Beer has grown up a lot over the past couple of decades. Granted, when many adults sampled their first beer, it was “gold and cold” and served in a red Solo cup, so it had a lot of growing up to do. As craft beer evolved, so did the glassware. There is now a “proper” glass for almost every style of craft beer, each designed to showcase the unique qualities that define that style. The right glass can elevate the experience of enjoying a beer and honors the craft and quality ingredients that went into making it.
The Craftmaster Grand at Caps & Corks (Photo courtesy of Caps & Corks on Instagram) Matel Screw Caps
As Rebecca Safford, owner of Tap & Bottle and Westbound explained, “Glassware is part of the fun, part of the whole experience of making having a beer celebratory and festive.”
In this exploration of proper glassware, I’ll explain why such elaborate sculptural glassware is found in your favorite taprooms rather than suspended from the ceiling of the Bellagio. I’ll also reveal my favorite improper glasses for knocking back a brew without a lick of snobbery.
A few quaffs into the craft beer renaissance it became clear that a clunky shaker pint did not do justice to the fastidious craft of small-batch brewing. The feats of fermentation coming out of small breweries deserved better.
As Elyse Hammet, owner of Caps & Corks, explained, “If we are going to spend the time and effort to seek out quality, hard-to-find beer, we should respect the beer with proper glassware whenever possible.”
Belgian tulip glass at Tap & Bottle (Photo courtesy of Tap & Bottle)
Before more versatile glassware options became available, anyone serving up craft beer needed to have access to an array of traditional glassware, each designed to celebrate and showcase a specific style of brew.
These types of glasses are tall and thin to show off the bright golden color of these styles of beer, and to create a thick layer of fluffy foam at the surface.
These have thick glass walls to keep large quantities of low-ABV beer cold for the extended time it takes to consume a larger pour.
Belgian beers are best served in rounded goblets or taller teardrop-shaped Belgian glasses. The large, rounded bowl and inward-tapering rims of these glasses capture the rich flavors and subtle aromatics often produced by Belgian or wheat beer yeast strains (examples: banana, clove, and perfumey orange).
Teardrop-shaped Belgian glasses are also great for IPAs, as they funnel floral hoppy notes right to the drinker’s nose.
Boozy stouts are best served in rounded goblets, which concentrate and deliver notes of whiskey, wood, and vanilla.
Rounded goblets at Tap & Bottle (Photo by Isaac Stockton)
Teku glassware at Hop Street Lounge (Photo courtesy of Hop Street Lounge)
The Italian-designed Teku is thought to be one of the finest craft beer glasses currently available. It was created to be versatile enough for any style of craft beer, replacing a cabinet full of style-specific glasses. With angular curves like a classic car, the Teku couldn’t be further from a clunky shaker pint. If you haven’t enjoyed a craft beer out of this sophisticated chalice, some would say you haven’t truly enjoyed a craft beer.
Before trying the Teku, Hop Street Lounge’s owner Damion Jenkins wasn’t wholly sold on the idea of glassware enhancing your drinking experience, but ultimately he acquiesced.
Teku glassware at Hop Street Lounge (Photo courtesy of Hop Street Lounge)
“After trying several different options, we definitely noticed a positive difference when drinking out of a more quality glass like a Teku versus a standard shaker pint,” said Jenkins. “Aromas were more present and the overall quality of the glass gives a premium feel to every beer being enjoyed.”
The Craftmaster One at Tucson Hop Shop (Photo by Stephanie Epperson-Brown of Steph E Photography)
The Craftmaster series takes notes from the Teku in form and function but does so in a more relaxed, pub-style glass.
The Craftmaster Two glass at Button Brew House (Photo courtesy of Button Brew House)
Erika Button, co-owner of Button Brew House, described her thought process in choosing the Craftmaster Two for her brewery. “Ultimately we would love to put each beer style in a different glass, but that wouldn’t be cost-efficient,” she said. “The Craftmaster Two is economically affordable and has a great universal, unique shape that works with most beer styles.”
The Craftmaster Grand at Hop Street Lounge (Photo courtesy of Hop Street Lounge on Instagram)
Whatever vessel you use, you should still have standards. If you come across these nasty no-nos at your favorite bar, they either don’t have an appreciation for craft beer, or they may not like you. Take heed.
The shaker pint was designed to be resistant to breakage, easy to clean, and stackable. We’re not exactly talking “Flavor Country” with these attributes. Pour a beer into a frozen shaker pint, and you can say goodbye to any of the nuanced flavors a brewery intended.
The cold temps stifle the volatilization of aromatics, making beer taste bland. Ice crystals on the surface of the glass not only lock in freezer smells but also cause the beer to foam when poured.
Bubbles clinging to a dirty glass (Photo courtesy of thebeerfairy.com)
When a bartender puts a beer in front of you, beware of tiny bubbles clinging to the interior sides of the glass. Bubbles cling to dirt, not glass, so the more clinging bubbles you see in a fresh pour, the more questionable the cleaning practices of the establishment.
This is not to be confused with lacing, which is when fine, lacy foam sticks to the inside of your beer glass after you have consumed it. Thin webs of lacing indicate that your chosen pub serves fresh, well-crafted beers in clean glasses, as both of these elements are required to create the lacing effect.
Perfect lacing in the Craftmaster One at Tucson Hop Shop (photo by Jessie Mance)
Thoughtfully sampling rare, cellared sours and stouts is a luxurious experience, but shotgunning a can of Arizona Wilderness Brewing’s gose in the woods is still pretty great (true story). My favorite “improper” glasses emphasize unbridled enjoyment, unencumbered by analysis, dissection, or pretension.
The Tumbler at Caps & Corks (Photo courtesy of Caps & Corks on Instagram)
The wide mouth, straight walls, and thin lip of a tumbler serve up great gratifying gulps of your favorite beers. When juicy, indulgent refreshment is your goal, the simple tumbler comes through.
Caps & Corks, Patagonia Lumber Company (Patagonia), and Wrenhouse Brewing Company (Phoenix).
Colorful Can Glass merchandise at Tap & Bottle (photo by Jessie Mance)
It’s designed to replicate the shape and size of a 12-ounce can of beer. Thin glass and a flared lip make sipping and tasting effortless. Style points: the can glass provides a large surface for colorful printing, so they are often used as eye-catching merchandise items at craft beer bars and breweries.
Mason, Kerr, and Ball. Homesteader vibes. Totally improper, but perfect for a relaxed happy hour beer in the backyard. You can find canning jars at my house. Come on over.
Shoot the Boot! Shoot the boot! You can find antics like this at a rugby match. Do not try at home.
Now that we’ve gone down the rabbit hole of proper glassware, a little concession: If you’re enjoying your beer, none of it really matters. Cheers!
Jessie Jean Mance is a lover of lightning, sunsets, happy hour, and other intoxicating experiences. Whale-hugger, burrito conqueror, fresh air fangirl. She is co-owner of Tucson Hop Shop.
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