If you are a fan of beer then you have probably noticed that the ubiquitous pint glass has been joined by many different types of beer glasses nowadays. Living in Belgium for 3 years, I saw that nearly every type of beer came with its own branded glassware. Is there a reason behind this other than branding, or are these glasses designed to improve the taste? It’s a puzzler!
So, does the shape of your glass change the taste of your beer? Breweries produce their glassware to help improve not only the taste of the beer but also to unlock its aromas & to show off its color & consistency. The right glass can also help encourage the beer to be poured & consumed correctly & promote the right physical structure of the beer in the glass.
In fact, the more I researched this topic the more amazed I was at just how technical these beer producers have become with the design of their beer. If for nothing else, this article has been interesting to write just for this information.
But, using the right glass for your beer, whether it’s home-brew or store-bought, is something worth doing right at home.
It truly adds to the experience of enjoying a few hard-won brews after a tiring day. If you are going to do it, you should do it right! So, read on to find out which essential beer glassware you should have at home to enjoy your beer tonight.
Essential Beer Glasses All Home-Brewers Need
Depending on which type of beer you drink at home, you may need some or all of these types of glasses to get the full effect of your beer. So, read on to find out why the glass looks the way it does and why you may need to source one for your own collection.
Essential Beer Glass #1: Shaker (Pint)
Which beers?: All types
Perhaps the workhorse of glassware in North America is the American pint glass or shaker. It’s a simple and perhaps iconic cylindrical design which is narrower at the bottom than at the top and will hold 16 fl oz of the amber nectar.
Rumour has it that the glass was designed purely with the idea of easy storage and use with cocktail shakers in mind. So, the fact that at your average bar you are served everything in this jar from lager to stout to designated driver H2O, begs the question of whether it helps improve the taste?
Ultimately, this glass is going to encourage you to drink long gulps and will certainly show off the beer’s color to some degree, but it may not do every beer justice.
Essential Beer Glass #2: Nonic Imperial Pint
Which beers?: All types
This is the glass I grew up with (don’t judge my parents too harshly!), the British pint glass. It’s been popular for nearly a century now!
Again, it’s to be found everywhere in the UK and beyond and is very similar to the American Shaker. The main difference is that it holds 20 fl oz, or an imperial pint, and has a slight bulge near the top. It’s rumoured that this bulge was designed to help the drinker’s grip on the glass as well as to avoid the rim becoming nicked or damaged. This is why it’s called the nonic or ‘no nick’.
Again, this glass is used to serve every drink under the sun and doesn’t particularly aid tasting beer in any way that I have found.
Both the Nonic and Shaker are the go-to glasses for beer drinkers, but there is an entirely different level to drinking and enjoying beer. Let’s get into that now!
Essential Beer Glass #3: Pilsner
Which beers?: Light beers and Pilsner recipes
Like many things, the Pilsner comes in all shapes and sizes, well at least sizes. It is generally a thin straight-angled conical glass which is narrower at the bottom and widens slightly at the rim. It may also have an inverse angle where it narrows at the first third of the glass before widening again. Often most Pilsner glasses will not hold a full pint.
The design of the Pilsner glass is aimed to show off the carbonation of the beer through the thin body of the glass as well as enhance aromas. Not only will the Pilsner beer glass keep your beer carbonated to the last drop, it will also help keep the form of the head of the beer for longer. The wider brim of the glass also helps unlock the subtle aromas and flavors in this type of beer.
All in all, if you are brewing Pilsner or other types of lager it is best to get yourself a pint-size Pilsner glass to fully enjoy your beer.
Essential Beer Glass #4: Weizen
Which beers?: Wheat Beers or beers with a large head
Another glass with a connection to a central European beer tradition is the Weizen beer glass. It’s used to serve the delicious wheat beer (Weizenbier) variety originating in places such as Munich, Germany.
Although you may be excused for thinking a Weizen and Pilsner glass are practically the same thing, there are some subtle design differences.
The Weizen glass is also thinner at the bottom than it is at the top but it is more rounded than the Pilsner type. Also, this type of glass is usually much taller and can hold up to half a liter of tasty beer on average.
The Weizen beer glass has a distinctive curve to the top of it to encourage a large foam head which can help accentuate the distinct aromas in this type of beer. The thinner body of the glass (compared to a nonic) also shows off the impressive color of most Weizenbier.
Often in a bar, you are given a slice of citrus fruit on the rim of the beer, it’s best to get rid of it asap because the acid in the citrus fruit will quickly break down the structure of that beautiful foamy head.
Essential Beer Glass #5: Chalice/Goblets
Which beers?: Belgian ales and German bocks
When you think of cool beer glasses that time you went to a hipster bar and that you felt strangely cool to be drinking out of, that’s called a Chalice or Goblet
As some of you may know, I lived in Belgium for a number of years and I collected lots of these types of glasses. Every brand had its own type of glass and most of them fell into this category of a Chalice or Goblet.
The main difference between these types of glasses and the previous four is that they don’t hold anything near a pint of beer. In fact, you wouldn’t be walking home if you drank a pint of many of these Belgian ales you’d be sleeping in a ball at the bottom of the table.
The Chalice or Goblet glass is a long very wide-brimmed vessel often on a short stem or ‘foot’. The wideness of the brim allows more CO2 to escape on the more carbonated beer varieties but also allows the drinker to get their nose right in the beer. The design of the glass also encourages you to fill your mouth and thus appreciate more of the flavor of the beer. This isn’t a glass for chugging beer, however.
Essential Beer Glass #6: Snifter
Which beers?: Complex ales and wheat beers
If you are trying to train your palate to better appreciate beer (see my article on how to do this at home) then you can reach for that cognac glass.
By filling the Snifter glass only half way you are able to infuse it with plenty of oxygen and to let the aromas and more complex flavor free. It’s ideal for smelling the beer and slowly tasting it to gain a better appreciation of the layered malts and additional hops.
Essential Beer Glass #7: Tumbler
Which beers?: all types
A tumbler is often used in bars to serve smaller quantities of beer and is just as easy to stack as conventional pint glasses.
With it’s easy to hold design, I find that these are a good addition to your collection for events where you want to show off more than one home-brew.
Say you are having a barbeque and have recently brewed two or more beers. You want to give your guests a real taste of the beer and not just a swig but you may not want to commit them to a full pint. In these cases, a tumbler can be a good option for a larger group of tasters.
Essential Beer Glass #8: Stein
Which beers?: Wheat beers, Ales, stouts
Again this is a beer glass that is going to make you feel oddly cool despite its impractically in modern catering culture.
Stein is actually short for Steinzeugkrug which is a stone jug or tankard. Originally designed with a hinged lid, operated by the drinker’s thumb, to curb the spread of the black death, these types of glasses have fallen out of popularity and are more of a tourist souvenir nowadays. However, they can be a great conversation starter at your next block party.
In terms of flavor, the stein is a wide rimmed vessel which encourages large gulps of beer and so isn’t ideal for delicate beer tasting. Also, it’s not recommended to use this with very carbonated beer as much of that gas won’t escape with the lid shut. So, this leads to a nice healthy foam head on your Weizenbier. Prost!
Essential Beer Glass #9: Tankard/Mug
Which beers?: Cold lager, Ales, porters & stouts
The glass beer tankard or Mug comes in many different designs but is either straight-edged or bulbous in shape. It also comes with a handle that can help build up those wrist muscles in a different way.
With its look being heavily connected to the Stein mugs of yesteryear, minus the lids, the beers we generally consume in them are the same. However, the added bonus of the handle is that you can keep your beer colder for longer on a hot day.
In terms of flavor and aromas, the wide rim of the beer will not hone in your nose as much as a chalice or goblet, but you will still get to appreciate the color and body of the beer through the glass.
This glass is best for lower alcohol content beers which you can take long refreshing sips from.
Essential Beer Glass #10: Tulip / Thistle
Which beers?: Strong ales, double IPA, Belgian ales, hoppy varieties & Scottish ales
These glasses have a short stem with a bulbous bowl on top which then widens out at the top. They resemble a flattened out tulip or thistle, hence the name.
Their design makes them ideal for getting the most out of strong or hoppy beers as the glass releases more of the aroma in these types of brews.
The straight-side top of the glass is also ideal for trapping and forming a perfect foam head and enabling the drinker to get the fall force of the aromas on the nose. The relatively narrow lip at the top encourages small sips which can improve the tasting experience.
Essential Beer Glass #11: Stange
Which beers?: Light beers, kölsch varieties and altbiers
Stange beer glasses are small straight sided glasses that normally only contain about 6.5 fl oz, although they are now found in sizes big enough for a 12 fl oz bottle. Stange can be loosely translated as ‘stick’ or ‘pole’ and these glasses are very popular in traditional German bierkellers.
The glass is designed to encourage a fuller foam head in low carbonated beers such as the kölsch style. Because of the straight design of the glass, it also helps to push the aromas straight into the drinker’s nose, which is important for such mild flavored beers.
If you find yourself in a Bavarian Biergarten, you may see the server carrying a whole host of these little glasses on a tray known as a Kratz. These glasses are small because it encourages you to drink the light beer more quickly, especially on a hot summer’s day.
Essential Beer Glass #12: Sampler
Which beers?: Any beer you are tasting
This glass makes the list for any home-brewer who needs to sample their beer. It’s also fun to use these glasses when you have several different batches and you want to note the differences between them. A great afternoon’s activity with a bunch of like-minded friends.
Although you aren’t going to quench your thirst with this type of glass in one go, it’s a good idea to have a couple of these types in your collection at home.
Bonus Beer Glass #1: Pewter Tankard
Which beers?: Ales, wheat beers and stouts
By far glass is the best material for consuming alcohol and most beverages as it doesn’t have a taste. This is why Western cultures became so advanced over Eastern cultures in chemistry as glass is a neutral material (Just another boring fact I know, sorry about that!).
However, before glass was widely used in beer drinking other materials such as wood, pottery and metal were used.
Pewter was very popular during much of the later medieval period and early modern era despite its dangerous content of lead. Nowadays, however, there is no danger in partaking from such an iconic vessel.
In some very rural and traditional pubs in the UK, the regulars will even be rewarded with their personal pewter tankard in which to enjoy the local ales. It was also a common gift to give a son who was coming of age.
So, much like the Stein or fancy Belgian Goblet, this is a bonus ‘glass’ to add to your collection and to get out at Christmas or on Friday nights.
Bonus Beer ‘Glass’ #2: Viking Horn
Which beers?: Viking ales or all the seas (if you are Thor)
Forget Thor’s magic hammer, I want that bottomless horn of ale§ Yes, another fun addition to any beer enthusiast’s collection is a genuine drinking horn which is known to have been common at least in Scandinavian culture.
Although now sold as souvenirs and novelty items all over Scandinavia, you can still get a genuine example you can drink from. However, the challenge is to be able to finish your beer in a few gulps as the horn itself isn’t easy to put down when you need to use the bathroom or check a tweet, etc.
So, grow your beard long, start drawing squiggles on your face and get out your beer horn for the next time the neighbors come round for some grilled meat! Skål!
Bonus Beer ‘Glass’ #3: Jam Jar Glasses
Which beers?: Craft beers
Personally, I’m not sure how I feel about drinking from a jar in a pub, but it’s certainly something worth thinking about for the home.
Recycling some jam jars or something similar can be a fun way to enjoy your own home-brew and can be hilarious when you see the faces of your more distinguished relatives trying to drink from them.
We should all be thinking about how we can reuse everyday items and slow the rate of energy-heavy recycling and so this can be an easy and useful method.
Not only is it good for the environment, but a good straight-edged and wide rimmed jar can also be perfect for serving an amber ale or fruity Weizenbier as it will push those aromas straight into your nostrils.
How can the right glass help with problematic beers?
Although we probably all have a lot of regular pint or shaker glasses at home, especially if you were a poor student! This workhorse isn’t always the best jar to reach for when you have an issue with your home-brew.
If you find that your beer is producing more foam than expected, a normal pint glass, even if you try to pour the beer perfectly, won’t do. In these cases, you may want to use a goblet or chalice style glace even for a lager or IPA. The wider-rim is going to allow a lot more CO2 to escape and this will lessen the foaming effect of the beer.
Also, if you have a beer with an off-flavor you may want to go for a glass that will not accentuate aromas, such as a tulip or snifter. Rather use a Stange or pint glass so that you can give your nose, and therefore your taste buds, less of a chance to pick out the disappointing flavor and smell.
How to pour a beer perfectly
As a former barman, I am particular about pouring a good pint of beer. I routinely have to ask certain servers to top up my beer and have seen gallons of beer removed from my pints by a foam scraper. Learning to pour the perfect pint from a bottle or keg is a skill anyone can learn, even the Queen of England!
The first step is to rinse your glass even if it appears to be clean because and soapy residue left in the glass can prevent a foam head from forming. Next, angle your glass at about 45° (sometimes more for a very carbonated beer) and pour the beer directly onto the surface of the glass. As the beer fills level the glass slowly towards 90°.
When the glass is about 3/4 full you can start building the head by pouring the beer onto the liquid rather than the side of the glass. With a beer tap, you can stem the flow of the beer and allow more gas out than liquid. This will build up the head more. With a bottle, you can just pour the remaining beer straight in with the glass at a 90° angle when it is 1-2 inches from the rim
How to store beer glasses so they won’t break
If you have several Shaker, Pint, Stange or sample beer glasses, the chances are that you don’t need to ask how to store them. They were designed for just that purpose. But what about those cool Belgian Goblet beer glasses you picked on your last trip to Brussels? How on earth do you keep them from shattering when you put them away?
If you are putting those glasses away for storage (sniff) then make sure you pack them individually and have some sort of soft material inside the glass as well as around it. Avoid stacking boxes of glass under heavier items. Also, consider storing them in a place with a constant temperature.
If, however, you want to store them and keep them handy, you can consider investing in a glass rack that you can screw into the top of your storage cabinets or cupboards. (Have a look at the latest prices on Amazon). You can also get some really cool magnet racks for bottles which make use of the wasted space at the top of your refrigerator (check out prices on Amazon for this cool space saver). I’m sure there is a way to do the same thing with glasses. This also has the added bonus of keeping the beer glasses cool for your next tasting session. So, if you are handy with tools, let me know if you come up with a fix!
Another thing to consider is how you organize you beer glasses. As a general rule you want to put the glasses you are going to use more often at the front of a rack or cupboard and the less used, and often more delicate glasses at the back or on a higher shelf.
How to clean odd-shaped beer glasses more easily
If you have dusted off your most prized beer glasses for a special occasion or a special beer, you want to be sure you can clean them and not break them in the process.
I spent the best part of 2 years working in a small English-style pub in the middle of France serving a wide range of beers. We had the right glass for every type of beer, and it wasn’t a very big pub either!
The pint glasses were easy enough to clean, straight in the dishwasher they went. But the fancy Belgian goblets and chalices were another matter entirely. I had to hand wash each and every one of them and often at speed. So I picked up a few tips along the way.
Make sure that you wash the glasses in warm but not hot water to avoid the risk of breaking them through a change in heat.
Use a different sponge or cloth to what you use for any other dishes. This will avoid any grease or oil getting onto the glasses and leaving a smudge when it dries.
Try to use a sponge with a long handle so that you can get into the bottom of Tulip and Goblet glasses without stuffing your hand in them. Some of these glasses can be quite fragile.
When wiping the rim of the glass with a cloth do not grip it too tightly as you can easily snap part of it off without even exerting a lot of pressure on it.
Rinse the glass well with water, then soak up as much water from the bottom of the bowl (Goblets and Tulip glasses in particular) so that you can let the glass dry standing up. If you have glass racks then you can let the glasses drip dry, which is a better option.
Only wash one glass at a time in the sink, don’t place all the glasses in it and then try and wash them, you’ll likely to break the glass and cut your hands in the process. I’m speaking from experience here!
Best branded beer glasses to collect
Now, this is my totally biased opinion but I would certainly suggest any avid beer lover get an example of the beer glasses in their collection!
- Sierra Nevada IPA glass
- Kwark ‘wooden stand’ glass
- Tripel Karmeliet Tulip glass
- Stella Artois Chalice (for another beer of course!)
- Chimay goblet glass
- Guinness pint glass
- Barbar Tankard
- Oktoberfest style Stein glass
- Carolus beer (possibly my favorite Belgian beer)