Beer & Glassware

Posted on July 15 2020

Craft beers in garden

 Our buyer, Jared, has a thing about beer and correct glassware. He may be on the extreme end, but he certainly has a point and it’s worth thinking about. Who likes a glass of expensive Champagne out of a plastic tumbler? Rather takes away the magic, doesn’t it? It’s just the same for beer. And as Jared said, it’s like “putting Hyundai wheels on a Ferrari, it just won’t perform as intended.”

So, here are few tips from Jared.

The tulip shape

When the circumference at the top of the glass is smaller than in the middle, a tulip shape, it focuses aromas up to your nose, pushes the head in on itself to create a creamier texture and allows you to swirl the glass to release those volatile compounds – the aromas! Can you imagine drinking an expensive red wine from a water glass? Beer can have at least as much aroma as any wine or spirit, often more, and there is no reason it shouldn’t be given the same respect.

Size, shape and ABV – the push and pull theory

The shape and size also have a lot to do with enjoying your beer. Jared calls it the ‘push/pull’ choice and can be applied pretty successfully over most styles. Imagine a warm day, you are parched and a German Hefeweizen (wheat beer) sounds appetising. This beer traditionally comes to you in a German ‘vase’, tall and relatively slim designed to have the beer ‘push’ into your mouth.

It rushes in with ease as you tip that glass past a certain angle. Gluggable. The beer is designed to be drunk cool, somewhat quickly and very possibly in succession in a session!

Now, imagine having a hefty 10% ABV barley wine or imperial stout. You’ll want to sip that from a goblet or stemmed tulip, slowly, over time, letting it warm and taking the alcohol in very gradually. You can swirl the glass to awaken even more flavour. Then you ‘pull’ a sip from the glass, like sipping a port or other high-strength drink.

IPAs, DIPAs and NEIPAs, especially high strength ones, are good served from tulips too. The shape helps you take your time and savour, even though the flavours of these are already on ‘loud speaker’ and don’t need the tulip to get them to your nose. Nice though! 

And there's more ... 

Beer being poured

Beware of the straight-sided shaker

Then there is the straight-sided (or nearly) shaker pint glass, the most ubiquitous and traditional glass for beer. “Sadly,” says Jared! It holds the volume, a pint, but can let that creamy head escape, and doesn’t funnel the aromas and flavours up to greet you. The glass was designed for shaking cocktails and easy stacking, not for the enjoyment of beer. If you are trying to elevate your beer and give it the respect it deserves it probably shouldn’t be served in the same glass as your orange juice.

With the growing demand for 1/3 and 2/3 pint tastings of a variety of beers, particularly at brewery taprooms, there’s even more reason to wave goodbye to the straight shaker and embrace the tulip style in some guise. But most of all, we should shake off the straight-sided shaker simply because it does nothing at all to enhance all the great attributes of a good pint of beer. The English tulip pint glass has the ease of a shaker but does much more for the beer.

Have a play with the same beer in different size and shaped glasses and see for yourself what you discover. Just another good excuse to open a beer!

And just one more thing … make sure your glass is ‘beer clean’ – it’s as important as its shape. 

The importance of a ‘beer clean’ glass

Now we’re not talking ‘clean’ clean here, but ‘beer clean’ and it has a severe impact on the enjoyment of your beer. A glass can be hygienically clean and ready for use, but not ‘beer clean’. It can be cleaned with soap and water, but if it still has a residue of the washing up liquid, it won’t be properly clean and ready for your beverage.

How can you tell? Look for the carbonation bubbles forming on the inside of the glass. Bubbles will stick to any impurity – grease, petroleum-based soaps not rinsed out properly, dirt, food, etc. In fact, that invisible film from fats and certain soaps will draw out the carbonation rapidly, killing the head and making the beer go flat.

To test a glass for being ‘beer clean’, there are several methods but the least complicated is the sheeting test. Simply dip a glass in water. If the glass is clean, the water will evenly coat it. If there is an invisible film, the water will break up into droplets on the inside surface.

Happy sipping!

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