Glassware (Part I?)

20140420-101908.jpgGlassware is a needlessly complicated topic within the craft beer community. As I write this, I’m drinking an American Pale Ale from a stemmed Saint Bernardus glass. This is definitely improper glassware, but it inspired me to write this post and I’m happy about it.

I bought a Saint Bernardus gift pack yesterday. It came with four beers and this glass. I haven’t opened the beers yet, but I couldn’t wait to try the glass. I know it is not the proper glass for this beer, but I don’t care. I love beer glasses. Just ask my girlfriend.

But at the same time, I am skeptical of a lot of claims about them. They are cool. They are downright necessary to fully enjoy most beers. Collecting different shaped beer glasses is fun, but I don’t think that most of them make much difference.
The real difference is using a glass at all. Drinking beer from a bottle completely cuts your nose out of the experience and that is a huge mistake. Aroma accounts for a huge portion of taste. Some studies claim up to ninety percent of what you taste is actually determined by what you smell. I’m not sure if that number is correct, but I do know that drinking an stanky, dry hopped IPA from a bottle is doing you, the beer, the hops, the brewer, the hop farmer and the truck driver that delivered the beer to the store a huge disservice.

Some people have a vendetta against pint glasses, or shaker glasses, or whatever you want to call the thick, straight walled sixteen ounce beer glasses that most American bars serve their draft beer in. Personally, I have no problem with them. They have a wide enough mouth to let your nose in as you drink, they’re comfortable to hold, easy to clean and hard to break. The only issue I can think of has to do with the bars. It is not actually the glass’s fault that most bars present their drafts as a “pint” when they are closer to twelve ounces. The glasses hold sixteen ounces, if filled to the brim with no head. Yes, it is kind of a rip off, but you’re better off getting that head with your beer, anyway.
I would love to see German glassware make a bigger dent in American bars and breweries. Just about all of the popular German glasses have a very obvious mark showing the proper fill line. For half a liter, fill to this ridge, use additional space for beer foam. Excellent.

I love fancy, stemmed Belgian glasses, like the St. Bernardus glass I’m drinking from right now, but I think the majority of the change they bring on to beer is based on the experience. In my opinion, as long as you’re getting a whiff of the beer while you take a swig, not much else matters physically. The experience of holding a stemmed glass, or a giant handled maß or a tiny taster glass can make a huge difference in how you think about the beer you’re drinking and that is important, but… it’s all in your head.
Not that that is a bad thing. My point is, drink from the glass you like, but for gods’ sake, drink from a glass.


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