Beer glassware: Selecting a glass

The “Beer glassware” series explores glassware selection, cleaning, and preparation for service. New to the series? Start here.

Before we discuss how to select the right glass for a beer, let’s quickly explore some of the benefits of using a glass over drinking directly from a bottle or can.

Why use a glass?

Glassware enhances our beer drinking experience in a number of ways.

The primary benefit of pouring our beer into a glass is that it allows us to better appreciate not only our beer’s appearance, but it’s aroma, too. Both of which are essential parts of our overall flavour experience.

Other benefits include:

  • Releasing some of the beer’s carbonation, which can help to reduce the potential for bloating.
  • If we have a bottle-conditioned beer (a beer that contains a small amount of sugar and fresh yeast to carbonate the beer right inside the bottle), we can leave the yeast sediment behind in the bottle.
  • Finally, if our beer is packaged in a large format (like a 750ml bottle), having glassware available enables us to share it or simply enjoy a more reasonable serving size.

So, how do we select the right glass?

There are two main considerations here: size and shape.

Size

As we discussed when it comes to responsible serving practices, stronger beers are typically served in a smaller pour.

Be mindful though that the glass used should still provide room for an appropriately sized head of foam.

The standard amount of foam on most beers is 2.5 cm (1 inch), but certain styles – like German weissbier and Belgian golden strong ale – traditionally have 5-8 cm (2-3 inches) of foam.

Shape

There are lots of different shapes of beer glassware available today, each of which can influence our experience of a beer in a different way.

Generally speaking:

  • An inward taper helps to concentrate a beer’s aroma,
  • An outward taper helps to support a beer’s head of foam, while
  • A stem helps with both ease of swirling (an all-important part of the beer tasting process) and prevents the beer from warming up too quickly

Beyond these general guidelines though, there are both cultural and historical traditions at play that connect certain glass shapes to certain beer styles, many of which are country-specific.

Beer glassware by country

Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used beer glasses – grouped by their country of origin – exploring the intricacies of each and the style(s) they best suit.

(By the way, if you’re thinking that some of these images look familiar, they’re also used on each beer style webpage to show the glassware shape most associated with that style.)

German glassware

Footed pilsner

This glass is most often used for German Pils, but it can be used for Czech Pilsner, too. Its narrow shape shows off the beer’s golden colour well, while the outward taper helps to support the head of foam and the foot, or stem, adds elegance and stability.

Interestingly, this sort of tapered glass shape has been in use as far back as the Middle Ages, but this particular design took off in its modern form during the Art Deco phase of the 1930s.

Bavarian seidel / Mass (Maß)

Typically associated with German beer gardens and Oktoberfest, these glasses are very similar in shape… the difference is their size!

The Bavarian seidel holds 500ml, while the Mass holds 1 full litre. For this reason, the Mass is best suited to German lagers that are under 6% abv – like Munich Helles.

Weizen vase

This glass is specific to the German weissbier, as the name suggests.

Rather tall, it has enough room for the full bottle (500 ml) and the head of foam, which is typically 5-8 cm (2-3 inches), as noted above.

Stange

This glass is specific to the Kölsch and it only holds 200 ml of beer. (That’s just over 1/3 of a pint!) Kölsch is a rather delicate beer style with subtle flavours, so this small serving size ensures that your glass is quick to be refreshed.

Pokal

This shape of this glass has changed slightly over the years. Historically, it had a slight outward taper and it was associated with the Doppelbock.

The updated pokal glass now has a slight inward taper, which helps to concentrate beer’s aromas, and – as it’s not as big as the shaker pint, but not as small as the snifter (more on both of these glasses below) – it’s now found a home with stronger American styles, like New England IPA or Double IPA.

Willi becher

This glass comes in a few different sizes and can be used for a variety of German lagers.

American glassware

Shaker pint

This glass is one half of the Boston cocktail shaker. (The other half is similar in size and shape, but made from stainless steel.)

They story here is that when craft beers were first introduced in the US, there wasn’t a glass for them, as most of the glassware in use at the time was branded. So these unbranded glasses began to be used – but they’re not really fit for purpose. That’s because the size and shape of this glass doesn’t really do much in terms of enhancing beer’s appearance or aroma.

They’re used for most styles in the US up to around 7% abv, but are not recommended for stronger beers.

Note: While the shaker pint is the only glass that’s unique to the States, it’s certainly not the only glass that’s used there, as many of these other more fit-for-purpose glasses have been adopted.

British glassware

Pub mug

Also called a dimpled mug, this glass appeared in mid 1900s and is typically used for British beer styles that are served on cask, like Best Bitter. Available in both pint and half pint sizes.

Nonic pint

This glass got its name as a shortening of the phrase “no nick”, as the outward bump on the glass prevents the rim from chipping when stacked.

The bump also makes this glass much easier to hold on to when drinking while standing up (also called “vertical drinking”), which is common in British pubs.

It’s used for a range of lower- to average-strength British styles, like British Brown Ale or Oatmeal Stout.

Tulip pint

Confusingly, you may see this style called an English tulip pint, but the style it’s commonly used for is… the Irish Stout (and more specifically, Guinness.)

Belgian glassware

Goblet

This heavier, chalice-shaped glass is often used as the base for branded glassware for Trappist and Abbey breweries – like Westmalle, Chimay or St. Bernardus – who brew styles like Belgian Dubbel and Tripel.

You may also see Berliner weisse being served in a goblet glass.

Stemmed tulip

This glass bring the best of both worlds. It has an inward taper to help concentrate beer’s aromas, plus an outward taper that helps to support beer’s head of foam and fit the lips nicely for ease of drinking.

It’s used across a variety of Belgian styles (and beyond) including Belgian Golden Strong Ale, Belgian Blond Ale and Saison.

French jelly glass

This glass shape is most often associated with Belgian Witbier, as it’s used as the base for Hoegaarden’s branded glassware (and Hoegaarden is one of the best known classic examples of the style).

It may also be used for styles like Gueuze and Fruit Lambic, but I personally prefer the stemmed tulip glass for these styles for a better aroma experience.

Snifter

This glass was popularized in the 20th century, but it was initially used for brandy.

Its smaller serving size makes it ideal for high alcohol beer styles, like Imperial Stout and American Barleywine. Plus, the inward taper helps to concentrate beer’s aromas and the stem aids with ease of swirling.

Branded glassware

As mentioned above, many breweries now produce their own branded glassware. (This is especially popular in Belgium!)

If branded glassware is being used at a bar, pub or restaurant, it’s important to make sure that the branded glassware used matches the brand of the beer in the glass. If the correct glass is not available, it’s best to serve the beer in a plain (unbranded) glass to avoid any confusion.

So you’ve picked the perfect glass…

Now it’s time to make sure that glass is clean enough for beer, aka “beer clean”. Continue the “Beer glassware” series here.


Discovering Beer is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Cicerone® Certification Program.


Brought to you by Beer with Nat

natalya@beerwithnat.com
Instagram | Twitter | YouTube