Last time I wrote about glassware, I took a bunch of Little Creatures Pale Ales and stuck them in six different glasses and compared the tasting notes. Today, I’m taking six different beers and putting them in five different glasses in an effort to qualify the impact of selecting the right glass for the right style. I also want to look at why that glass type suits the beer style.
Almost all of the glasses featured are from the Spiegelau range but, no, Spiegelau have not solicited or otherwise contributed anything to this post. The underlying ideas remain consistent, irrespective of brand, but Spiegelau happen to have a convenient foursome with which to start exploring this topic. I hope to show by the end that if you’re using any old glass, you’re doing it wrong.
Firstly, it’s important to understand what we’re trying to achieve here. We’re trying to bring forth the key characteristics of a beer. Glassware, as I’ve said before, won’t make a bad beer, good but it will make a good beer, great. How the aroma – which is a by-product of the volatiles that live in the beer, particularly it’s head – makes its way into your sinuses and how the beer washes over your tongue are the two primary physiological stimuli your brain uses to process the experience of drinking a beer.
Secondly, aesthetics are as important to enjoying a beer as getting the most out of the flavour profile. In something I’ll explore another time, your eyes have a surprisingly large impact on how your perceive the world around you, irrespective of whether the dominant input to your brain happens to be auditory, olfactory or visual.
Thirdly, some glass shapes are defined by cultural traditions. I’m sure someone out there is willing to look into medieval pewter mugs and trace their influence onto the modern glass shape but that person is not me. It’s something to keep in mind.
The beers I’ve selected are fairly typical of their style. The key is: what do you enjoy most about a particular style – is it the hop aroma of an IPA or the phenols of a hefeweizen – and what is required to higlight these features?
IPA with Bridge Road Bling IPA
Suitable for IPA, American pale ales, heavily hopped beers
The IPA glass is, depending on who you talk to, the greatest thing ever invented for beer drinking or a marketing gimmick designed to take the money of fools. I fall firmly into the former camp. I’m almost on the verge of instructing you to ignore the rest of this post and buy a pair and drink everything out of this glass. If you wanted to design the perfect beer drinking glass from scratch, this is what you’d come up with. The Spiegelau IPA glass has:
- Glass ripples for keeping the head alive, sip after sip
- A moderate mouth for directing the flow of beer, not too wide so you drown but wide enough to get a good mouthful
- A bulbous head for capturing amazing hop aroma
Without these things, are you really enjoying your IPA? I think not. That shit makes a difference and would’ve been nigh on impossible to actually manufacture until recently.
Hefeweizen with homebrew hefeweizen
Suitable for wheat beers, both weiss und dunkel
To show it’s not all about one brand, I borrowed ammo’s Erdinger glass. Christ, it’s heavy. Unfortunately, the tall glass makes for difficult pouring, especially if you’ve got poorly behaved wheat beer, like my own personal homebrewed hefeweizen:
However, given a little patience, that head will settle down into a lovely looking beer.
That’s better. The height in this case is the good guy, rather than the villain, agitating your wheat beer and bringing forward the banana esthers and other phenolic goodness that comes out of a good hefeweizen. The bulb at the top is especially suited for capturing the aroma while the wide mouth allows for good quaff-ability, a term I coined to describe the kind of drinking that goes on at Oktoberfest. If you think about what you want out of a good hefeweizen, the glass matches perfectly.
The concepts of an agitated head to bring forth aroma and a mouth size suited to the beer style are recurring themes in the other glasses – the tulip, tall pilsner and the tumbler – as we’ll see next time when I run through the other three glass types.