Beer Glassware

Beer glassware is not just for looks.

Look again to that jar where that beer was poured. How and where you serve beer is important the right glassware will enhance a great brew and the wrong one may spoil the experience.

Which glass looks best for beer presentation is largely a subjective issue. Belgian brewers, for example, are known to take the issue to a delightful extreme, some going so far as to design the brew around the serving vessel. But there are real factors at play as well, that can affect the aroma and taste of your favorite brew.

Some general tips, first. For the utmost in tasting, hand-wash your glass in warm water and rinse well. Some dishwashers leave a soap residue. Allow to air dry. Hand towels, and especially paper towels, can introduce bits of cloth or paper.

Purists will avoid frosting the glass, since that can change the temperature and introduce moisture into the brew. Few will notice the difference, though.

Now for the vessel...

The traditional dimpled German Seidel or stein is a staple of bars everywhere. Technically, steins are stone not glass, with a lid. The word has taken on a wider meaning outside beer circles. Heavy-duty, with a large handle they hold a large amount, and that can rarely be bad.

Popular the world over, the Pilsner glass, or Pokal, is slender and tapered, usually holding around 12 ounces. The Pokal has a longer stem. Very similar is the Weizen, which is curved rather than straight tapered. The Weizen is named for Weizenbier, the wheat beer, a Bavarian brew. It generally holds a bit more, around 16 ounces or half a liter.

In both, presentation is attractive, allowing for good color and carbonation viewing. The shape also makes for good foam head retention and encourages volatile compounds to evaporate. That allows for better enjoyment of aroma, a delight not limited to wine tasting.

The traditional English serving glass is the Pint Glass, or Becker, a tall, round, tumbler-shaped container with thin walls. Though holding a man-sized amount of brew, it's fine so long as you take your beer warm. The wide mouth and thin walls make for easy passage of heat, so cold servings change character quickly.

Also, the wide-mouth doesn't allow for the best head retention and volatile compounds evaporate off the surface quicker. Of course, after two or three you probably won't notice.

Less well known or less often used, there are other styles that suit beers well.

The Stange is a traditional German-style, a straight cylinder used to serve delicate beers. They function well to concentrate volatiles, leading to a heady aroma. Malt and hop complexity is easier to judge using these fine serving vessels.

Snifters have even been used by some. Specialists can sense the added concentration of aromas, thanks to the narrowed opening. Perfect for Barley Wine and other strong ales, the malt and alcohol blend to add a delightful nose to an already great taste.

Whatever glassware you use, make sure to serve the brew fresh and at a temperature suited to its style. Lagers are generally served colder, at between 45°F-50°F (7°C-10°C). Ales do better at warmer temperatures, even as high as room temperature, of 65°F (18°C).