Like me you’ve probably got a favoured glass, or a few, depending on the size of the serve of beer you’re having. They may or may not have a brewer’s logo on them.
I’ve got one that is exactly 335ml in volume, so that a whole can of beer fits into it. I’ve got a pint glass, on the odd occasion when you need to heft a pint. I’ve got all the styles in the cupboard, tulips, chalices, tumblers…
I’ve got one those IPA glasses that were a revelation years ago, claiming to re-settle and reform the head on a beer as you drank. Personally, I covet a Rastal Teku glass for no reason that I can discern apart from the fact I don’t yet own one.
It was mentioned to me more than once on social media that my chosen glass was an odd choice, I think I was drinking a stout from a big balloon brandy snifter, and more recently a Belgian strong ale in my favoured tall thin glass. In the case of the latter the rather strong opinion seemed to be that the correct glass should have had a beer logo on it. And be a tulip style.
Question 1. Is the way in which beer is served more important than the glass it is served in?
In bars, if Aucklanders remember them, you’ll more likely be served beer in a branded glass of some description. This could be a brewery-branded glass, depending on the bar you are visiting, or if you are in a craft beer bar you’ll more likely get the house standard. This could be a 440ml shaker pint, or it could be something fancier like one of the modern IPA glasses.
So is this the right glass to be drinking your beer from? After all, your beer could be a lager, hazy IPA, fruit sour or a stout. It might be a nitro or hand-pull beer. Same glass though.
I would have thought that the bar owners and brewers agreed on this, and I conclude that they are probably all correct, a clean washed fresh glass for your beer is the correct way to serve beer.
Question 2: Is there a right glass to drink a beer style in?
I’ve done research, from whence I glean the following. You need two styles of glass:
- A pint glass or mug, or a glass with a wider mouth is ideal for beers that you’d expect in pints or where you might want larger gulps.
- A smaller-mouthed glass, which forces more concentrated sips and somewhat in turn forces you to experience the beer differently.
That’s all I got from the hours of reading articles and looking at beer glasses, the sum of the wisdom.
I think the fancy beer glass thing is actually is a Belgian beer thing. The variety and styles of glasses that you can drink from is amazing, and to be honest, getting the beer served in the branded glass adds something to the beer and the experience, and yes it must be the right glass, the brewer endorses this glass for his or her beer.
Question 3. Is temperature more important than the glass?
(And how can you easily discern that your beer is in the optimal temperature range that the brewer would like you to enjoy it at?)
This is the one that vexes me the most, there are brewers who put drinking notes that suggest their beer is best served at 6-8 degrees (for instance). They don’t mention, nor is it mentioned anywhere, how you achieve that.
The answer might be in thermochromic beer labels that change colour as they get warmer/colder and then become the right colour indicating that they’re good to drink. I’m told, and have no reason to doubt it, that Newcastle Brown Ale might have this feature — the Star becomes yellow when it’s at the optimum, and I think there are some Coors beers that have a colour change label too.
Temperature is of course important, beers change as they warm up, that isn’t in dispute and is one of the wonderful things about drinking beers for experience is that it is constantly changing. The optimum temperature though, that would be a transient between too cold and too hot. The Goldilocks zone of just right is somewhere near the middle I imagine.
Question 4. Have I been drinking beer wrong?
Yes and no. More no than yes. Beer is how you enjoy it, and you can enjoy it from a can or bottle as readily as from an elegantly shaped tulip, stemmed glass, goblet or snifter.
I think I should rinse my glasses more though. A clean glass is the most important thing; Luke Nicholas of Epic recently posted on Instagram about the need and reason for a fresh clean glass and it was a timely reminder that reusing your glass many times a night might not be ideal. However, being from London I’m probably more used to keeping the same glass and getting a re-fill than having a new glass with each pint. I think it’s just a thing. But a quick rinse under the tap before you pour will pay you back in a lovely looking beer.