It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed by glassware. There are a ton of different varieties of glasses out there that sometimes seem way fancier than they need to. My goal isn’t to provide the complete guide to every style here – though… It’s something that I’d sort of like to do someday – instead, I want to help guide you through what beer glassware you actually need.
If you’re stocking your home bar, or a cabinet in your kitchen as a good, self-respecting beer geek… these are what I consider the essentials. One word of warning, though… it’s addicting, the world of beer glassware, and there is a chance that this will get out of hand – consider yourself warned.
Also, to note: these are accompanied by links to Amazon, which are affiliate links. That means if you click on any of them to buy something – I get a little cut of the purchase, which in turn helps keep this website running!
The Shaker Pint Glass – So-called, because it was never really intended for use with beer. If you have ever seen a Boston Shaker, the mixer with a glass and a metal tin for making cocktails… that’s what this glass was originally from. Pour your beer into one of these suckers and you have a nice warm flat beer to look forward to in no time at all. For whatever reason, though, it seems that this has become the de-facto standard for beers to be served in. You can often find them in sports bars and restaurants, frosty and ready to ruin your beer. In my house, their sole purpose is a little bit of collecting and using as a vessel in which cocktails are formed, or if you require a glass of water, it gets served in one of these bad boys. Are they really a glass that you need to have in your collection? No, but before we got to the good ones we needed to address this sad excuse for a glass. Onward to more important glassware! (I’m not providing you an Amazon link to this one, because you don’t need it).
The Sam Adams “Perfect Pint” – This was the first glass that I tried that really got my mind working on what a beer glass could and should be was this beauty from Sam Adams. This was the result of a massive amount of research and development (and beer drinking, I’m sure) to figure out what features were most important in a glass. The end result was a glass that looks a bit strange when you first see it, but changes your beer for the better, in my opinion. Starting from the base of the glass you will see etching in the bottom. This design is to provide the carbonation in the beer nucleation points, to help foster the growth of a large head, this helps stir up aromatics that enhance and are necessary to the beer. The shape of the glass is narrow at the bottom, to prevent your drink from warming prematurely, and widens up towards the top to support the head of the beer, and give the aromatics a place to flourish. The lip of the glass flares out to get the beer to the proper place on your palate. (Find the Sam Adam’s Perfect Pint glass here)
The Tulip Glass – The tulip is another essential glass in that it works wonderfully with almost any beer style, and can sub in if you don’t have a better glass…doing so very well. The tulip that I recommend most is the Spiegelau tulip that can be found at Crate and Barrel, or otherwise ordered online. The glass itself is shaped like you would expect…tulip-y. Although they will often vary in size, and to some extent, shape, they all have a flared-out head to help project those aromas that are so important to beer. The stem on the bottom of the glass helps to separate the drinker’s heat emitting had from the cold beer contained within, preventing the beer from getting too warm as you drink it. Beautiful glasses… and as I said before essential. If I could only have one glass under my bar, the tulip glass would assuredly be that glass. (Find a great tulip glass on Amazon here)
The Goblet – An example of form over function? Maybe. The goblet can have many different styles within itself, ranging from the long-stemmed and delicate to the heavy shorter squatter varieties, but they all have a few characteristics in common that make them a staple under my bar. They have a super-wide bowl to support a huge head on the beer, providing a wide range of aromatics that can be found in a lot of Belgian-style beers. They also have a wide diameter to allow the drinker to get big, strong sips of the beer each time the glass is brought to his or her lips. One of the most distinctive factors of the goblet, however, is its beauty. A staple with Belgian beers, I find that often they are designed to stand out from other glasses. (Pick up a great goblet glass on Amazon right here)
The Snifter – The snifter is often associated with brandy, or Cognac drinking, and is known to help support the aromas that their drinkers have come to appreciate, without letting them overwhelm the nose. So, why then wouldn’t it make sense that it would help accentuate the aromas of big beers as well? I tend to go to these when I am faced with a high-alcohol beer that actually might need some tapering down while you drink it. The short stem and bowl of the glass also help your hand warm your drink a bit while you drink it too…releasing more aromas. This glass gets quite a bit of use in my house when we are splitting a beer that may be too much for an entire 12oz per person. The best part in my opinion is the feeling that you get sitting in a big leather chair, swirling your drink in a snifter. Truly a joy. (Find your next snifter on Amazon, here)
The IPA Glass – The IPA glass is a specialty glass that was designed as a collaboration between renowned glass makers Spiegelau and the wonderful Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada brewing companies. The glass is designed with a large bowl up top to help support a large head and those aromatics that we keep discussing, with a narrow waist to keep the beer from premature warming. The ridges that you can see along the bottom help to stir up the aromatics as you tip the glass while you drink. This glass had a lot of hype around it when it was released, and much of that was naysayers, telling the world it was a marketing gimmick. I disagree, and you will find me quite often bellied up to my bar with one of these in front of me. (Find a set over on Amazon, here)
Wheat Glass – The main purpose of these tall vessels is to give a wheat beer massive headroom to hang out, while also providing a beautiful showcase for the stunning cloudy wheat beer’s colors. Keep in mind that often, popular wheat beers are served with a slice of fruit on the rim of your glass. If you are into it…then, by all means, get the fruit. Bear in mind, though, that the fruit will affect the head retention of your beer, and of course the flavor and aroma as well. If you are looking for what that slice will add, it’s good. If you are not looking for anything added to your beer flavor, then ask for it to not be included. Just something to think about when you are drinking your wheat beer. (Find a great glass for your wheat beer here, or the Spiegelau “craft” version over here)
A few things to notice when you are picking up, and shopping for your newest beer glasses…
Something that you will start to see in these newer glasses that are manufactured specifically with craft beer in mind is small designs or logos etched into the bottom of the glass. These provide an area for bubbles to form (They will look for any imperfection in the glass that they can find to nucleate).
There is a two-sided argument here, in that a thicker-walled glass will in theory keep your beer colder for a longer period of time, while a thinner wall will equalize the temperature of the beer and provide the least amount of heat loss in the short-term (I’m not a thermodynamic expert, but that’s how I understand it.) What do you look for? Thick or Thin? I go with this…if the beer is going to sit for a long time… I go thicker, if not…I like thinner.
Not as much a shopping point as it is a care point, keep your glasses clean. Use your beer glasses for beer, and your other glasses for everything else. You would be very surprised to learn how much oils and stuff gets on those glasses even when they are “clean”. Don’t even get me started on what milk fats will do to the head retention on your beers. Always rinse your glass before you pour a beer into it, and don’t put them in the dishwasher… hand was with just a tiny (if any) detergent, then air dry and all will be good.
In conclusion… how much does this matter? I’m not sure. Beer is by its own nature more relaxed than a lot of other beverages. However the drinker desires to appreciate the beverage is accepted or should be accepted by those he or she is drinking with. Try to keep an open mind, and try some different glasses with some different beers to figure out what you might like the best.