Beer Glasses - Pint Glasses, Tasting Glasses and Beer BootsWine connoisseurs wouldn't dream of enjoying their favorite vintages from the wrong glassware, and neither should anyone who appreciates fine beer. If anything, beers vary more widely than wines; an English porter and a Japanese rice lager couldn't be more different. Flavor, color, aroma, carbonation and head type vary from beer to beer. Unique beer glassware highlights these variations and lets each beer or ale be its best self.
The Beer Mug or Stein
Everyone's familiar with these squat, roughly barrel-shaped pieces of handled glassware. Dimpled, grooved or flat sides give beer mugs character, while their big bodies make room for plenty of beer. They also stand up to round after round of cheers, so they're a good choice if you're planning something particularly festive. Beer glass sets meant for everyday use often feature mugs with brand names or decorative designs. Steins have a similar shape, but are generally opaque ceramic or stone and traditionally come with an attached lid of pewter.
Beer mugs and steins are remarkably versatile, accommodating anything from American lagers to English stouts and porters or Irish red ales. However, because they handle so many beers well, mugs aren't always a beer aficionado's first choice for a specific beer or ale. They're an excellent default option when you aren't sure how to serve a new beer.
The Pint Glass
Pint glasses are one of the most traditional choices for serving beer. The pint typically has a slightly wider mouth than its base and often has a slight bulge most of the way up its body. This bulge serves a triple purpose; it creates a natural foaming point for a handsome head, facilitates stacking behind the bar and makes the glass easier to hold. Almost every beer-loving country seems to have its own variation on the classic style. A traditional Irish pint is a bit wider than most at the top to accommodate a luscious head on a velvety black Irish stout, for example, whereas an English pint glass has a pronounced bulge at its upper middle.
Choose this classic shape for stouts, porters, dark ales, red ales and cream ales. In a pinch, it also works for lagers, although the most delicate and palest lagers may lose some of their top notes in such a beefy glass. If you plan to serve lighter beers often, go with versatile American pint glasses; their conical shape resembles that of pilsner glasses, so they're a better match for light American-style lagers.
The Pilsner Glass
If pint glasses are made for the darkest beers, then pilsner glasses are their opposite number. The perfect pilsner is tall and slender with a narrow base and an overall conical shape. The slim shape shows off a lighter beer's beautiful color while protecting its delicate head from dissipating too quickly. Because the head of a lighter beer holds many of its most appealing aromas, keeping the head intact also keeps the flavor of the beer at its best. Most pilsner glasses have a heavy base, sometimes with a knob-like shape, to balance its height and give it a pleasant weight in your hand. A shorter pilsner with a small stem is also called a pokal glass.
As the name implies, pilsner glasses are the perfect companions for pilsners, lagers, Japanese rice lagers, light amber ales and some red ales. Most summer beers are good pairings with this glassware.
The Wheat Beer Glass
Also known as weizen glasses, wheat beer glasses resemble pilsner glasses in their height and dimensions. Like the pilsner, this type of glassware is narrow and flute-like at its base and wider at its top, but it's typically a bit smaller than a traditional pilsner glass. Most weizen glasses have more of a tulip shape compared to the pilsner's more conical sides; this curvaceous shape highlights a wheat beer's magnificent color and concentrates the aromas found in its head. Wheat beers can have some sediment left in them after pouring, so weizen glasses generally widen slightly just before the base to trap cloudiness.
Wheat beer glasses make a happy pairing with wheat beers, naturally, but they also complement amber ales and some red ales.
Not just for wines, a goblet or chalice also makes an excellent serving glass for aromatic beers. Like a stemmed wineglass, a glass with a stem ensures that the beer stays at a constant temperature without warming in your hand. Beer connoisseurs who demand a narrow temperature range will probably appreciate a beer chalice. Save these glasses for rich, malty beers and barley wines that don't have much of a head; straight-sided chalice designs leave less surface area for a head to build.
Serve India pale ales, Belgian ales and fruity lambics in elegant goblets or chalices for a dramatic and flavorful presentation.
The Tulip Glass
Like goblets, tulip glasses have stems. That's about the only similarity between the two styles, because tulip-shaped glassware pinches in where goblets are straight-sided or belled. The curved waist of a tulip glass gives a head a firm foundation; its rounded lower portion concentrates aromas as you drink the beer inside. A specialized version, the thistle glass, is especially popular in Scotland because it resembles the Scottish national flower. It's no coincidence that it's also the perfect glassware for a Scottish ale or barley wine.
Tulip glasses are an excellent option for any big, powerful beer or ale you'd like to savor. They tend to be smaller than other styles, so they're great for strong barley wines and smoked beers.
The Beer Boot
No, the boot-like shape doesn't concentrate flavors in the toe or form a richer head at the cuff, but the shape does make a magnificent-looking glass of beer. Beer boots aren't just a clever design, either; they have an illustrious history. The German design is over a century old and is said to have originated from a general who promised his troops that they could drink beer out of his boots if they emerged victorious from their next battle. His troops won the day, so to make good on his promise without ruining his best pair of boots or giving his soldiers foot-flavored beer, he hired a glassmaker to craft a glass version. Boot-shaped glasses of beer still mark a celebratory event in Germany and elsewhere.
Think of the boot as an unusually shaped mug. Like mugs, boots can hold just about any beer fairly well. They're a good choice for lighter beers with lower proofs, especially as most boots can be fairly large.
The Novelty Beer Glass
Boots aren't the only creative shape you'll find surrounding a beer. Glasses shaped like skulls, footballs, beer bottles or curvaceous women are popular motifs. While they might not lend additional flavor to the beer they contain, novelty beer glass sets are sure to be a hit at parties.
While not exactly a novelty, a beer tasting glass in a scaled-down version of another style is ideal for a beer-tasting gathering. Typically between half and a quarter of the size of a standard vessel, a beer tasting glass lets you enjoy that pilsner or pale ale in an appropriate glass shape while leaving room for other beers that might be on the tasting menu for the event.
No matter what glasses you use to serve your beer, follow a few guidelines to enjoy the best brew. Although chilled mugs look great, avoid the temptation to pop your glassware in the freezer before serving beer. When the beer hits the chilled glass, it creates condensation that alters its taste. A too-cold beer also loses some of its more volatile flavors, so save the pretty frosted glasses for television commercials.
If you're taking the extra step to match your beer to your glassware, then take the time to serve beer at its proper temperature. In general, a light, crisp beer takes a colder temperature than a dark, rich ale or barley wine. Aim for no colder than about 40 degrees for a pilsner or lager. The thick, almost chewy English style cream porters and stouts taste best between 45 and 55 degrees.
Some people love a thick, foamy head; others like just enough lacy foam to grace that first sip. How you pour influences the foaminess of your beer. Pouring in stages lets you control the thickness of the head; a quick initial pour followed by a slower pour into a tilted glass is the way to get a moderately thick and creamy head on your beer.