It takes a lot of different people to breathe life into the beers that we take for granted, and I love showing my gratitude and respect for some of these “other” sides of the beer industry as much as I possibly can. I haven’t hid the fact that I’m a self described glassware-geek when I’ve talked on this website about my constantly growing collection of beer glasses and their importance in my beer enjoyment. When Braxton Brewing told me a couple months ago that they were making a commitment to releasing special glassware to go with their beers as they are released, I knew I had to dig into this topic again…but I wanted to look at things from a little different perspective than I did before. I’m not going to write another “What Glass Do I Need Guide” because you can find them all over the internet already, including right here on this site in fact. This post is more of a salute… a hats off to one of the biggest suppliers of glassware to the beer industry, and one of the forerunners in beer glass design – SAHM Glassware.
I reached out to Sahm for some information, and they graciously sent me some sample glasses, and some fantastic information about how they design their glassware… I quickly fell into a deep rabbit hole that I will most likely keep exploring for quite some time… This is cool stuff.
Who is Sahm?
You’re already familiar with some of their designs. To throw it back to Braxton Brewing, who I just got done mentioning their dedication to providing custom glassware for each release… they use Sahm. There are so many other breweries that you are familiar with that are using the designs of this family owned, fourth generation company. The company has been around since 1900 and has produced some incredible designs in that time that have won them many awards for both the design and the science behind it.
If you start looking around you’ll see some of the glassware that you already have in your cabinet is made by Sahm…and most likely some of your favorites as well.
I won’t pretend that there aren’t other glassware companies out there that are making fantastic glasses, but there is something that stands out about Sahm that I’ve spent the last couple months really trying to understand. This is a company that doesn’t make beer… but they take such pride in digging into the flavors of different beers and then working with the brewers themselves to pull those flavors out in the best way possible when the beer is in front of a drinker. It’s so easy to just glance right over the most important factor of a beer after it’s brewed, it’s presentation, and this is a company that has dedicated itself to this side of the process.
This is where this stuff gets fun.
How do you create a beer glass? For Sahm at least, It all starts with the taste design… a process of crafting a summary of all the aspects of a beer, from taste, to aroma, carbonation etc. They in fact have seventeen separate criteria that goes into a benchmark for different beer styles. This is all displayed in a spiderweb taste evaluation that represents a beer.
When the expert team of tasters first start working on a beer, they start with one of these benchmarks, and then through an exhaustive process of tasting (this doesn’t sound like a bad job to me…) they refine these benchmarks to match the specific beer they are dealing with. They can then adapt the benchmarks to meet every specific beer’s qualities.
Apart from temperature there is one factor that influences the aroma, the taste, the freshness and the appearance of a beer that is apart from the brewing process and that’s the glass design. Different glass characteristics will highlight different parts of a beer. Looking to push the aromas of a beer forward more? You might find yourself designing a glass that has and outward flare to push those aromas toward the nose of the drinker. This can even get into experiences that are harder quantified… looking to push the experience into something more elegant? A thin glass with a long stem can do that…as well as providing a glass that keeps a beer colder.
What’s important to understand is that every factor of a glass’s design is thought out to pull or push certain aspects of that Taste Design out better. This is cool stuff.
I’ve been working on this post for a while. It’s taking me so long because of the fascination I have with these different aspects of a glasses design. I’ve been going through a pretty extensive process of tasting (boo hoo… I know… rough). I wanted to take a few very different beers and then try them in different glassware…making notes of what each glass did to the beer…and the results are pretty awesome. Let’s start with the simple… what’s my go-to glass? I have started using the ‘Hamburg’ goblet to taste almost everything for the first time when I’m at home. This glass is designed to give tasters a base to work with… a consistent design that accentuates all the different parts of a beer’s flavor in a predictable way. This is not unlike the Sensorik Goblet (You might have seen this at Braxton’s taproom… you get your Dead Blow in one when you order it) So if you walk into my basement on any random night when I’m tasting beer… most likely you’re going to see one of these in my hand.
However… once I know what a beer tastes like, I might explore a little bit with some other glassware. Sahm has a line of designs that work very well with any style you throw at them… here’s what I have to work with:
Toscana is a glass that works well with Pilsners, Steam Beers, IPAs and Saisons. These are beers with pronounced aromas, that the slight outward flare of the lip of the glass will direct upward without concentrating them even more. The tall sides provide plenty of space for a generous head and space to admire the beauty of what’s in your glass. The stem is elegant and prevents premature warming of your beer.
I love drinking out of this glass for it’s ability to show off a beer.
Most of us are familiar with glasses similar to this one, they are commonly available at a lot of taprooms around town. This is a glass designed for big beers. You’ll find it working best with Doppelbocks, Barleywines, Imperial Stouts, Porters. Big flavors, Big Aromas and the like.
If Braxton was going to do a big massive stout… I’d love to see it poured into one of these bad boys… comfortable to hold, you grasp the stem if you want the beer to remain at it’s serving temperature, or wrap your hand around the bowl if you want it to warm up a bit.
This is another glass that showcases the beauty of a beer in it. I have used this quite a bit lately as it’s fantastic for Oktoberfest beers. It also showcases Amber ales, ESBs and any other big sweet malty beers. The outward flare of the glass accentuates the sweetness that we have come to love from these styles.
The tight waist of the glass give it a comfort in the hand, as well as preventing the warmth of your body to transfer to your beer in the glass as well… a design that influences not only the look of the glass, but the function of it too… brilliant.
Showcasing beers that need a bit of a push of those aromas toward the drinkers nose. If you pour a Helles lager, a Vienna lager, American Pale Ale or a Brown Porter into this glass you will be amazed at how the shape pushes the aromas and thus some of the flavors to the forefront. The biggest example I found on this was going back in forth between this glass and the Tokyo, and tasting how the shape difference influenced the beer.
Another one that’s beautiful to look at, Grazer has found a clear spot in my cabinet for my beers!
Sahm and Braxton
Braxton, as I mentioned before has teamed up with Sahm to provide glassware for all their beers that will put them in their best light. From their Sensorik Goblet with their Dead Blow tropical stout, to the ISAR stein for their seasonal Oktoberfest lager that I fell in love with this fall… my hat is off to them for taking the details as seriously as they do. When you see me make a big deal about a new glass with a beer, I can only hope that you might understand why this is something more that just a new glass now.
You can’t buy Sahm glassware for consumers as of now… unless you snag branded glassware from your local brewery. So get down to Braxton, buy up their glassware and start building a collection of your own. See…no… taste the difference that Taste Design actually makes!