If you've been to a craft beer bar lately, you've probably noticed your bartender serving different brews in different glasses. What's up? Is craft beer getting (more) fancy? Yes. And for good reason: Your bartender wants your beer to taste better. So put down that pint glass and listen up.
The ubiquitous pint glass was never meant to deliver the complex flavors of today's beers—it became popular for its durability, stackability and shakeability. "This is a martini shaker that happened to become a default beer glass," Matt Rutkowski of Spiegelau, the 500-year-old glassmaking company, says.
What's so wrong with a pint glass? For starters, its straight sides do little to push out a beer's aroma. The slightly flared walls flood beer into your mouth and down your throat quickly, and your tongue misses any nuanced flavors in the process. Another minus is the pint's thick, cheap glass, which transfers heat faster than thin glass. Warm beer traps less oxygen than cold beer, so you're left with a warm, flat brew.
As a result, some bartenders have switched to using snifters or large wineglasses for suds. Some beer bars even opt for a stemmed glass specifically intended for wine, like the Teku glasses used at New York's Eataly Birreria. Rutkowski encourages this, but as a big craft beer fan, he wanted to go a step further and create different styles of glasses for different styles of beer.
"Over the last two or three years, more people have really begun to understand that the glass is the final ingredient in the service of the beer," Rutkowski says. His craft beer project started with an IPA glass, for which he teamed up with two of his favorite breweries, Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada. For over a year, they worked on a shape to enhance this hop-forward style. The final glass has a curved bowl directing the aroma—a huge part of the beer's taste—straight to your nose and a ribbed base, which increases surface area, creating a frothier beer.
Next he worked on a stout glass with Rogue Ales and Left Hand Brewing Company. There's less concern for surface area here, so the base is smooth and more focused on the optimal shape for mouthfeel. "The way the lip of the glass is angled allows the beer to move across your tongue and give you the full experience that the brewmaster intended," Brett Joyce of Rogue Ales says. "I know it sounds like hocus pocus, but I'm telling you, it 1,000 percent works."
The Spiegelau glasses are used at Rogue's 12 locations, and now, says Joyce, "The only thing you can get in a traditional shaker [pint] glass is a water."
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