What is a Beer Glass? Why are there some many different types of beer glasses? Does each beer style have its own matching beer glass? These are the questions answered below.
What is a Beer Glass?
To put it very simply, a beer glass is a glass vessel that holds beer. The Sumerians are widely recognized as the inventors of beer and methods to drink beer. They enjoyed beer served out of clay pots with long straws (see image below). Clay or stoneware was the material of choice for serving beer right up to the 1600s when pewter and silver started to be used to make beer tankards. The image below is an example of a beer tankard made by Paul Revere.
Glass started to be used for serving beer in the mid to late 1700s. The catalyst is said to be the royalty in England commissioning glassmakers in Germany to make new and interesting beer glassware for their enjoyment during hunting parties and other entertainment events. Glassmaking methods evolved and became more widely available to the general public and the beer glass industry was born.
Why are there some many different types of beer glasses?
Beer glasses we first designed to fill specific purposes. For instance, the lidded German Beer Stein was created to keep flies out of your beer. The coachman beer glass was created to allow an easy way to enjoy a beer while driving a carriage.
Thick glass mugs or krugs were developed to be durable and withstand the abuse endured in a local pub. Practical purposes superseded style for the common beer drinker. Beer glass styles that didn’t have a specific utilitarian purpose were reserved for the upper classes and nobility.
It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that the beer glass style broke free from its functional constraints and started to be used as a marketing tool by breweries in an attempt to set themselves apart from the competition. This was the start of many of the modern beer glasses we have today.
Does each beer style have its own matching beer glass?
Some beer styles are actually best enjoyed in the beer glass designed for their enjoyment. The wheat beer glass instantly springs to mind. This tall beer glass is designed to trap yeast sediment at the bottom of the glass so it is not mixed with the rest of the beer as you are drinking it.
In Germany, each beer style typically does have its own corresponding beer glass. In Belgium, each beer glass BRAND can have its own beer glass style. In the USA, bar may server all their beers in the same style of a beer glass. This is starting to change as beer tastes evolve and bars start to recognize the need for serving beer in proper glassware. Below is a list of some of the more common beer glass types and the corresponding beer styles to pour into them.
Wheat beer glass or Weizenbier glass or Weibier glass
A wheat beer glass is a glass used to serve wheat beer, known also as Weizenbier or Weissbier. The German glass generally holds 0.5 liters with room for foam or “head”. It is much taller than a pint glass and starts out very skinny before growing slightly at the top. It is said that the glass is tapered to trap yeast at the bottom of the glass. In other countries such as Belgium, the glass may be 0.25 liters or 0.33 liters. This tall glass provides room for the often thick, fluffy heads produced by the style, which traps aromas and is visually pleasing.
A pint glass is a beer glass holding either an American Pint (16 oz) or a British pint (568ml; ≈1.2 US pints) of liquid and is usually used for beer. Three common shapes of pint glass are found, though others are available (see below).
Imperial Pint Glass
The imperial pint glass is commonly used in Ireland and England to serve ales. The glass is flared from the middle to the rim of the beer glass. They are also called Tulip Pint Glasses. They are commonly used to serve Irish Stouts, Irish Ales, Porters, Red Ales, Cream Ale, and English Ales.
Willybecher, Willi Becher or German Pint Glass
The Willybecher is the standard beer glass in Germany. They typically hold 500 milliliters or 16.9 ounces of beer. A willybecher has a thick glass bottom and is tapered in the middle. The glass is used to serve German lagers, German black beer or Schwarzbier, Marzen, Oktoberfestbier, Rauchbier, Pils or Pilsener, Maibock, Helles, and Helles Bock.
Nonic Glass or English Pint Glass
Nonic glass is an English-style pint glass that has a curved lip about two inches from the top of the glass. A nonic typically holds an imperial pint or 20 oz. This glass is typically used with English ales and English Lagers.
American Pint Glass
The American pint glass is the most common beer glass in the USA. It is cone-shaped and typically holds 16 or 20 oz. Perfect for American lagers. Also referred to as shaker glass.
A pilsner glass is a glass is used to serve many types of light beers but is intended for its namesake, the pilsner. Pilsner glasses can be smaller than a pint glass, usually in 25cl or 33cl sizes. They are tall and slender and tapered. Weizen glasses are often mistakenly referred to as Pilsner glasses, but a true Pilsner glass has an even taper without curvature. Pilsner glasses are made to showcase the color, effervescence, and clarity of the Pilsner style, as well as maintain a nice head.
A beer stein is a traditional German beer tankard or mug, made of pewter, silver, wood, porcelain, earthenware, or glassware, usually with a hinged lid and levered thumb lift. The lid was implemented during the age of the Black Plague, to prevent diseased flies from getting into the beer.
Flute Beer Glass
A flute glass is the preferred serving vessel for Belgian lambic and fruit beers. The narrow shape helps maintain carbonation while providing a strong aromatic front. Flute glasses display the lively carbonation, sparkling color, and soft lacing of this distinct style.
Goblet or Chalice
Goblets and chalices are large, stemmed bowl-shaped glasses adequate for serving heavy Belgian ales, German doppelbocks and eisbocks and other big sipping beers. The distinction between goblet and a chalice beer glass is typically in the glass thickness but the term is somewhat interchangeable. Goblet beer glasses tend to be more delicate and thin, while the chalice is heavy and thick-walled. Some chalices are even etched on the bottom to attract carbon dioxide and provide a stream of bubbles for maintaining a nice head.
The snifter beer glass is typically used for serving brandy and cognac, a snifter is perfect for capturing the volatiles of aromatic beers, such as Belgian ales, India pale ales, barleywines, and wheat wines. The shape helps trap the volatiles, while allowing swirling to agitate them and produce an intense aroma.
A thistle beer glass is used for Scottish ales. The glass is shaped like a thistle blossom, hence the name.
A tulip beer glass not only helps trap the aroma but also aids in maintaining large heads, creating a visual and olfactory sensation. The body is bulbous, but the top flares out to form a lip which helps head retention. Good for serving Scottish ales, barleywines, Belgian ales, and other aromatic beers.
Dimpled mug or Krug
A classic in North America, England, and German, the dimpled mug is a large mug, with dimples, and a handle. It is convex, with the mouth larger than the base. The glass is thick and these glasses typically hold .4, .5 for 1 liter of beer. While the dimples make appreciating the appearance of the beer more difficult, the wide mouth releases the aroma just nicely. These mugs are most commonly used for American, English, and German lagers.
Pokal or Footed Pilsner
A pokal beer glass is an almost straight-sided glass that sits on an inch-long stem and foot. The basic footed pilsner has a slightly bulbous bottom and narrower mouth, which makes it better for drinking than for smelling, and places the most emphasis on appearance. It has a bit more style than some other glasses, so it is best used for pilsners, and decent cream or golden ales than for lagers.
Stange Glass, Stick or Stuck Glass
The strange beer glass or pole glass is a simple cylinder-shaped glass typically used for German Kolsch and Alt beers.
Tumbler or Tub
A tumbler or tub beer glass that looks like a wide rocks glass. This glass is used to serve Berliner Weisse beer.
Oversized Wine Glass
The oversized wine glass is just that, a big wine glass but it’s used for serving strong or high-gravity beer styles. This glass is best used to serve the following styles of beer: Double IPA, Barleywine, Belgian Doubles, Triples and Quads, Strong Ales, and other high-gravity or big beers.
The beer boot glass is thought to be a German creation formed in the military. There is also evidence the boot-shaped beer glass originated in England in the 1800s. A boot glass comes in sizes ranging from 500 ml up to 5 liters.
Novelty Beer Glass
Novelty beer glasses come in all different shapes and sizes. They are meant to add a little fun to your beer-drinking sessions.