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