The impact of glassware on your beer experience

When is the last time you can recall ever drinking a beer in any glass other than a pint glass? Sure, some bars and breweries will use a nonic glass, a modified pint glass with a wider bulge near the top rim. And yeah, some bars and breweries will employ the weizen glass for wheat beers, a thin taller drinking vessel. Some bars and breweries use the snifter glass. But that’s about it.

“Proper glassware” is a term being heard more frequently in beer drinking circles. But for pragmatic reasons, most beer-selling places do not use expensive, fragile, or “steal-able” glassware. Proper glassware is more commonly seen in wine-serving establishments accompanied by candlelit tables and soft music. Is there any place for an easily shattered and less rugged glass at a brewery? Bars filled with loud music, sports events on television, and beer-guzzling shenanigans are no place for high quality glassware. Right?

How about special beer tastings such as tap takeovers or rare barrels aged once-in-a-lifetime beer offerings? Aren’t those more likely events to draw a crowd that demands the best tasting experience and therefore the best glassware possible? What about homebrewers, and “home drinkers”? It seems reasonable to assume that people who drink from home or with a few friends on the summer patio would want the best experience from their beer.

Drinking beer from a high end beer glass may just change your impression of beer glassware forever. You may not be the same “one glass fits all” beer drinker, and you will consciously pay more attention to the glassware your beer is served in.

I will be the first to admit that when I attended a Spiegelau glassware demonstration held at the KegWorks homebrew supply store, I had absolutely no idea the affect that glassware could have on the aroma, taste, mouthfeel, temperature, and overall psychological impression of a beer. I am convinced that high quality glassware makes a world of difference in beer delivery.

At the event, Bell’s Brewery beer was used for the tastings. The beers were centennial-laden hop bomb Two-Hearted for the IPA glass, coffee bean and chocolate flavored Kalamazoo Stout for the stout glass, and subtle yeast flavored Bell’s Winter White Ale for the American wheat / Witbier glass. Each setting had four glasses: (1) American Wheat Beer / Witbier, (2) India Pale Ale, (3) Stout, and (4) Joker. The first three were all Spiegelau high-quality glasses, and the fourth was a standard KegWorks pint glass.

We opened a bottle of Two Hearted Ale and poured half into the Spiegelau “IPA glass” and half into the joker glass. Surprisingly, the Spiegelau glass was colder to the touch. The thicker pint glass actually absorbed the heat from the beer. The thermal mass of the glass was lower in the Spiegelau glass. The IPA aroma was disjointed and dissipated in the pint glass, whereas in the Spiegelau IPA glass the aroma had room to recirculate and balance the taste of the IPA. Furthermore, the curious washboard base, or “refresher,” in the IPA glass acts to mix the liquid after each sip, thereby enhancing the aroma and taste of the IPA.

The next glass to be tested was the stout glass. We poured 80 percent of the Kalamazoo Stout into the stout glass, and the rest into (the rinsed) IPA glass. This is probably the result that surprised me the most. Looking at the two glasses you wouldn’t expect the stout glass to be all that different from the IPA glass. But the difference in aroma and taste was noticeable. As the stout warmed, the depth of aroma just funneled into the nostrils in the stout glass, whereas in the IPA glass the aroma and flavors were more subdued. The aromatics and depth of aroma and flavor in a stout beer require different glassware.

The third and final beer was the Winter White Ale, fermented with a Belgian ale yeast. And of course the Spiegelau glass vented the aromas and enhanced the spices and subtleties of the beer far more than the joker glass. Another noticeable difference was the color of the beer in two different glasses. In the American Wheat glass, the color of the beer was nearly glowing compared to the joker pint glass. The Spiegelau American Wheat glass “opened up” the beer for detection of subtle aromas. The more delicate and subtle the beer, the wider the glass required to “open up” the aromas.

These clear results beg the question: why aren’t you drinking beer in better glassware? Why aren’t more bars and breweries using it? Fact: superior glassware improves the aesthetics of your beer. Think about the glassware you choose the next time you’re sipping on that pint of beer. Don’t let the wine-drinkers have all the fancy glasses.

More information about this event, and others, can be viewed at