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Drinking Beer — You’re Doing It Wrong
Sep 02/16

Drinking Beer — You’re Doing It Wrong Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments

It’s evident from the craft breweries bubbling up across the country, brewers going head to head for coveted “best beer” titles, the nationwide celebration dubbed “Craft Beer Week” and the relatively new phenomenon of “beer tourism” that Americans have a thing for good beer. Consider it our frothy, golden lifeblood. We self-proclaimed connoisseurs of fine cold ones scour the world — and the liquor store shelves — for our next delicious discovery. And with so many mind-blowing brews out there, our expectations are high.

An outsider might equate us with wine snobs. But we’re not like the winos, haughtily twirling their fancy stemware. Beer is no delicate flower; it doesn’t need to breathe. Pop the top, throw it back and start the party. Right?

Sure, you can pop and party; but if you really want to get the full flavor of that fine, foamy craftsmanship, consider how you’re drinking it. There is a wide range of glasses specifically designed to enhance the flavor of particular beers, and, with a little anatomical beer knowledge, testing out glasses could be the most rewarding science experiment you’ve ever conducted.

You might even find out your favorite brew tastes better from a wine glass — if you’re not too proud to try it.

Glassware comes into play the moment you lay eyes on that beautiful beer. Though taste is inarguably the most important element in the drinking experience, looks matter. You’ve probably wrapped your mitts around the more common glasses — the pint glass, the imperial pint glass (like the pint glass, but with a slight, outward curve toward the top) and the pilsner glass (tall, tapered) — but there are numerous, less common varieties, notably the chalice (recall the Stella Artois advertisements), the stein (a sturdy mug with a handle, popular in Germany), the Weizen glass (tall and tapered, with a wider mouth) and the snifter (shaped like a squat wine glass). Sure, they make a neat collection, but their appearances serve purposes other than making you look cool at the bar.

Jimmy Mauric, brewmaster at Spoetzl Brewery, home of Shiner Beers, outlined why looks matter when it comes to glasses. “A Shiner Hefeweizen looks best in a Weizen glass. The slender bottom shows off the beer’s hazy color and protects its lively carbonation. The tall, slim pilsner glass displays [a pilsner’s] clarity and head. Heavier beers look good in a substantial chalice, most German beers look very much at home in a glass or stoneware stein and English-style [beers] are made for the traditional imperial pint glass.”

Head — yeah, that foam cap on the beer that we moan about at the bar because we think the bartender is shorting us — is not only pretty, it’s really important to beer’s aroma. Compounds like hop oils, spices, fruity esters, alcohol and other ingredients, known as “volatiles,” make up a beer’s personality, and they evaporate to create the beer’s aroma. A solid head traps those delicious traits, so you can inhale the beer’s scent as you taste it. “The shape of a snifter really concentrates aromas just before the sipping point,” Mauric pointed out. “This shape also allows for gentle ‘swishing’ of the beer as you drink, which enhances the release of volatiles. It’s great for the most aromatic beer styles, like Belgian lambics or farmhouse ales.”


A snifter is a beer buff’s best friend, as it enhances the aromas of stronger beers. Its wine glass shape also encourages swirling, which not only not only stirs the volatiles, but affects beer’s temperature. “Swirling beer could warm it up over time; certain aromas can be enhanced by warmth and agitation,” explained Abita brewmaster Mark Wilson. Temperature is another important key to unlocking beer’s full flavor, and the glass you’re using has a lot to do with maintaining and achieving the right degree. Dark beers, like stouts, porters and brown ales, reach their potential when they’re not too cold; while many lighter beers do better when chilled. Containers with handles and thicker glass keep beer’s temperature down, while thin glasses absorb heat. “If you do just have a pint glass,” Wilson suggested, “to warm it up, wrap your hands around it.”

When a pint glass IS all you have, don’t let that stop you from enjoying whichever beer makes your mouth water, no matter its suggested glass. But, if reading this has made you a beer snob, you can always opt to select the best beer for your glass; pale ales and IPAs pair well with conventional and imperial pint glasses. Chances are the lack of proper glassware isn’t going to stop you from indulging in whatever the hell you want to drink. Mauric is a believer in the right glass, but he offered advice to live by: “don’t forget, beer tastes plenty good straight from the bottle or can.”

Advice from the Brewmasters
“[Snifters] are great for the most aromatic beer styles, like Belgian lambics or farmhouse ales like Shiner’s FM969.” – Jimmy Mauric, brewmaster, Spoetzl Brewery, home of Shiner Beers

Yazoo Brewing Company:
“Our Pale Ale and our Hop Project IPA are more aromatic in the right glass, and the clean smoky malt flavors jump out of the right glass as well. … For those two beers, we use, [an imperial pint] glass, which looks similar to most pint glasses, just a little more rounded towards the top. The high-quality [Spiegelau] glass helps hold a head on the beer longer, and keeps the beer colder longer. For our hefeweizen, we use the hefe glass, tall and slender, which lets the aromas really come out. – Linus Hall, founder/brewmaster, Yazoo Brewing Company

Abita Brewing Company:
“Glassware can enhance certain beers. … [Darker] beers, like Abita’s Turbodog [and Abbey Ale], are better warmed up and served in a snifter to release the aromas.” – Mark Wilson, brewmaster, Abita Brewing Company

Diamond Bear Brewing Company:
“Our Pale Ale goes very well in either a conventional pint glass or an English style pint glass. This allows the flavor to come out properly with the carbonation and the lacy foam to etch itself nicely along the side of the glass. Whether you get our PA in draft or bottle, we recommend that it is served in a room temperature or slightly chilled glass. Not frozen or frosted for sure.
“With two or our beers, particularly the Two Term Double IPA and our Paradise Porter, I would recommend a 12 or 16 oz tulip glass. This glass really displays the product well and allows for more of a sipping type consumption, which with the high flavor profile of the Paradise Porter is ideal. It also captures the head nicely with both of these beers which helps with the aroma/nose.” – Russ Melton, Brewmaster, Diamond Bear Brewing Company


Self-proclaimed beer connoisseur Willa Dean has drunk her fair share of brews and prefers them any way she can get them. When she’s not writing, she’s sipping a cold one on her Little Rock porch. 


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