Breweriana: Specialty Beer Glasses

Specialty Beer Glasses

Specialty glasses have existed throughout the ages, whether they are for wine, champagne, or different types of beers. From crystal goblets to stoneware steins, and, more recently, Belgian glass goblets, glass, ceramic, wood, and metal crafters have produced their visions of the perfect vessel for the perfect drink. The ratio of slope to surface area, breathing area, and volume contained within, are all tailored to the liquid viscosity and temperament of the beverage in question.

Having a unique specialty beer glass for each of your alcoholic beverages has always helped to make the moment special. Who ever heard of sitting around the local pub, drinking mugs of ale? That may be true for mid-evil re-creationists, but most beer fans prefer pint glasses. That way you can see what you’re drinking. In mid-evil times, you didn’t always WANT to see what you were drinking.

Having a nice rack of differing specialty beer glasses is good for when company comes over. It can encourage your friends to bring some fine ale if you have some Chimay glasses around. These glasses are called chalices, and feature a wide, flat bottom and straight sides to allow the many aromas of the monk-style Belgian ales to be smelled.

Having a set of German bier Steins up on the shelf may also lend clues to guests as to what you’d like at the next potluck (better Heineken than Budweiser, at least). The stein and the mug are best suited for ales of the inimitably quaffable kind. Beer that is guzzled easily. Beer that you want to drink a lot of because you want to become intoxicated.

European specialty beers often fall into the category of beers that should be served in specialty beer glasses. If you walk into a bar that serves a selection of Belgian ales, this is a good place to learn more about the difference between specialty beer glasses, but until then take my word for it: Weiss biers and hefeweisens have a glass which is curvy and top heavy. This gives a little lip at the bottom to catch any yeast sediment, which may result from drinking the bottle-conditioned variety of theses ales.

Pilsner glasses are the more straightforward, simple and elegant tall glasses with only the slightest of curves. The relatively narrow top channels the bitter aromas into the nose, facilitating an aromatic blast with each swig.

Lambics, being specialty ales from a nation of specialty ales, are best indulged in what is known as a flute glass. This resembles a champagne glass, but with more curves. This keeps the bubbles moving around, for like champagne, lambics are highly carbonated. The narrow top keeps the aromas from floating about too much.

Barley wine glasses usually hold less beer – barley wines being much stronger in alcohol and flavor than regular beers (around 7%-12% alcohol). In order to prevent patrons from stumbling over each other drunk or passing out in the bar, the volume of the glass is decreased. The glasses usually have a fairly open top to allow the rich and malty bouquet of the barley wine to waft above the specialty glass. Go to a good barley wine tasting and you will see what it is all about.

The Samuel Adams brewery of Boston, Mass., just this last year released a glass, which their brewers claim, serves beer as brewers intended. The Samuel Adams Boston Lager Pint Glass shares many traits with the flute, but it is bigger and has a much wider mouth.

"We wanted to create a glass that offers beer lovers a full sensory experience by fully showcasing Samuel Adams Boston Lager’s complex balance of malt and hop flavors.", said Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams.

And last, but not least, one good reason for having different specialty beer glasses, for different kinds of beers, is to help bar patrons to remember which glass is theirs. A night of drinking can sometimes muddle ones perceptions. In any case, is not a finely crafted beer worthy of its own glass?

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