The recent successful Kickstarter campaign for the Mt. Hood Pint Glass got me thinking again on the subject of beer glassware; who makes the best, and does it really matter what your beer is served in? My answers may surprise you; on the latter, you cannot convince me a pilsner tastes better in a pilsner glass or a hefeweizen in its particular branded glass. Most beer geeks have a favorite beer glass, as do I, and I won’t argue most beer tastes better out of a tulip style glass than a nonic pint glass, but I don’t buy (literally or figuratively) that a different glass is needed for each style. These days there are so many glasses claiming to be the world’s best, they carry as much weight as that sign hanging in every corner cafe that claims the world’s best coffee. We are here to break it all down for you and profile the world’s best beer glasses.
Americans like to have cool things, and beer geeks–like geeks of any other sort–are often collectors. Just like beer geeks often have a large basement cellar of bottles, they are perhaps even more likely to have a large assortment of glassware. Beer geeks might even enjoy pulling out a special glass they are particularly proud of owning during a bottleshare. I am guilty of these things, too.
Belgian brewers cleverly helped create a market for branded glassware for each beer, but if you look over all of the options, none seem more appropriate than another for the particular beer, which is why I think it’s all a bit of ingenious branding and merchandising. What a great way to sell you on buying overpriced merchandise than telling you that you need a brand’s particular glass to enjoy its beer as it was properly intended.
Still, a great beer glass can certainly improve your beer drinking experience, just as what you ate, drank, or smoked before sipping on a beer would, or even the mood you’re in, or the location. So if you find one glass more pleasing to the eye than another, or enjoy the way it snugly fits into your palm, then absolutely it’s going to increase your experience. Just don’t tell me that a stout is better in a mug, or a barleywine is tastier in a snifter than a goblet. Proponents will argue that a shape of one glass unlocks carbonation to create more bubbles–the better to enjoy your lager–but why would a lager need more bubbles. and why for that matter wouldn’t an amber ale benefit in the same way? They say a tulip glass captures volatiles and a nice foamy head, but a completely different shaped weizen glass is supposed to do the same thing.
For example, the Spiegelau Glassware folks (perhaps the beer glassware industry leaders) will tell you all four of the glasses pictured above are for different kinds of German lagers. In their descriptions they might tell you one is better for darker lagers and one is better for pilsners, but somehow they all enhance the aroma and appearance. How can this be true of each of one? It is true because each enhances flavors, aromas, appearance in its own different way, though perhaps no better than each other.
For my money I will take this German Swirling Pilsner Glass (pictured above) with its own crest, because you look like a fucking boss walking around with this bad boy.
And don’t even fucking tell me that this Kwak glass has any practical uses other than to frustrate the bartender who is trying to fill it without it being 100% foam. It definitely does provide an experience, though–an experience of trying to get past the giant head without getting foam on your nose, only for a tidal wave of beer to pop out of the bulge in the bottom and soak your face, making you want to just smash the whole thing against the nearest hard surface.
The World’s Best Beer Glasses
Now lets take a look at the more modern engineered and hand blown glassware they are marketing today. These are the world’s best beer glasses, but are they worth your hard earned buck?
The first and probably most popular of these is…
Basically Boston Beer has tried to combine as many glass styles and shapes into one pint as possible. It has the outward lip of a tulip, the bulbous middle of a snifter, and the bottom taper of a pilsner or weizen glass. It even has some laser etching on the bottom to release more bubbles. One of the advertised benefits is the thin walls of the glass to keep proper temperature, but when you pick this extremely light glass up all it feels is cheap. Also, maybe I am crazy, but the thinner glass wall is going to warm up a lot faster in your hand and thus heat your beer pretty quickly, a thicker or double wall would be better for temperature reasons.
Stone Old Guardian Specialty Glass
The first beer glass I really fell in love with and still do love is Stone Brewing’s Old Guardian glass. Stone is one of the greatest companies in beer at marketing, branding, and spin. Stone has a special glass made for almost every one of its beers, and most of them are pretty cool. The Old Guardian glass has the added bonus of being the cheapest glass on this list if you order it directly from the company store for only $7.
Spiegelau IPA Glass has been the recent best-seller for hop heads everywhere. Supposedly the product of hundreds of designs and input from Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione and Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman, this pint glass was designed to showcase hop forward IPAs. The story goes that the brewers all unanimously chose this glass in a secret blind voting panel. While I don’t doubt this glass probably is great for some IPAs, we know that all IPAs are different, like all beers are different, so it’s impossible to say they are all better with this one dildo-shaped glass. However, if you’re really dedicated to your IPAs and are willing to be the brunt of your friends’ phallic jokes, then $16.99 for a 2-pack of 19oz glasses on Amazon is not half bad.
The Spiegelau folks have no intention of letting you off the hook in only purchasing one overly priced IPA glass. Instead, they have teamed up with Left Hand Brewing and the always reputable Rogue Ales to bring you the ultimate stout glass. This lead-free crystal glass is supposed to accentuate all the things you want in the stout, but visually it looks just like the IPA glass, only minus the ribs for your pleasure. At 21oz and only $17.99 for a pair, it is one of the more affordable options.
This glass is another collaboration, this time between Teo Musso, founder of Baladin Brewery in Torino, Italy, and Italian sensory analysis expert Kuaska (the name TeKu is an amalgamation of the names ‘Teo’ and ‘Kuaska’). Teku’s also endorsed as the official glass of New York City’s Eataly, the Slow Food market/mall. It’s shape mimics a long-stem wine glass, but it also has the sharper curves and lip of a tulip glass with a little more masculine sharper corners. I personally think this glass is beautiful and combines many of the best elements, it’s just that stem, though. I can’t imagine not smashing the bottom of this baby after a couple of uses. If they could just make a version without the stem, but that would look a hell of a lot like the Stone Old Guardian Glass.
Currently taking Kickstarter and the beer geek world by storm is The Oregon Pint Glass, featuring a custom replica of Mt. Hood rising from its bottom. This is certainly one of the coolest looking glasses ever. When not inspecting the way the light plays off of the mountain ridges, reflecting in the beer and you look at the pint from a distance, it’s really rather ordinary. North Drinkware does not make any claims that the glass is designed by a think tank compromising the world’s foremost beer sensory experts or anything, and they shouldn’t have to since they have already raised nearly $163,000 on Kickstarter at the time this story is being published. Outside of one cool ornamental feature, though, do you really think The Oregon Pint Glass is worth the $35 they are asking for it on Kickstarter? When all is said and done, it may even be more expensive.
Pretentious Beer Glass Company Glassware
This brings us to perhaps my favorite beer glass makers, the Pretentious Beer Glass Company. Pretentious was founded by glass blower Matthew Cummings, who became interested in homebrewing, which led to him hand blowing some of his own beer glass designs to sell on etsy for a few bucks. When The New School featured his original works in December 2012 and a handful of other publications also caught on, his one man show blew up. I am stoked to report he is now opening his own glass blowing studio and brewery side-by-side in Knoxville, Tennessee. Matthew may have been the first to put a mountain like glass structure coming up from inside a beer glass, as he does with his “Aromatic Glass.” I love how Pretentious Beer Glass Company makes fun of itself in the name and the designs can be experimental, tactile, useful, and just plain fun. These glasses are not cheap; in fact, they are among the most expensive at $35 to $40, but if you’re going to spend some bucks on a vessel to hold your beer from rather than a plastic cup, then these may be most worth your money.
The post What’s in a Glass? Or, the Ultimate Guide to Beer Glassware appeared first on New School Beer.