Ever since I attended a Spiegelau session at the Queensland Homebrewing Conference, I’ve become particular about how my beer is served. When I get a beer for the first time at a new venue, I’ll run my finger around the inside of the glass to see if there’s a bump and cup it to feel the temperature. Perhaps not surprisingly, the quality of the menu rarely matches up with the quality of the serving. It’s made me appreciate the extra mile that some pubs (e.g. Tippler’s Tap and The Scratch) go to get it right.
Over a series of posts, I want to explore the nature of beer serving. These will be backed up by the weighty qualifications and level of research our readers have come to expect (i.e. none). This week, I want to look at how different kinds of glassware impacts on the flavours of a beer. While a good quality glass won’t make improve a fundamentally bad beer, it can make a good beer great, and a great beer fantastic.
No half-assed science experiment, like every science class through high school and university that I was involved with, is complete without an formal write-up.
I am aware that this is the second beer blog article with a science-theme out of Brisbane in as many days (you can read about ozbeerbaron trying to kill himself here) but I so thought of it first, so I’m not changing it.
To determine the impacts of different kinds of glassware on the perception of taste of a standard beer.
The different glasses will impact on the perception of the beer, some positively and some negatively.
- 6 different glasses: the Spiegelau beer classics set, the Spiegelau IPA glass and a Headmaster glass from GABS
- 4 or 5 bottles of Little Creatures Pale Ale
- Beer garden/laboratory
- Pour half to two-thirds of a bottle into each glass in a consistent manner
- Write down observations
The observations are presented in chronological order. Please correct for drunkenness as you see fit.
- Not much aroma, despite the beer being relatively warm
- Bitterness comes through well
- Bugger all hoppy flavours
- Fruity aroma coming up
- Maintains good head, the ripples continue to agitate the beer throughout
- The extended head brings the fruity flavours of the hops to the fore. Perhaps a more heavily hopped beer would show through the bitterness?
- Not much aroma, possibly beer is suffering from being too cold, as experience suggests the tulip is good for channelling smell
- Beer enters the mouth delicately and doesn’t flood it out
- Provides a solid mix of hop bitterness to floral hops, subjective ratio of maybe 2:1
- Head forms about halfway up the glass that’s difficult to dislodge, no aroma coming through
- Narrow opening tosses beer to the back of the mouth, where some generic bitterness is noted but not much else
- Way too tall to get a decent aroma (capacity of the glass is around 700mL)
- Wide opening floods beer into the mouth
- Better for consumption than appreciation
- Traces of mosquito repellant…oh wait, that’s me
- Lip on the glass creates a speed bump, beer bumps over half your tongue and ends up down your throat before you’ve realised
- More or less as useless as the hefeweizen but OK for high ABV/IBU/SRM beers that you get at festivals
The experiment had notable issues in maintaining constant conditions. Held outside, standard lab conditions were not met as the humidity increased and ambient temperature decreased (from 30°C down to 25°C) as a storm rolled into the laboratory. In addition, the beers were served at variable temperatures, due to a “refrigerate-as-you-go” approach, atypical of the papers in peer reviewed beer journals.
Furthermore, as these are the last beers of a case, the author’s sensitivity to the individual characteristics of the LCPA has decreased markedly. However, this over-familiarity does allow for corrections to the data which might have otherwise been affected by temperature.
On the basis of the evidence, the IPA glass remains the best serving vessel for even relatively lightly hopped beers like the LCPA. The beer was a bit lost in the lager tumbler and muted by the pilsner. The Headmaster and hefeweizen had little to offer. The tulip, with its bulbous head, was the second best option for capturing hop aroma and a balanced mix of flavours.
In conclusion, this experiment was designed so poorly, it would receive a failing grade in a year six science class. However, the hypothesis has been borne out by the results, tainted though they may be by said poor design.