On Glassware

glassware

There’s been much consternation and gnashing of teeth this week over the news that Sam Caligione of Dogfish Head and Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada collaborated not only on a beer (Rhizing Bines), but also a glass to go along with and help accentuate it and other IPAs. The bulbous, ribbed Spiegelau glass was reportedly designed to help amplify hop aromas and aerate the beer, coming together in what was dubbed the “new standard for IPA glassware.”

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The much-maligned Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada IPA glass.

As expected with trivial things such as this, social media exploded in a fit of rage and mockery. People fell into either the “Oh, cool. Another one for the collection” camp or “I HOPE YOUR CHILDREN GET CANCER AND HIT BY A BUS &*&^(@&!&” camp. There really are no happy mediums online.

While the glass doesn’t really do it for me – I’ll admit it does look ridiculous and is a bit highfalutin – it did give me an opportunity to write up an opinion piece I’ve wanted to do for some time on a topic near and dear to many beer geeks: glassware.

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My glassware collection. Everyday glasses on the bottom, specialty ones up top.

I’ll say this first: I love beer glassware. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a collector, but I have a sizable variety of glasses I’ve either bought or won from breweries, or received for free as part of a glass night at a local bar or with a bottle release. I’m not sure what it is – small mementos from breweries, interesting designs, uniqueness, etc. – but I’ve always had a thing for breweriana. Shaker pints are my go-to water glasses, and I’ve got enough to take up a whole shelf in one of my kitchen cabinets. Also, I’ve got a plethora of tulips, snifters, goblets and so on of different shapes and sizes.

We’re told that the only way to truly enjoy our beer is to always put it in the proper glassware. That stout isn’t going to taste the same in that goblet, you’re missing out if you put an IPA in a stange and you might as well just drain pour that quad if you’re putting it in a tulip. To an extent, I agree with that, and I certainly find certain glassware suits certain beers better. After going to Belgium and seeing how each brewery picks a specific glass to go with a specific beer, you can tell that people who are meticulous about it want to ensure the most enjoyable drinking experience. If I’m drinking at home and I’ve got a brewery branded non-standard glass – Allagash, Dogfish, Ommegang – I’ll generally pick that glass since I know the brewers likely chose it for a specific reason. But if I go to a bar and someone gives me, say, a doppelbock in a tulip instead of a snifter, I’d never send it back because it’s “not proper.”

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My go-to glassware: tulip, snifter and goblet.

I, personally, have a few standard glasses I use for specific beers: A tulip, a snifter or a goblet. IPAs/DIPAs and really the majority of beers I drink go in a tulip. It’s easy to hold, has a good weight to it and does seem to make the hop aromas pop more. Darker and heavier beers – stouts, porters, etc. – go in a snifter. It’s smaller volume and size is good for sipping and not guzzling 15% behemoths. And generally, all Belgian-style beers go in a goblet. The bigger aromas and flavors are complimented by the wide mouth. Other than that, it’s a guessing game.

Above my bar, I have this poster, which aside from looking cool is good for picking out which style should go in which glass. I don’t take it as gospel, but it’s useful to have if I’m not sure what I should put where. (Heh heh.) But I’m not so anal to the point that if it’s not in the proper glass I don’t think I’m getting the proper “experience.” I agree you should respect the beer your drinking, but there’s a limit.

So, what’s the point I’m trying to get at? If you want to pour every beer you drink into a shaker pint and that makes you happy, cheers. If you’d rather go for a more “appropriate” glassware, I’m right there with you. But if you go so far as to get angry or mock people for trying to achieve a better drinking experience when it does no harm to you, you need to have a beer – you’re welcome to choose whatever glass you like – and chill the hell out.

*** As I was writing this post, I was enjoying a Hopslam out of a Mason jar-shaped glass. I thought about noting how it tasted different compared with drinking it from a tulip, but I’m going to chalk that up to the fact I’m sick and not that anal.

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