Americans have truly messed up the beer glass. Here in the good ol’ US of A, we use the “shaker pint” for our beer … a glass that is so-named because it’s designed to mix drinks not serve beer. It’s also used for soda, milk, water, iced tea, and every other manner of drink. Its ubiquity isn’t the issue … its SHAPE is the issue.
If one set out to design the worst possible beer glass, it very well might look like the shaker. Aroma disappears quickly out the gaping top. The ever widening glass encourages carbonation to flee like guests at a bad party. The wide body forces one to grip it with the whole hand, leading to maximum body heat transfer and rapidly warming brew.
As a bonus, shaker glasses are nightmares to separate if they accidentally get stacked!
The shaker pint has literally no redeeming qualities as a beer glass and should not be used if other choices are available. This is why just about every other beer-loving country uses OTHER glassware. Don’t go throwing out all your shakers, they’re great utilitarian glasses … just not for beer (although it’s almost always better to pour a beer into a shaker than drink it from the bottle/can). Below are some better choices.
Stemmed Tulip Glass
If offered one glass to use for all beers, the stemmed tulip is the choice to make. It has a thin base with which to grip the brew and prevent heat transfer from the hand. The narrow top-3rd keeps carbonation in the glass, leading to more effervescent goodness, while the widening mouth is nearly perfectly sized for maximum head retention and subsequent nasal pleasure.
Invented in the late 19th century, tulips are party crashers in the beer glass world. That being said, they’re one of those “best of breed” glasses that learned from past mistakes and were designed with beer in mind. They should be standard in every beer lover’s cupboard.
Ideal glassware for: IPAs, wild/sour ales, all styles of Belgian ales, heavy Scottish ales, saisons. They really are the best glass for any aromatic beer. Suitable for all styles of beer.
This is the world’s equivalent of our shaker glass … cheap, ubiquitous, multi-purpose. The bulge at the top makes it easier to hold and the less less tapered shape means it’s better than the shaker at retaining carbonation and it’s stackable! In fact, it earned the name “Nonick” because it can be stacked without scratching … “No nick”.
The “nonick” is the Euro version – 20 ounces, whereas the US “tumbler” version is pint-sized (literally). It’s still not a great glass, but it’s far better than the standard shaker glass.
The classic German beer serving vessel, the stein is an often massive glass for holding vast quantities of brew. Its thick glass offers better insulative properties than other glasses and the handle furthers that temperature retention by keeping the hand out of direct contact with the colder beer.
This glass is best suited for slow drinking, lower alcohol beers, enabling the user to take their time and enjoy the beer without the brew getting too warm or the drinker getting too drunk. Its straight vertical design is better for carbonation than the shaker pint, but isn’t ideal.
This weizen (wheat beer) glass is the godfather of foam. The extra large form allows for oodles of foam bubble formation that personify the wheat beer style, while the inward taper concentrates that foam. The tall glass provides a fish tank-sized viewing space for the beer’s lovely golden color.
Don’t try to enhance the banana/citrus flavor typical of wheat beers with lemon or citrus, as that’ll do a number on the aroma-rich head.
Pilsner Glass (or Flute)
This glass is the supermodel of beer dispensers – a tall, slender, great looking glass that flaunts its stuff. Ideal for light beers, the Pilsner glass typically only holds 12 ounces that’s meant to show off the effervescence and color of the brew. It’s OK that the carbonation leaves fairly rapidly, as the beer is typically light in alcohol and quick-drinking. The wide base adds stability, and enables the user to grip below the beer to preserve the temperature.
While this glass has been around for a while, it really gained popularity during the late 1930s, when its shape melded perfectly with the Art Deco style of the age.
Usually reserved for brandy or cognac, snifters have found a second life as an ideal glass for strong, aromatic ales like imperial stouts and barleywines. The wide base encourages swirling to capture and enhance aromas. Like the tulip glass, the snifter can easily be held without too much hand-to-beer transfer.
This is probably the ultimate beer sipping glass that’s almost always used for high-brews.
English Tulip Pint
These glasses are quite common in England, and have become the standard glass for stouts and porters. The base is often etched in order to give the brew extra surface space to assist with bubble formation and head retention.
Often thin-walled, these glasses are best for beers that favor being served at warmer temperatures… so not only are stouts and porters ideal, but so are English mild, bitter, and cream ales.
Ideal glassware for: Stouts, porters, English ales, Irish reds
Translated from the Dutch “little ball”, these are THE glasses for Belgian ales and are the Belgian equivalent of the the English tulip or the American shaker. The inward taper helps concentrate the head and aroma, but these are mostly designed to show off a Belgian brew’s typical rich colors.
They’re often made a bit smaller than other glasses, which makes them ideal glasses for big beers like strong Belgian and imperials. Like the English tulip, these are often etched on the bottom to create a long stream of bubbles
Ideal glassware for: all Belgian ales, imperials