A Guide to Beer Glassware
Just because it’s beer, doesn’t mean it can’t be fancy. As a craft beer bar owner, you don’t want to be caught looking like you don’t know your beer, and one of the easiest ways to do so is by using the wrong glassware. Just as you wouldn’t serve a martini in a snifter, you would never serve a pilsner in a tulip glass.
Although this may sound confusing, there are some general rules of thumb when serving craft beer that will help you decide what glassware to stock in your bar. It’s very important you become well informed on the choices, to further educate your community on their favorite selections. As the popular “everything beer” website, BeerAdvocate states:
“As soon as the beer hits the glass, its color, aroma and taste is altered, your eye candy receptors tune in, and your anticipation is tweaked. Hidden nuances become more pronounced, colors shimmer, and the enjoyment of the beer simply becomes a better, more complete, experience.”
The actual shape of the glass can affect the level and shape of the foam head, the taste, and even the temperature at which it hits your lips. In other words, this is serious business.
This has also been referred to as a “beer stein,” and is the oldest form of beer glassware on the books. Made from porcelain or stoneware, the glass is of German descent, and some varieties even include a lid. The handle is meant to keep your hand from warming the beer. Sturdy, and withstanding the test of time, this is generally the less “frilly” of options.
Beer Types: American pale ale, Irish dry stout, English bitter, Oatmeal stout, and Scottish ale
This has always been the familiar go-to when it comes to beer on tap, but did you realize it’s really only suitable for a certain variety of craft beer? Although this type of glassware isn’t designed for any particular type of beer in mind, it’s cheap and highly versatile.
Beer Types: Anything really, but you may want to stray away from Belgian ales, or pilsners, or any type of craft beer associated with a specific glass.
Nothing says fancy, like a gold rimmed glass. The whole purpose of a chalice, however, is to retain the head of the beer, which is why the glass has a wide mouth. A chalice is thick walled, and the bottom part of the glass is riveted to agitate the beer, thus creating more bubbles and foam. This is why a chalice is ideal for any type of craft beer that is heavy in CO2.
Beer Types: Belgian tripels, strong ales.
This is one of the taller glasses on the list, and generally holds about 12 oz. of craft beer. This type of glassware is meant to enhance the appearance of the beer, and the triangular dimensions of the glass help to promote the sparkling blonde colors and carbonation. Overall, the glass has no curvature, but it makes the beer look incredibly refreshing.
Beer Types: Pilsners, American lager, Blonde ale, Bock, Whitbiers (wheat beers)
This “pretty” glassware has an hourglass figure which is meant to capture the distinctive aromas and head of the craft beer. It’s an attractive way to showcase a particular beer, and often draws attention due to it’s unique shape. If you have a particular craft beer that sells on a good head, this is the glassware for you.
Beer Types: Scotch ale, Saison, Belgian pale ale, Belgian strong ale, Imperial stout, strong brews, high-gravity beers
The rarest of beer glassware, this is specifically to showcase the light color and carbonation of certain beers. It also allows for a quick release of volatiles, which creates an intense aroma.
Beer Types: Vienna lager, Lambic, Biere brut, Biere de champagne, Flanders red ale
This German glass literally translates to “wheat,” and caters to the craft beers as such. Larger than most glassware, the extra space is actually left over for a large, foamy head. The shape of the glass also helps to maintain the beer’s aroma, and the golden color of a wheat beer.
Beer Types: Wheat ale, Weizenbock, Dunkelweizen, Kristalweizen
Generally reserved for brandy and cognac, the tapered curve of a snifter glass helps to capture, and even enhance, the natural aromas of the craft beer. Because of this, it’s a good choice for stronger, high-gravity varieties.
Beer Types: Double/Imperial Stout, Belgian dark ale, India pale ale, Saison
Narrow and cylindrical, this glassware is similar to the pint glass, and helps to preserve aromas. They are specifically shaped from a style native to Cologne, Germany, where waiters would carry around large trays fitted to the glasses. This is the only glass you can sub with, by using a Tom Collins glass.
Beer Types: Lambic, Rye ber, Gueuze, Bock, Gose
Overall, Andrew Bartle, the head brewer of Northwinds Brewhouse and Eatery in Collingwood, Ontario put it perfectly, when he pronounced:
“Glassware makes a big difference. The glass is pretty special. It’s the first thing you see and presentation is everything. Beer that looks pleasing to the eye has already started the mental process for positive thinking and enjoyment.”