German and it means “stick” or “rod.” Mainly, this is reserved for German Kölsch beer or Schwarzbier and altbiers. (I think another important thing to note throughout this article is how much the Germans love their beer and glassware to go with it!)

American Pint/Shaker, Nonic/Imperial, Becker – The most common glassware, especially here in the US is the iconic Pint glass, also used interchangeably with the Shaker glass. This thick, glass-walled vessel has a fairly wide and heavy base that flares wider towards the rim. The glass typically holds 16 oz. of beer and because the head is funneled to the top and not trapped, it’s best for beers that aren’t exactly delicate in nature, like hop-heavy IPAs. However, this glass can be used with all types of beer, including stouts, porters, lagers, ales.

The Nonic or Imperial is an English pint glass. It is very similar to the American Pint glass except for a little lip or bubble a few centimeters from the top – helping to activate and pronounce the head. This glass is usually thinner and it holds 20 oz. compared to the 16, and is the best choice for all of your English ales, stouts and porters. The Becker is the German equivalent.

Tulip, Thistle, Snifter – All of these stemmed glasses come in various shapes and sizes. Tulip glasses, regardless of shape and size, all have a flared lip at the top of the glass —this is their m.o.— thus giving the glass a tulip flower appearance. The lip serves as a way for the head and aroma to expand. Use this glass for more intense and complex brews such as DIPAs, Imperial stouts and porters, Barleywines, Wild ales, and Belgian ales. The Thistle glass is similar but is elongated, with typically a smaller stem. The glass is aptly named for resembling Scotland’s official flower, the thistle, and is usually used to serve Scottish ales.

Snifter

Snifters are typically used for spirits like Brandy or Cognac, but with their wide, bowled bodies, short stems and tapering rims, they are great glasses to use for stronger craft beers and ales with higher ABVs such as Imperial stouts and porters, Barleywines, Flanders red ales, and Belgian strong ales. One of our local bars, The Evergreen, tends to use snifters quite often with many of these said brews, and for good reason as the glass allows for the full complexity and aromatics of the brews to unfold. It also allows for agitating your brew by swirling it gently and releasing the volitiles present. That being said, to allow this, do not fill your snifter to the top – half to 2/3 is best. (And if all else fails, drink out of a wine glass! Seriously! It’s of similar size and shape to your snifter.)

You can obtain any of the above glassware at different locations – your big box retail stores such as Target or Walmart, finer retailers such as Macy’s or Pottery Barn, or even online at Amazon. In addition, many different breweries offer glassware that’s not just limited to pint glasses with a logo emblazoned on it. When I traveled to Burlington, Vermont and visited Foam Brewers, I brought home a Tulip glass with a short stem with their logo and ounce indicators silk-screened on to the glass and it’s become my most favorite glass in my collection. (Even if it does now have a small chip in the glass rim … wahhhhhh *sad face*)

Pouring beer into your glassware is an art as well. You’ll want to hold your glass at a 45-degree angle and pour the beer with some vigor, aimed directly at the glass side, in the middle. Once you’ve poured halfway full, tip your glass fully upright and continue to pour into the middle of the glass itself. This is meant to give you the best foam head possible of approximately 1 to 1-½ inches.

Thistle

Probably the most important thing to remember is that you want an exceptionally CLEAN glass. Any glass that has been washed with other dishes, and has a residue of oils, fats, dirt, or contains residuals from other beers is likely to inhibit the full bloom of both head and aroma. Keep this in mind as you may wish to keep a separate sponge and drying towel in your home kitchen arsenal to be used only for your craft beer glassware.

Cheers!!

Kristin Merritt
Just a brief introduction that I’ve joined the Table Hopping crew as your new craft-brew-loving gal who will be bringing you your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope that I can give a few recommendations for your grocery lists, event suggestions and local hotspots for an afternoon out with friends or planning a date, and if not for nothing, perhaps enlighten you with some random knowledge that you can amaze your teammates with at trivia night – or at least give you and your pals a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! I have some mighty large shoes to fill that my friend and fellow Syracuse Women of Craft Beer member (& founder), Gloria Rakowsky, left for me, but I hope that my style (and shenanigans) will keep all y’all coming back for more each month. Cheers!