The optimist says the glass is half full, the pessimist says the glass is half empty. But the beer drinker asks “What’s in the glass?”
When I was younger and first dipping my toes into the pub scene most beer came in one of two glasses, the pint and the half pint.
However as I grew older I realised this wasn’t the case everywhere, different countries and regions had different glasses to suit their different styles of beer. This was never more apparent than when I first went to Belgium, where almost every brand has its own unique glassware.
Here’s just a rough guide to the most commonly used glassware and the beers they are used for. But in reality you can enjoy your beer from any drinking vessel you choose. I once saw a man drink beer from his boot and I’m not talking about a glass boot/bierstiefel.
(Note: any measurements are in metric millilitres for uniformity and will be the most common sizes in some cases)
The Shaker 473ml
This is the standard beer glass in America, cheap to make, mass produced, easy to clean and stack, you can see why it’s so popular. Many aficionados however would say it isn’t a great beer glass as it doesn’t keep the head well. That said the shaker is a great utility glass and will be around for a long time to come. I even see it more and more in the UK/Ireland in recent years. Called a shaker as it can be used as part of a Boston cocktail shaker.
Use for: Stouts, Porters, IPA
The Nonic 568ml
The nonic is the iconic British pint glass, like the shaker it is popular for its price and versatility. What differentiates it is the bulging lip at the top of the glass, this is to aid stacking and protect the glass from damage, though personally I always thought it was to stop the glass slipping from your hand after one too many. The nonic is a lot less common nowadays with the rise in branded glassware. Nonic essentially means no nick, to nick being to chip, which the bulge prevents by stopping stacked glasses sticking together and protecting the lip of the glass when toppled.
Use for: Stouts, Porters, IPA, Brown Ale
The Imperial 568ml
The imperial pint glass became popular in Ireland with the rise of stout as the nations favourite drink. It’s curved sides allow the Beer to flow down the side of the glass smoothly when pouring to prevent over foaming. It’s lip curves over at the top so that it’s narrower than the glasses widest point, this helps keep the head of the beer longer. This glass is designed to be gripped at its lowest and narrowest point, giving the drinker a firm hold and also helps prevent the hand warming the beer.
Use for: Stouts, Porters, Brown Ales, Cream Ales
The Tankard 500/568ml
The tankard has been around for almost as long as the pub, now usually made from glass, before that they were pewter sometimes with a glass bottom. The heavy glass bottom and handle makes this glass ideal for serving cold beer and keeping it cold. The pewter tankard that comes with a glass bottom also comes with a lot of tales of its origins too, the most common being that English navy recruiters would slip a coin into a mans beer and he would then have “taken the Kings shilling” and been tricked into joining the navy. Unlikely to have any truth but a great story which is always more important.
Use for: Stouts, Porters, Pale Ales, Lagers
The Krug or Dimpled mug 1L or 568ml
Think of the dimpled mug and an image of a Yorkshire man in a flat cap drinking bitter springs to mind, well it does for me. This is because the mug is somewhat old fashioned in the UK now, it started to die out in the 80’s as lager began to replace ales in popularity. Thankfully as we see a resurgence in ale we also are starting to see the old dimpled mug more often again. This gives a nostalgic/retro feel to many, but it’s also a good solid versatile glass.
Use for: Pale Ale, Scottish Ale, Dry Stout, English Bitter
The Stein 500ml or 1L
The stein is an iconic drinking vessel and most beer fans will have one on a shelf somewhere that they picked up in a cheap tourist shop when on holiday. They are mostly made from decorative stoneware (stein being German for stone) and will have a pewter lid with a thumb lever above the hinge. Apparently the lids were a hygiene feature added during the plague to prevent the spread of disease. Most are ornamental but you can’t have something like that on your shelf and not try it out at least once. Somewhat impractical and difficult to clean, they make up for this by just being plain badass.
Use for: German lager, Black Lager
The Snifter 500ml
You may know this glass as a brandy glass. As with most these small round stemmed glasses they most commonly lend themselves to strong Belgian ales. Ideally suited for releasing the aromas of complex beers as it slowly warms in your hand. Great for swirling around which can make you look really cool or really pretentious, there’s no rule as to which group you’ll fall into, you’ll just have to roll that dice.
Used for: Strong Belgian ales, Trappist beers, IPA, Barleywine
The Tulip 500ml
As with the snifter, the tulip is all about containing the aroma of the beer with the added effect of it’s outwardly curving lip really enhancing the head of the beer. Also it’s just a really pretty little style of glassware that adds a certain air of class, I bet you could put any old beer in this and it would score higher than normal with most people.
Used for: Scotch Ale, Belgian strong Ales, Imperial Stout
The Goblet 500ml
I really like a little goblet, it’s suited perfectly to some of the Belgian ales I like, that whilst strong, benefit from being quaffed as opposed to sipped. The wide mouth helps keep the head the whole way down. Barmen also prefer this one to a snifter or tulip as they’re much easier to clean and polish.
Use for: Belgian IPA, Dubbels, Trippels, Quads
The Weizen 700ml
Almost exclusively used for wheat beers, the weizens all narrow shape allows lots of light in which really makes the beer glow. The low curve also helps trap any sediment you might get. I’ve noticed weizens getting taller in recent years and it seems to be more a marketing tactic that anything to enhance the beer, you can’t help but notice when the barman pours one of these tall boys and when the light cuts through as he hands it across the bar it really puts the notion in your head and before you know it you’ve ordered your own and there’s another patron eyeing it up from across the bar.
Used for: Weatbeers, Weizenbock, Kristalweizen, Dunkelweizen
The Pilsner 568ml
You don’t have to be a beer expert to be able to guess what beer this glass is intended for. Light coloured highly carbonated pilsners and lagers look amazing in this glass, it holds its head well and the straight edges really shows of the bubbles racing to join that foaming head.
Used for: Pilsner, Lager, Bock, Blonde ale
The Stange 200-300ml
A narrow, cylindrical glass, the stange is a very simple looking glass. But it’s very clever design, it’s narrowness acts to concentrate the volatiles in the delicate beers that are generally served in this style which has the effect of highlighting the more subtle flavours. Traditionally stange are smaller glasses but the recent trend has seen them becoming bigger. In Germany you can sometimes still see stange carried by waiters on a special tray called a kranz, which has holes that the glass slots into.
Used for: Lambics, Fruit beer, Gueuze, Rye beer
Oversized Wine Glass 650ml
This is one you see more and more of in recent years, more so for drinking new craft beers than more traditional styles. It’s good for swirling and releasing the aromas. The long stem stops gives you something to hold that won’t warm your beer. You see beer in glasses like this on Instagram all the time, it allows a lot of light in and really makes a beer look attractive.
Used for: Belgian dark ale, IPA, Unfiltered Pale Ales
At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter too much what glassware you use, hell you can even drink from the bottle if you want. But a lot of these glasses have developed over hundreds of years to bring out the best in a particular style of beer, so if you really want to fully appreciate a beer at its best then the glassware is arguably as important as the serving temperature or if the beer is fresh or has been aged properly.
I’ve had some great pieces of glassware down the years that have met with unfortunate endings, but the one that I’ve had the longest is my Kwak glass, it’s generally only brought out for very special occasions. Kwak glasses were stolen so often from Belgian bars that apparently a deposit of your left shoe was sometimes required, I’ve never experienced this myself but I guarantee that some guy has walked home with one stuffed inside his jacket and with one cold wet foot and thought it totally worth it.
Do any of you guys have a favourite bit of glassware? Let me know in the comments, pics always welcome.
Thanks for reading,
I’m the Dirty Hallion
For IPA Glassware tips read this:
DO THOSE FANCY IPA GLASSES REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?