This week I kicked off my journey to beer enlightenment by asking questions I’ve had for YEARS – why do breweries have so many fancy glasses? Are they just for show? Do they make the beer taste better? To answer these questions, I teamed up with Dave, co-founder and Director of Brewing at Joyride Brewing Company. This discussion about glasses turned into a lesson of history, culture, and a hint of beer artistry. For our first blog entry, we decided to focus on the vessels that hold our favorite beverages: an experience we’ve titled ‘Glass Class.’
As it turns out, much like the different glasses used to house beer’s grape-based alcoholic cousin, wine, most of the different shapes are meant to develop or enhance aromas. As with food tasting, a good portion of the flavor of your drink is experienced through your nose instead of your taste buds. According to Dave, we are limited in what we taste to the main groups, sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami, but what we can smell goes way above that.
Here are our top 10 discoveries when it comes to glass shapes (ranked by the order in which we recalled them):
1. Tapered tops help retain foam, which hold in aromatics so you can enjoy them for longer.
2. When glasses bulge out, flavors have a chance to breathe and develop.
3. Laser etching at the bottom of the glass encourages CO2 production, which brings more aromas to life.
4. If your glass has a stem, it basically has a built in thermostat. Holding only the stem keeps your beer cooler for longer. Cupping the glass warms it up a little bit and opens up more happy smells.
5. Glasses with no stem, but a bulb about ¾ of the way to the top are designed to keep you from being too handsy with your beer. Again, this is another temperature control tactic.
6. At breweries, smaller glasses typically mean that you are either drinking a strong beer or an expensive one. This means that going drink-for-drink with your pals provides similar levels of fun, though damage to your credit card may differ.
7. Tall glasses celebrate the beauty of a beer – either the color, the clarity, or how the bubbles dance as they rise.
8. Practically, breweries seldom have different glasses for each item on tap. A big decision in choosing their ‘standard’ glass is stackability to make beertenders’ lives easier.
9. Mugs are heavy and sturdy to withstand aggressive clinking.
10. Steins have lids because they tend to have a higher beer holding capacity. The covering helps to keep the cold in for longer, prevents spillage, and keeps unwanted objects out.
Dave suggested paying more attention the next time I head out to a small brewery. Does the brewer use different glasses for their different brews? If they do – can I pick up on why they might have chosen that particular shape? Am I enjoying this beer more than when I’ve tried it at home in my old pint glasses? He said I’d probably be able to notice the biggest difference if I drink the same beer in two different shaped glasses side by side. Challenge accepted. Prepare for a video in the future.
As I learned about glass core concepts Dave told some great stories about how they came to be. We will dive deeper in our next article to cover everything he taught us but my general takeaway is this: choosing the proper shape of glass is showing respect to the brewer’s craftsmanship. Special drinks deserve special treatment.
Do you have a favorite shape of glass? Is it enhancing your beer drinking experience? Let us know!