Glassware for craft beer

What do you serve your beer in? ("A frosty mug" is the wrong answer!)

We have heard the statement "It doesn't matter what glass you drink beer from!" far too many times, but this statement is categorically wrong. The glass you serve your beer in is absolutely vital to your proper enjoyment of said beer.

First let's deal with frosty mugs. These may be fine for flavorless mass-produced beers, but serving a craft beer in a frosty mug is abuse of your beer. Why do we say it's abuse? Because the whole point of craft beers is their flavour and their wonderful aromatics. You serve an imperial stout, an IPA, a brown ale, or a Belgian beer in a frosty mug, and you may as well not have bothered paying the extra money for craft. The cold numbs the tongue and squelches the aromatics, leaving you with a flavorless, smell-less fizzy beverage.

So what kind of glasses would we recommend? It depends on the beers you prefer to drink, and they don't need to be expensive. You can find good glasses almost anywhere, but you can buy them cheaply in kitchen supply stores or discount stores like Dollar Tree.

You don't need to go on a mad buying spree. Start with the glasses that fit the beers you enjoy most, and pick up more over time. You can get away with an imperial pint glass, a large wine glass (a temporary substitute for a goblet, tulip or snifter) and a Belgian beer glass.


Shaker/Imperial pint glass

These are fine all-rounders, going from okay to really well with most beers, and everyone should have a couple of Shaker or Imperial pint glasses in their cupboard.


Tulip

With a broad base, narrow waist, broad lip, shaped like a tulip, this glass really enhances volatiles and ducts the wonderful smell right up your nose with each sip. A good all-round glass, it will also help funnel the hop aromatics from IPAs and double IPAs.



Belgian beer glass(es)

If you are into Belgian and Belgian-style beers you need to look for Belgian beer glasses, mostly to accomodate the head, an integral part of the flavor. That could easily be an entire article itself - in pubs in Belgium you will get a completely different glass for each beer - but don't worry about it for now.



Snifter

Also called a brandy glass, this is best used for beers that have a lot of aromatics like IPAs, double IPAs, barleywines, Imperial Stouts, and Scottish-style beers. These glasses funnel the aromatics right up your nose and give you a broad base to swirl the beer around in to allow you to release even more as the beer warms.



Flute

Also known as a champagne glass, so you might already have a couple lurking in a cupboard, this style of glass will emphasize color and carbonation in more delicate beers such as Czech or German Pilsners, Flanders-style beers, or Lambics.



Goblet

These have a broad base and broad top which allows for beautiful head retention, as well as allowing you to take large sips to fully experience your beer. Use for Belgian Strong Dark, Dubbel, Tripel, and Quadrupel style to fully enhance their flavors.



And while we're here, let's quickly deal with another issue with beer: the beer's HEAD. There is a common fallacy that a beer with a huge head is a "bad pour". It depends entirely on the beer! A lot of Belgian beers develop massive, pillowy white heads that deliver a potent shot of aromatics straight up your nose. Quenching the head of a Duvel (whose glass is specifically designed to keep the head all up and fluffy) results in a very sub-par drinking experience. Your glass choice should absolutely be influenced by the beer's head characteristics.

For more in-depth reading, and specific beer-to-glass recommendations, check out the articles at Beer Advocate and the section at CraftBeer.com.