How Different Types of Glasses Compliment Your Beer
There was once a time when bartenders used one type of glass — the standard pint glass — when serving beer. It was efficient, and it was easy. However, as consumer tastes have changed, people are expecting their beers will be paired with the proper glassware.
This change in preferences corresponds with the meteoric rise of craft beer. According to the Brewers Association, whereas overall beer sales have remained stagnant, the craft beer industry continues to grow. In 2016, craft brew sales rose by 6.2%, import beer by 6.8% and craft beer exports by 4.4%.
If you’re a restaurant or bar looking to remain competitive in today’s beer market, you need to take craft beer seriously. That means you can’t just increase the diversity of bottles or tap handles — although that’s certainly a good start. You also need to invest in the appropriate service of craft beer, which includes proper glassware as well as dispensing and glass washing equipment.
So, if you’re looking to capture the craft beer-drinking consumer, here’s our ultimate guide on the different kinds of glassware designed to best compliment various beer styles. Depending on how much you want to integrate craft beer into your business model, you may want to invest in a couple of popular glassware styles or go all-in with a wide range of style specific glasses.
Regardless, craft beer and its popularity show no signs of waning, so now’s the time to diversify the glassware you have stored behind the bar.
Pint Glasses/Shaker Pints
Bars have long preferred this type of glassware, as it’s the most versatile. Not only was it the glass of choice for serving beer — regardless of style — but it’s also an essential component in the Boston-style shaker for mixing cocktails. Typically holding 16 ounces, it’s easy to store because of its square shape and lack of details. In addition, it’s one of the sturdier styles of glasses, which is a huge plus in the world of fast-paced drink service.
By using one glass for both mixing drinks and serving beer, soda and a wide range of cocktails, bars could make one large investment and easily replace their glassware.
While a beer-focused bar needs to diversify their glassware, there’s no need to throw away these old pint glasses. They’re still a great option for many different beers, especially American-style lagers and ales. The thick, high walls make this a great glass for keeping beer cold, which is especially appealing when serving a lager. Plus, the wider lip still provides a lot of space for picking up aromas, meaning they’re good for standard American-style IPAs.
The problem with the standard pint glass is that while it does a decent job of presenting a lot of different features of beer, it’s not the best at any features, either. There are better glasses for featuring aroma, while other glasses are better for heady beers.
In other words, this utility glass pairs well with utility beers that are well-rounded but not well matched for beers making a big statement one way or another.
The Imperial/Nonic Pints
Not much different from the standard pint glass, this is a pint glass designed specifically for serving English-style beers. As the English pint is four ounces larger than its American counterpart, this glass is noticeably bigger. It also features a slight bulge two-thirds up the side of the glass. Historically, the bulge was included to make glasses easier to stack while also making them easier to grip when wet from condensation.
Investing in Nonic pints will depend on the style of your bar. If you’re going for an English or Irish pub feel, knowledgeable drinkers will appreciate receiving their English-style beers in the traditionally shaped glass. However, if you’re serving a diverse range of beers, the standard American pint is fine for English styles.
The pilsner glass is tall, sometimes with a cinch near the bottom of the glass, and the sides of the glass are straight. As the name implies, it’s designed specifically to serve pilsners. Pilsners are highly carbonated, yet delicately flavored. Pilsner glasses are designed to bring out both features.
The tallness of the glass accentuates the visuals of bubbles ascending through a vibrantly colored beer while providing a lot of space for the beer’s head. Additionally, the height facilitates long sips, which are best for tasting the typically delicate flavors of Pilsners.
Keep in mind many people mistake pilsner glasses for wheat beer glasses and vice versa. However, for the exacting beer snob, the difference is important. If you’re trying to reach this type of customer, it’s important to learn the difference.
Like the pilsner glass, with which they’re often confused, the wheat glass is tall and slender. However, unlike the pilsner glass, wheat glasses have curved sides that bend in slightly at the mouth of the glass.
A thick, frothy head is one the defining characteristics of wheat beers, and this glass is perfectly designed to accentuate that. The slight inward curve at the lip encourages head development while also preventing it from overflowing over the side. However, the mouth is not so narrow as to prevent aroma from escaping, which is good since wheat beers are known for delightful fruit noses.
Speaking of fruit, serving a slice of citrus with wheat beers has recently become popular. While the fruit does pair well with wheat beers, know that it’ll also impede the head development that the glasses are designed to accentuate. Depending on your type of customer, this may be inconsequential or it may be a major faux pas.
This is another standard shape traditionally found in bars. And while some beer snobs have moved away from their use, those who like to engage with beer drinking traditions will appreciate this touch.
These glasses are best for serving cold beers, especially German, English and American-style lagers. They have thick walls, which keep the beer cold, while the handle helps to keep your hands from warming the beer. However, the tradition of the frosty mug should be avoided when serving craft beer. While maintaining the cool temperature of lagers is a good idea, cooling them down to near freezing temperatures will suppress the flavor of your beer.
Some mugs also come with extensive dimpling. These are especially good for serving darker lagers that are richly colored but still maintain a level of clarity. The dimpling accentuates the clarity, which sophisticated beer drinkers will be looking for.
Again, if you’re going for a wide range of craft beers of many styles, beer mugs may not make much sense, as standard pints are good for serving the same types of beers. However, if you’re creating a German-style biergarten, then beer mugs are a must, as they conjure up the feel of Oktoberfest and the German beer tradition.
Unlike most beer glasses, stange glasses are straight, much like an oversized Collins glass. They’re designed for serving beers such as German altbiers, kolschs and goses that are meant to be consumed cold and quickly. Because of the lack of taper, these glasses hold less beer, meaning it’ll take a drinker less time to get to the bottom of the glass.
This is a great touch if you expect to be serving these special German styles, with the gose becoming especially popular as of late. However, because of their smaller capacity, they’re best if you expect to serve knowledgeable drinkers who will understand the value of the smaller glass and not feel like they’re being short-changed.
Chalices or Goblets
One of the most storied beer-making traditions can be found among the Trappist monks of Belgium. Known for using experimental yeasts and making strong beers with a rich dark color, they’re some of the most sought-after beers in the world.
If you’re going to serve Belgian-style beers, whether they’re Trappist-made or not, it’s imperative that you invest in chalices or goblets. When bottling these beers, they even note on the label that they should always be served in this style of glass. If someone is ordering a Trappist beer — which tends to be more expensive — they’re very likely to know and expect this type of glass, and will be put off if their beer isn’t served in one.
The extra-wide mouth is designed to make it easy to appreciate the full complexity of the aroma and flavor profile of the beer. Furthermore, the wide mouth encourages sipping, as drinking too quickly will make the beer spill. Belgian-style beers, as well as certain styles of German beers, are known for having a very high alcohol content, sipping is preferred.
While they’re a must for serving Belgian beers, these glasses can also be used to serve other imperial style beers, such as stouts or IPAs, as imperial beers are also very alcoholic.
While traditionally used for brandy, snifters have become increasingly popular for serving beers that are meant to be smelled for a long time before taking the first sip. As the name implies, the wide bottom and enclosed mouth make them perfect for sticking your nose in and taking a big whiff. The narrower lip will trap aromas, letting them collect at the top of your beer.
As such, they’re especially good for serving the very hoppy and boozy IPAs that are all the rage these days. These IPAs are overstuffed with hop varietals, which come in aromas ranging from pine to citrus to stone fruit. Those who seek out these special beers are going to want to spend a long time taking in the aroma before they get to drinking.
The nice thing is that if you’re also serving brandy in your bar, you can easily use the same glass for both purposes. Just make sure that the snifter is large enough to hold the amount of beer you want to serve. Sophisticated brandy drinkers appreciate an extra-large snifter even if they’re only drinking a single serving of brandy, so size them for beer even if they are intended for multi-purpose use.
Tulip and Thistle Glasses
These are extremely sophisticated and delicate looking glasses, designed to both retain head while also providing space for taking in aromas. However, while they’re perfect for certain types of beers, they are poorly suited for beers that don’t have a prominent head or aroma.
In other words, you should only invest in tulip style glasses if you know you’ll be regularly serving beers suited for them. While they cast a striking silhouette and will surely impress those in the know, they aren’t very versatile. Some of the beers most suited for tulip style glasses include barleywines, Belgian ales and double IPAs.
The Importance of a Clean Glass
Of course, no matter how fancy your glasses, it’s even more important that your beer glasses are clean. Unfortunately, too many bars are willing to serve beer in glasses that are not perfectly clean. This isn’t to suggest owners and workers aren’t attempting to wash their glasses — everyone understands you need to run your glassware through a dishwasher.
However, there are some specific issues that subpar glass washers may not address. Specifically, any oil residue or remaining soap will reduce the quality of the beer being served. But, what if the glass looks clean but still has some residue remaining? The best way to tell if a glass isn’t perfectly clean is to look at the carbonation in the glass. If there’s a residue, invisible as it may be in an empty glass, the carbonation bubbles will stick to the wall of the glass.
In the past, many beer drinkers have just assumed this was how carbonation bubbles behaved. However, as drinkers have grown in sophistication, they’ve learned to spot this telltale sign. Even though the taste of the beer is only minimally affected, that first sight of sticking carbonation may turn them off immediately, causing them to send the beer back.
If this is a new customer, that’s the first impression they’ll have of your establishment. And as they always say, you only get one chance at a first impression. That’s why you need to invest in a good bar glass washer if you’re also going to make the conversion to specialty beer glasses.
Here at Perlick, we offer the most respected beer glass washers available on the market. Our washers are designed to accommodate a wide range of glasses of various sizes without hindering efficacy or efficiency — that means you can continue to move glassware through the washer and back into circulation, making it a perfect glass washer for a bar specializing in craft beer and cocktails.
Paired with our beer dispensing equipment and a commercial keg cooler, you’ll have everything you need to serve the perfect craft beer in the perfect glass, every time. If you’re ready to make a change in how you approach bar service, or if you’re looking to open a craft beer focused establishment, contact one of our representatives today!