Drunken Speculation

The Importance of Glassware 3: Pilsner, Tumbler & Tulip

qhc spiegelau after

We’ve finally reached the destination on our long journey into glassware (you can read parts one and two). In this final post, I’ll finish off what I started last time because it took a surprising amount of words to get through the first two.

To recap, your glassware should be selected to emphasise the best parts of the beer in question. Key ways of doing this involve agitating the beer to get the aromatics into your nose and controlling the quantity of beer going into your mouth so as to overwhelm/not overwhelm (as the case may be) your tongue.

Pilsner with Pilsner Urquell

Suitable for pilsner, American pale ale, IPA

pilsner urquell

Before the IPA glass was available in Australia, we had to use a tall pilsner glass for our hoppy beers, like savages. With the arrival of said glass, the tall pilsner has been relegated to the back of the cupboard and rarely gets brought out. Boy, it is good at retaining carbonation though.

pilsner urquell-2

The narrow mouth and tall shape is ostensibly so that the bitterness drives to the back of your tongue where everyone knows that’s where your bitter tastebuds reside. Except that your tongue is considerably more complicated than that, so I don’t know why it has this particular shape. I would imagine that pilsners are there to be quaffed, so I’m chalking it up to tradition. It certainly doesn’t do the beer any harm and makes for a sexy looking beer.

Tumbler with Little Creatures Bright Ale

Suitable for mass produced lager, golden ale, pale ale, English styles

little creatures bright ale

The tumbler is a different glass to the rest. It has no particularly special design features other than, to quote BeerAdvocate, “Cheap to make. Easy to store. Easy to drink out of.” This is your consumption glass.

The mouth is wide open. Aroma, if there is any in your lager, bitter or pale ale, escapes into the air and you’re left with a faint character of what it once was. In some cases, this may be a good thing. The wide mouth also facilitates quick and easy drinking, a high quaffability quotient.

The shape also holds head well, which is more for aesthetics than any real benefit, as there is generally little flavour to be had in these beers’ foam.

Tulip with Holgate Double Trouble Abbey Ale & Sunshine Coast Porter

Suitable for Belgian ales, porter, stout, dark ales, beers that you’re not sure of

The tulip, or “stemmed pilsner”, is one of my preferred glasses. Here I’ve employed two completely different beers – a porter and a dubbel – to illustrate how wide ranging it is.

sunshine coast porter holgate double trouble

The tulip captures the sweet molasses maltiness of the porter equally as well as the yeasty volatiles of the dubbel. The short glass makes getting a head difficult, which is beneficial as in some styles, you don’t want to waste the minimal carbonation on a tall glass. You need it there through the entire experience.

Should the mood strike, however, the tulip is easy to swirl, simultaneously bringing up a thin lip of the white stuff and making you feel like a billionaire (presumably while you smirk, having destroyed a thousand workers’ that day). The moderate width mouth ensures you get a good mouthful to swish around in your mouth, while you contemplate the workers’ destitute families.

This may have ended up as an excuse to drink a bunch of different beers because I was pretty sure of the underlying facts before this “research” took place. Look, I’ll put my hand up and claim guilty on that one. So here’s the summary:

  • Your tongue and nose are the key inputs for tasting a beer
  • Different glass shapes highlight different aspects of your beer
  • Some glass shapes do this better for certain styles than others
  • Bulbous heads are good for capturing aroma
  • Wide mouths are good for chugging
  • Narrow mouths are good for thoughtful repose
  • Height agitates and creates head
  • The Spiegelau IPA glass is awesome
  • But sometimes its OK to use a lager tumbler


  1. The spieglau stemmed tulip is definitely my favourite glass. I haven’t tried the IPA glass yet but I can’t imagine enjoying it more than the stemmed tulip. It looks great (something that is not true fort he IPA glass) and as you said, you can swirl it.

    I love to swirl.

  2. Beer Goggles

    Even after taking a beer & culture class in college, it is nice to have a reminder of all different glassware. Thanks & cheers!

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