How to Find the right Beer Glass

In an environment where beer drinkers are more astute in their choice of presentation and expectation, a beer glass is no longer just a beer glass.  To the extent that many bars in Europe will stock unique glassware for every brand of beer they serve.

Before looking at a guide of the options available, and recommended for particular styles of beer, a quick “chemistry lesson” will help explain the terms used, and the reason brewers regard it as being so important.

The foam created when pouring a beer acts as a captive net for many of the compounds that evaporate from beer to create its aroma.  They are called “volatiles” and include hop oils, various yeast fermentation by-products, fusels and fruity esters, spices or other additives.

Beer glassware is shaped or treated to promote the gradual release of the natural Carbon Dioxide in the poured beer during consumption.  The desired result is a beer with a layer of foam on top (referred to as the “head”), and a fresh appearance from beginning to end.

The names and features of the relevant glassware are:

Chalice

Heavy and thick walled, often with a sculptured stem.  Designed to maintain a good head, often   achieved by scoring the inside bottom of the glass, to create a Carbon Dioxide holding area.  This ensures a stream of rising bubbles and retains the head as a consequence.  Best suited to strong, dark ales.

Flute

Essentially a champagne glass, although sometimes with a shorter stem.  The long and narrow body means carbonation is enhanced and takes longer to dissipate.  Volatiles are released quickly for a more intense aroma.  Suitable for a range of beers – appropriate for enhancing the occasion.

Goblet

Basically a Chalice but more delicate, with a longer stem.  The more elaborate ones may have rims lined with gold or silver.  More for appearance than enhancing the beer.

Nonic

A practical pint-glass, with a slight taper and wide mouth.  There is a bulge in the glass an inch or so from the top.  This improves the grip, as well as preventing them sticking together when stacked.  Easy to drink from, convenient to store, and inexpensive.  The “working mans” glass for everyday beers.

Pilsner

A tall, slender and tapered glass, resembling a trumpet.  Designed to capture the color, clarity and carbonation of a Pils beer.  Also promotes head retention and enhances volatiles.  A preferred glass for low alcohol beers as well.

Pokal

A Pilsner glass with a stem.

Snifter

A balloon glass used for cognac and brandy, but also  quite suitable as a beer glass.  They provide room to swirl and enhance volatiles.  Ideal for stronger ales and stout.

Stein or Seidel

Heavy, strong and large, with a handle, it is basically a mug that comes in many designs. Not sure if it enhances the beer, but it certainly hold a lot!  The recommended receptacle for Oktoberfest’s and similar Beer festivals.  An interesting piece of trivia – stone steins traditionally have a lid, dating back to the Black Plague, to prevent flies dropping in.

Tulip

As the name suggests, a tulip-shaped, stemmed glass.  The rim is curled out to form a lip, which captures a large foamy head and enhances volatiles.  It is predominantly an ale glass – Scotland has a variation for their ales.  It is a “thistle” glass, resembling their national flower.  

Weizen

Although designed for Weizenbier, a German beer that must contain 50% malted wheat, the Weizen  is suitable for a Premium lager. It is a long slim glass with a thin wall, highlighting the beer’s color, and then tapering out at the mouth to promote volume and head.

Think of all the visual, smell and taste experiences you have missed out on by using the wrong glass!  Thank goodness beer still tastes great straight from the bottle.