Beer, in a glass of its own

There are tulips, nonics, jugs, straights, stems, pilsner, goblets and the list goes on, so which is the right glass? Firstly it should be the branded one. If the brewer has chosen a specific glass for their beer then use it, it’s how they intended their beer to be presented, it’s what they want their drinker to experience. Simply putting a pint of beer in the correct branded glass and facing the branding to the customer shows a great deal of care has gone in to that beer. It speaks volumes about the establishment and the staff that so much attention went in to that small detail. It makes the customer feel they are somewhere that cares about them, somewhere that cares about beer.  

More over, failing to do complete this simple task speaks volumes too. Getting served a beer in the wrong glass always gets my goat. I’ve often rambled on to staff, customers, friends, family or poured my views out over Twitter or Facebook.  Serving a lovely pint of Adnams in a Fosters glass or a pint of ale in a Guinness glass to me gives the impression that the establishment doesn’t care, for me it’s all about the little things, simple things like presentation. It’s not only about whether the beer tastes any different, we don’t go to a good restaurant and forgive them what looks like a dogs dinner flung at a plate with a catapult because it’s tasty, we’re paying for the whole experience. When we hold our Beer and Food matching dinners at The Thatchers we are only serving tasters, a pint glass would be overkill, so we serve the beers in goblets or wine glasses, this instantly changes the diners perception, it gives the drink elegance and puts the beers on a level playing field against each other and against wine.

To really show what a glass can do for a beer, it’s worth mentioning the Germans, Belgians and the Dutch for starters. A whole history of glass design to go with each and every beer. I’ll never forget my first Erdinger Weiss in that tall, slender glass with a thick foamy head, aromas of bananas and cloves pouring out of the bulbous top. Then there is Duvel in its own unique goblet, designed to retain the thick head while the devilish crafty beer slips out underneath. Hoegaarden must have spent fortunes stocking students cupboards with those iconic chunky oversized glasses over the years, but have you tried drinking Hoegaarden out of a standard pint glass? It just doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t seem to taste the same. I believe a glass can enrich the experience of drinking a beer. Sometimes it’s because of the shape of the glass and the way it harnesses the aromas as a significant part of our flavour perception is down to smell. Sometimes it’s because the design of the glass retains the head or helps keep the beer carbonated, and sometimes I can’t quite put my finger on it, for no scientific reason at all, it just tastes better at that moment in that glass.

One of my most enjoyable beer moments has to be drinking unfiltered, unpastuerised Pilsner Urquell in the cellars at the brewery in Pilsen. Poured straight from the cask into a stunning Czech crystal stem glass with a tapered top. As you tip the glass to drink, the tapered neck cups your nose accentuating the wonderful aromas of Saaz hops and Pilsner Urquell yeast. It’s a moment I will always remember, would it have been as memorable from a tumbler or a standard beer glass, I really don’t think it would.

I am off to the European Beer Bloggers Conference this week and I’m very grateful to Pilsner Urquell who secured my ticket for me and for asking me to write a new blog for their Master Bartender site (launching fully soon). I’m really looking forward to raising a glass of the unpasteurised Czech beer with the thirsty Brewmaster to celebrate 170 years since Pilsner Urquell was first brewed, naturally we’ll have the correct glassware! However I’m even more excited about the seminar we’ll be having on beer glasses from Spiegelau, the Worlds oldest beer and wine glass manufacturer. Hopefully I’ll gain some insightful knowledge in to the science and the psyche behind beer glasses and the effect they have on our drinking experience. Before you ask, yes, I am happy to admit it, I am a geek. I’ll also get a complimentary ‘connoisseurs choice’ pack of beer glasses to take home, I guess I’ll just have to keep practicing until I find my favourite glass…

Does anybody else feel as strongly as I do about the right glass for each beer? No? Just me?

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6 thoughts on “Beer, in a glass of its own

  1. Mitch. I am delighted to see that someone gives attention to small yet critical things such as this. Has long been a bugbear of mine, and I thought it was merely an indication of very minor obsessive compulsive tendencies but the way you put it is spot on… interesting that you pre-empted the speigelau tasting. Hope to read some thoughts of yours on that in time. John

  2. Totally agree, I have been banging on about the importance of glassware for years, it’s about shaking up perceptions and, as you say, in an on trade environment using them as a reinforcement for quality offerings, showing you care. Well said mate, well said.

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