Diary of a Beer Girl’s Isla Mercer explores the part played by glassware in your craft beer drinking experience.
When you’re served a plate of food, your first impression is how it is presented and that can really alter your perceptions of the taste. The same goes for beer. Choosing the correct glass for each style of beer can add a bit of theatrics, as well as enhancing the taste of the beer inside. Here’s a quick guide to what glasses suit different beer styles.
Let’s start with my favourite style of beer: Stouts. Stouts and porters suit snifter (1) or chalice (2) glasses. These also happen to be my favourite styles of glass, so that’s a win-win for me! The wide rim means you have a big surface area to smell those beautiful roasted coffee and chocolate aromas with every sip. Being able to smell beer when you’re tasting it is extremely important – scientists tell us that up to 90% of our taste sensations actually comes from smell. Higher ABV, imperial stouts would suit more of a chalice style glass than a snifter. I think this is partly just to do with the opulence of a chalice glass matching the indulgence of a big 9-10% imperial stout. Top tip: If you don’t have a chalice, a large red wine glass also works in the same way so is a good alternative.
There is type of glass specifically designed for IPAs (3). It was created a couple of years ago by glassmaker Spiegelau with help from the master brewers of a few American craft breweries like Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada. They tested a range of glasses, with this style coming out on top. The strange glass design is supposed to maximise the flavour and aroma of pungent IPAs. This style of glass is now widely available with quite a few companies making them. Alternatively, for a very intense IPA, a chalice/wine glass would also suffice, maximising the smells and giving this mighty style of beer the regal looking glass it deserves to be served in.
There is also a glass specifically designed for pilsners (4), however it would suit any kind of lager, particularly lighter lagers. The pilsner glass is quite tall and elegant, with straight, tapered sides and a relatively narrow rim to maintain the frothy head. Traditional mug or stein glasses are also good for lagers, since the handle means your body temperature doesn’t heat up the glass, so it stays cooler for longer.
The Belgians are undoubtedly the kings of beer glasses, with each beer typically having its very own glass style. These usually come in variations of the tulip (5) or chalice style. They often have etchings or nooks cut out the bottom of the glass to give a stream of bubbles from bottom to top, which looks quite cool if nothing else! Tulip glasses suit a variety of aromatic beers so would be another good substitution for an IPA glass. The flaring out at the top of these glasses helps maintain the head retention, trapping all the delicious aromas inside the beer so they last for longer.
Lambics, krieks and fruit beers are often served in flutes. Not only do these look elegant to compliment the delicate colour of these beers, the narrow shape helps to maintain carbonation for longer and causes the aroma to be quite intense, ideal for this highly flavourful style of beer.
Lastly, wheat beer glasses (6) look similar to a pilsner glass, but with curved sides, whereas pilsner glasses are always straight. Wheat beers tend to have a lot of yeast in them, so a wheat beer glass has a narrow base to trap this yeast, avoiding it swirling up into every mouthful. They also have a narrow rim to help head retention and make that beautiful creamy head we associate with wheat beers last for longer. The head isn’t just for show – it also traps in the distinctive banana/ bubblegum wheat beer smells that people love.
So, there we have a quick run through of the main beer styles and which glasses would suit them. If you just want to invest in just one style of glass, I’d recommend a chalice or tulip. They suit both dark and light beers, they enhance aromas and the stem helps to keep chilled beer cool, meaning they’re suited to quite a large variety of beer styles. I wouldn’t worry too much about not having the specific glass to suit each beer style because, personally, I think the theatrical element of having a ‘fancy glass’ probably enhances your perception of the taste much more than the science behind each glass shape. Having said that, I’m a sucker for a nice glass. The brewery put a lot of care into the brewing and design of the beer label, so I like to make sure I take the same care when serving it too.
Originally published in Issue 3 of our Flavourly magazine. Written by Isla Mercer.