Which Beer Glass Should You Use?

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With 4,269 breweries in the United States alone, craft beer represents a 12% share of the total beer market. As recently as 2011, craft beer only accounted for 5.7% of the market. Doubling market share in just four years demonstrates how quickly the craft beer industry has expanded and matured, and with it, so have the expectations of the beer-drinking consumer.

The American Shaker Pint

Patrons expect proper beer service, which includes proper beer glassware. The importance of the beer glass goes beyond aesthetics. Depending on the type of beer, the proper glass can also enhance aroma or taste.

The new beer drinker is also embracing proper temperature. Old thinking dictates that restaurants should serve the coldest beer possible in the coldest glass possible. While this remains true for American-style pasteurized lagers, a better rule of thumb is that glassware should be room temperature or just slightly chilled. This helps the beer foam properly without frosting or altering the beer’s intended flavor profile.

The Nonic Pint

The ubiquitous American shaker pint is also considered by many to be passé. The pint glass easily transfers heat from the drinker’s hand to the beer. It’s easy to see why bar owners might default to these glasses: they’re cheap, durable, and stackable. However, today’s craft beer aficionado knows better; in fact, Sam Fitz, beer director of Washington D.C.’s Pizzeria Paradiso called shaker pints “the worst thing that ever happened to beer.” For a comparable upgrade, look instead for the Nonic Pint, with its bulging top for grip without heat transfer and more narrow mouth for foam retention. (It’s also cheap, durable, and stackable).

The following is a breakdown of other beer glassware and when and why you should use them:

The Pilsner Glass

Unsurprisingly, the Pilsner glass is used for pilsners. Because heads on pilsners are deep, airy, and foamy, the pilsner glass’s tall, slim body promotes head retention which can enhance the flavors and aromas of the beer. The flared shape and wide mouth expands the aroma of the hops. The pilsner glass showcases the beer’s color, clarity, and carbonation.

The Belgian Goblet, Snifter, and Tulip Glass

One of the rising starts of the craft beer movement is the goblet or snifter glass. This glass does a fantastic job of capturing the aromas of strong ales and high test beers like imperial IPAs, barleywines, and imperial stouts. These high ABV beers often require smaller glass shapes of only about 8-10 ounces, which would look underwhelming in a pint glass. The large bowl enhances the flavors of your beer while the narrow rim directs the aromas to the top. The Tulip differs slightly from the goblet and snifter, but accomplishes many of the same results.

The Beer Mug or Beer Stein

This is probably the beer glass most associated with the history of beer. Often artful and intricate, beer mugs are popular souvenirs all around the world. The beers that fill these glasses include traditional, medium-alcohol ales and lagers that are not as filling as heavy stouts, IPAs, or Belgian beers. Mugs help when beer is served in large quantities, because they don’t sacrifice taste-quality. Since there isn’t a need to retain understated smells and flavors, beer mugs can be more open and cylindrical.

Beer Stemware

A variety of stemware is used for enhancing the look and flavor of beer. Most of these glasses are strictly aesthetic. But, many also achieve other benefits like foam retention and releasing of aromas. A footed beer glass, for instance, features a thick sham that provides extra weight and stability while on table tops and bar trays.

Specialty Beer Glasses

Last, but not least, your specialty glass. The sky is pretty much the limit with specialty glasses. Yard glasses, boots, and other giant glassware are, as you might expect, typically used for serving large quantities of beer – think Oktoberfest.
You won’t (or shouldn’t) find many craft beers in these types of glasses. Generally, if you think it might be fun to have one of these, you should stick to beers you can gulp in large volumes, and that don’t have too-thick heads or super hoppy/malty flavors.

Philip Murphy is based out of St. Petersburg, Florida and is a long time beer enthusiast. Philip works for an online restaurant supply site, WebstaurantStore.com, which offers a wide range of restaurant equipment and supplies. You can find Philip on Twitter @burgseo where he tweets about the restaurant industry and food culture.

Editor’s Note: Don’t forget to check out our video, Which Wine Glass Should You Use?

"Which Beer Glass Should You Use?" originally published on The Menuism Dining Blog.