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Beer Glassware Guide

From snifter to tulip, we've got you covered with The Beer Connoisseur's Guide to beer glassware.
An Orpheus Brewing tulip glass glimmers in a shaft of sunlight.
An Orpheus Brewing tulip glass glimmers in a shaft of sunlight.

All seasoned craft beer drinkers know this: While what you drink is certainly paramount, the way you drink it is almost as important. I’m not speaking of your erstwhile swilling style – whether it be sipper, scoffer or slammer – but rather the vessel in which you enjoy these delectable crafty creations. Let’s talk about glassware.

Before diving into this Nebuchadnezzar-sized topic, let it be said that while enjoying a craft beer out of its specific and tailored glassware is almost always preferable, some people still like to enjoy beer straight from its source from the can or bottle. While this smacks of old-school “paper-bag” swilling, it is still a viable way to transfer beer from container to tummy. Still though, hopefully this article will highlight some preferable options to the beer’s original vessel.

Pint Glasses

Shaker – The most common glassware style you’ll find at most bars and restaurants (due to their stackability), this dull, conical glass is one of the worst possible options when quaffing a draught of fine craft beer. No curvature means that the beer’s aroma is dulled and the head is minute, and since the glass contains no handle or stem, your hand will naturally warm up the beer from the sides, as opposed to the base, muddying lighter styles and warming up IPAs far too swiftly. Avoid if at all possible.


Dull, conical shaker glasses muddy lighter styles and warm up beers far too quickly.


Nonic – Though a bit rarer in the U.S., Nonic glasses are quite common in the U.K. A minor improvement from the omnipresent shaker glass, Nonic glasses feature a small groove wrapping around the top of the glass, which serves as a helpful gripping mechanism as well activates the beer’s head. All manner of British styles work well in this glass, including Porters, Stouts and low-ABV British IPAs.

Stemmed Glasses

Tulip – Now we get to the good stuff. Tulip glasses come in all shapes and sizes. Some have tall, elegant stems and wide bases, while others are squatter, with bulbous bodies and short stems. Either way, tulip glasses serve as some of the most reliable for almost all beer styles, as the telltale flare at the mouth of the glass traps and activates aromas and creates a far more pillowy, sizeable head. Also, they are just fun to drink out of. They look stylish, and there’s a vast variety of tulip glasses on the market, so please, if you’re a self-respecting connoisseur, grab as many of these beauties as you can. (I make no bones about my love for the tulip glass, journalistic integrity be damned).

Snifter – Similar to a tulip glass in most way, the snifter is missing the trademark flare at the mouth of the glass, and instead opts for a perfectly round, un-flared design. A little less bulbous in body, snifters are also great options for most styles, though Belgian styles, IPAs and Barleywines are all perfect pairings for snifters. Aromas and flavors are all flawlessly represented, allowing seasoned craft beer drinkers to pick out new and interesting flavors and aromas that they might not have found before. Like a tulip and unlike the pint glass family, all stemmed glasses allow the beer to warm up of its own accord, without your grubby paws forcing the issue by groping the naked sides of a glass and warming it up prematurely.

Goblet – Again, similar in most ways to a snifter, the goblet’s body is far more bowl-shaped and lacks the familiar flare of a tulip. Usually featuring a far thicker stem that gets larger as it gets closer to the body, this glass suits most Belgian Ales, German bocks and other big sippers. It also works for when you want to feel like the ruler of a medieval kingdom, lording it over your serfs drinking out of muddied pint glasses. Heathens.


Tulip glasses pair well with most styles. Here, it serves as a complement to Tree House Brewing's King JJJuliusss Double IPA.


IPA Glass

Not a true stemmed glassware archetype, this is a fairly new creation and a bit of hybrid between the stemmed and pint families. The IPA glass allows for a lot of creativity and flexibility, much like the style it was made for, and its body can emulate the flared rotundity of a tulip or the svelte smoothness of a snifter. One almost universal trait is the ribbed, stem-like base, which allows beer into it and serves as the hallmark of the style. As you drink the beer down to this base and bring it back to standing position, the base will reform the head every time – reactivating the beer’s aroma and allowing the beer to stay fresh and interesting throughout an entire bomber or growler (and beyond).

Mugs

Tankard – On to glasses with handles as opposed to stems. Tankards are the standard-bearers for the mug style of glassware. Larger and more brash than stemmed or pint glasses, tankards usually feature thicker glass and a sturdy handle for swift slugging purposes. Oftentimes the preferred drinking method of seasoned German Ale-swillers, there is no more effective method for delivering large quantities of German beer styles to your rumbling tum-tum.

Krug – This deeply German name describes the preferred glassware for lagers of all kind and is a shorter, squatter version of the tankard with a wider mouth and geometric indentions scattered across the body’s surface. A rather rare glass, be careful not to swig this one too heartily, as the supremely wide mouth will easily slake your thirst – but also might sate your parched starched shirt too!

Stein – Unlike any other glass on this list, the stein features a lid that keeps beer safe and sound from any outside stimuli. Simply push the lid near the handle, and it’s bottoms up! Perfect for Oktoberfest (both the legendary event and the seasonal style favorite), you’ll find steins to be both novel and filling, as they usually hold far more beer than your normal 12- or 16-oz. glasses.

Pilsner Glasses

Weizen – Nifty glasses for most lighter styles, Weizen glasses are used specifically for any and all wheat beers, be they of German, Belgian or American descent. The Weizen glass displays a full, slightly curved body that gets thinner as its get closer to the base before flaring out at the very bottom, giving wheat beers the same effect that IPAs receive in their own eponymous glasses. An elegant glass for a refreshing style.

Stange – This perfectly upright Pilsner glass is as simple as they come. Straight up-and-down, with no baubles, trappings or finials, stange glasses are used specifically for two disparate German styles: the Schwarzbier and Kölsch. Talk about stange bedfellows.


A fairly new archetype, IPA glasses allow for a lot of creativity and flexibility, much like the beer style it was made for. 


As you can see, there are many options for beer glassware that extend far beyond the common fare of many restaurants. Don’t hesitate to take your own glassware survival kit – replete with tulips and snifters galore – next time you go to a rough-and-tumble diner that might not have the most fulfilling glassware selection. I’m sure you’ll be a hit with the wait staff.

Also, if someone brings you a frosted glass, don’t hesitate to lecture them on the merits of unfrosted glassware. Frozen glasses keep beers too cold and completely deaden the flavor – unless the flavor was dead already (a là light macro lagers) – in which case, chill away! No amount of heat or cold will affect their leaden and uninteresting taste.

Lastly, if anyone gives you flak for your glassware snobbery, simply pour an ample barleywine into a stylish, stemmed tulip, mockingly scoff at their plebeian shaker glass, and politely tell them to kiss your glass.

All Photos by Chris Guest

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