Reiterating the Importance of Glassware

glassware lineup

I’ve previously shared a post about my beer-specific glassware collection, which I’ve been lucky to upgrade in the past couple years.

The idea of a proper glass for a specific beer seems almost second nature to me, but I still get curious looks or reactions from friends who aren’t as … committed … as I am with beer enthusiasm. All the same, if I have a visitor in my house and we’re going to drink some beer, I enjoy offering it to them in the best way possible.

Which led me to a small experiment this past weekend.

My local Whole Foods held a growler sale that waived container fees, meaning I wouldn’t have to spend an extra $4 on a 32 or 64-ounce container. With no plans on Saturday except to relax and read, I indulged in a 32-ounce growler of Foothills Brewing Jade IPA (just $7! 96/97 on BA and RateBeer!) and an opportunity to waste an afternoon.

For the purposes of my experiment, I used three glasses: a Spiegelau IPA glass, a snifter and the shaker pint you’ll see used at most bars and restaurants. I wanted to test each glass’ ability to provide aroma, with taste as a secondary focus. All three samples were poured at the same time and tasted consecutively, with some water in between.

Spiegelau IPA glass

ipa glass

Spiegela, slightly in focus.

If you’re not familiar, this glass featured rigorous testing within beer industry “insiders” and was specifically made for IPAs. To feed any curiosity, check out reviews on Amazon.

This is my go-to glass for any IPAs and deservedly so. It always provides strong, lasting head retention, which also helps enjoy characteristics of each beer.

For Jade, the Spiegelau glass really pushed the hop aroma, specifically of the beer’s namesake Pacific Jade hop, emphasizing tropical fruit. It was like sticking my nose in a mango with sugar sprinkled on top. Maybe a little pineapple, too. Mixing Pacific Jade hops with Chinook also brought forward a common smell to my nose for those two varieties – peppered popcorn.

Snifter

snifter

Snifter

Like the Spiegelau glass, one of the benefits of this snifter is the shape of the rim, which funnels aroma from the bulbous mid-section right into your nose. The tight rim makes sure smells don’t escape, even if they aren’t as strong as the specially-made IPA glass.

Everything is a slight step down with the snifter, from head retention to aroma and flavor. I’m still able to easily pick up tropical notes, but it’s more pineapple than anything. Not a hint of that pepper spiciness, however.

Shaker pint

shaker

Shaker pint

Well this is boring. The beer still smells fine, but every aromatic aspect is significantly dulled, even with an aggressive pour. That’s not to say it’s an utter waste, but I can barely sense any of the previously prominent tropical fruits and I’m left with more of a vague sweetened citrus – think a mixture of ripe grapefruit and orange.

This is just one instance that reinforces the usefulness of serving beer in non shakers at a bar. I’m sure it’s partially the beer enthusiast in me, but I do really appreciate it when I’m served a beer in proper glassware when I’m at a restaurant or bar.

Taste

As you’d expect, the Spiegelau glass reigned supreme, but what I found most interesting was its ability to hold onto flavor. I drank these beers outside, in the sun, so there was some definite impact of heat.

Even though its thin glass allows for easier heat absorption, the Spiegelau kept the flavor intensity similar to the beer’s aroma the entire time I drank from it. Because the smell of a beer is the most dominating aspect to impact flavor, I’m not surprised.

Head retention

Any beer nerd will know the importance of a foam on a pour, but even after the initial move from bottle into glass, keeping that collection of pillowy white CO2 helps provide texture and increased aroma potential.

Again, it was no contest for the Spiegelau glass. As you can see above, the snifter initially had a problem forming some foam, but there was decent lacing that stuck around, for what it’s worth.

What does it mean?

Well, if you feel so inclined, you can splurge and get yourself a pair of Spiegelau IPA glasses. I got mine as a gift and can’t recommend them enough. Spiegelau also recently released a set of glasses specifically made for stouts, but I’ll stick to my brandy snifters for that. I prefer them because of the thin glass and shape, which work in the same way Spiegelau does – it allows for the heat from your hand to warm the stout and also funnels aromas right into your nose. I got mine from IKEA.

What about you? Do you have go-to glassware that you always use?

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

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23 thoughts on “Reiterating the Importance of Glassware

  1. Chris (I think about beer) and I went back and forth about this once. I maintained that for the average drink (and even for the above average drinker) glassware doesn’t matter. After reading his well reasoned response, I’ve backed off a bit agreeing that without a doubt a pint sleeve is the WORST glass in the world to drink beer from, especially if you want to experience all that’s in there. Bars do it, we do it, but it isn’t really the best choice by a long shot.

    Beyond that, if the glass funnels the aromas to your nose, you’re good. I love my Amsterdam glass, It flares out from the bottom to a bulb like top that curls in. Works well. To be honest, a nice size wine glass that flares in at the top works very well, and is one of my favs to use.

    As far as the Spiegelau. Ehh. I was hoping they wouldn’t go down the Riedel “a glass for every wine” road, but I guess they are. I always have to laugh because they spent all that time and money to design the perfect IPA glass, and it looks almost exactly like the beer glasses my dad had behind his bar in the 70s. Oh, and I hate their weight. Way to fragile feeling for my taste. You have to be a stout (no pun) glass to survive over at tDoB.

    Great post as always.

    • Thanks, Ed! I have babied those IPA glasses rather well, but it’s nice to have options. Would I have ever splurged to buy them myself? Probably not. But now that I use them for damn near all my IPAs, I can’t think of drinking them any other way.

      They’ve got me. Help!

  2. Great article and experimentation. I personally like my Sam Adams glasses for IPA’s, however eventually I will pick these up too. I think the key to the flavour is those IPA glasses are designed to constantly flow the carbonation and therefore the flavour up the glass as you drink it.

    • That’s right! The head retention is fantastic.

      I also like the specialty Sam Adams glasses, although I don’t own one. I remember the first time I had a beer from the “perfect pint” and was surprised at what kind of difference it made!

  3. I LOVE the spiegelau glasses but they break and chip so easily. Agree with Ed – too fragile. I wish they were more sturdy. I’ll take a good tulip glass over a shaker pint any day. Cheers!

  4. I use my TeKu glasses for nearly everything. I love the shape, stem, and curved lip at the opening of the glass. Although, paradoxically, my second favorite is my DC Brau glass that’s shaped like a beer can.

  5. Great analysis! I’m doing most of my drinking at home out of shaker style pint glasses and I have to agree with your thoughts – I often find that lots of aromas come out at first but then die very quickly. Looks like I’ll be buying some more glasses…

    • Thanks! It really is worth the small investment. I figure if I’m drinking at home multiple days a week, a few bucks per glass wildly ratchets up the experience for each beer. Maybe your local bottle shop sells some? Cheapest route for the IPA glasses is Amazon.

      • Thanks Bryan, I checked out Amazon and it looks reasonable (I’m in Australia so shipping may hurt though! ) I’m about to take the pilgrimage to Portland in about a month though so may end up buying some souvenirs!

  6. I enjoyed the analysis, although for keeping in aroma I would think the Spiegelau glass would not be that different from a tulip or a stemless wine glass. Still I did get a set of Spiegelau’s glasses for Xmas and I use them almost exclusively for IPAs. Though I can attest to the fragility, one of the pair has already been broken.

    For the sake of science it would be interesting to test the temperature of a beer after x amount of time in various glasses.

  7. I tend to drink out of various types of glasses though more and more moving away from the basic shaker pint glass. My go-to is a pair of tulip glasses I got from Green Flash. (Similar to the one I picture in my latest post on my beer blog at: http://www.sdhopaddict.com/2014/04/30/green-flash-road-warrior-rye-double-ipa/ )

    I also have a nice English style pint glass from Samuel Smith’s that is somewhat similar to the IPA glass. (see http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-zDBtjBR2L2c/TzUAf8k4u8I/AAAAAAAABqA/ZNbLGxFYPuk/s1600/P2090008.JPG ) Occasionally I will use a snifter glass if I am enjoying something particularly strong but I don’t think it makes a huge difference with most beers.

    I should also note I’m not huge on head on my IPA so I don’t mind if it goes away quickly. I typically want it to go away so that I can have more beer in the glass, especially when pouring a pint can into a pint glass.

    • Fittingly, I’m very excited to try Road Warrior as both a fan of rye and especially RyePAs. I no longer have a tulip glass like that (lost to careless hands) but do appreciate being served beer in that style of glass while I’m at a bar.

      I can get a bit nutty about head retention and found that even if I’m not making an aggressive pour, the IPA glass will do all the work for me.

  8. Pingback: Out of the Glass, Into the “News” | This Is Why I'm Drunk

  9. Pingback: Your Glassware Did What? A Sensory Experiment of Time and Temperature | This Is Why I'm Drunk

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