A small debate raged on Twitter recently about the use of shaker pints. As far as drinking vessels go, they don’t really do anything for your beer. A shaker pint doesn't concentrate aromas, promote head retention, or keep the warmth of your hand where it should be. It’s also a pretty large vessel for high-ABV beers. So this week, we asked the Fervent Few about “proper glassware.” Is a shaker pint ever ok? Does the proper glass actually enhance your beer drinking experience? Are we all just overthinking it?
Jim Doolittle: “I drink daily out of shaker glasses. Don't care. If I pour a BA stout, it'll usually go into a short tulip glass.”
Lamar Walker: “For me, I absolutely think glassware matters. It affects the aroma and mouthfeel, which directly impacts taste. Depending on the type of establishment you are in and what you are drinking, a shaker pint can lessen the overall experience. Drinking most beer from a shaker pint dulls the beer almost as badly as drinking from a plastic cup would. It may not completely destroy it, but it definitely doesn’t help or improve it at all. It is usually not the best representation of a beer.
Thankfully, it’s becoming less common for serious beer bars to exclusively use shaker pints. After the tap list selection, the variety of glassware, or lack thereof, can be a key indicator of the care and interest that a bar has for the beer they serve. I’ve never seen wine or bourbon served in a shaker pint or any other improper glassware without regard to style. Beer isn’t any less of a choice and shouldn’t be treated as such.
There is a lot of discussion in the beer community about how to improve quality, tap line cleaning, date coding, freshness, and old beer being sold or served. How does any of that truly matter if, ultimately, once it is in front of the consumer, the glassware doesn’t?”
Jaron Wright: “I think proper glassware is a cool added touch to any serious beer place. I think that it probably makes for better aroma and mouthfeel. But I think more importantly, in the same way a beer tastes better when you get an idea of its story, it probably has more to do with our brain taking a cue that we should be enjoying this more.
I don't get the argument that a Kolsch, nonic, or Pilsner glass is going to make my beer taste better than a shaker pint, but I can dig on the coolness of it being served in a traditional glass.
My only huge pet peeve with the shaker is I feel that it's advertised as a pint when 12 ounces will nearly fill it. Otherwise, if the beer in the glass is good, I'm not going to fuss.”
Zack Rothman: “Proper glassware matters to me, as it aids in head development and retention, which often enhances a beer’s aroma. Much of what we taste in beer comes from what we smell, so I feel the glass is also important when it comes to flavor. I try to drink beers as the brewer intended, so if they’ve created a specific glass for their beer then I will use that. Otherwise, I will use glasses that complement the particular style of beer I am drinking.
My idea of proper glassware changed when I traveled to Italy and first drank from a Teku glass, developed by Teo Musso of Birrificio Le Baladin as the ‘universal beer glass.’ The shape of the glass truly concentrates the aroma and makes for a better drinking experience with almost any style of beer. The stem is a nice touch and adds to the sophistication of the glass. I’ve seen many American breweries create their own branded Teku glasses. While there is a marketing element to that, I’d still recommend buying one from your favorite brewery if they have one. It has certainly changed the way I drink beer.”
Matthew Modica: “If I've had a beer a million times served in a tulip glass, then I would likely enjoy that beer again to be served in a tulip. I've had beers that should have been served in a tulip served to me in shakers, and the profile (not perception) does change, it's not the beer I've come to love. I prefer to spend my money on beer that is served in, or at least close to, the proper glass.”
Kristen Foster: “I agree that the glassware impacts the taste, aroma, etc., but more than that I think the experience of the drinker changes with proper glassware. Staring down a bar and seeing different beers in different types of glasses signals to the consumer that the glass their beer is served in matters. It's intentional. There's something special about the beer they're drinking that demands a different type of glass. If we want people to see beer differently, glassware is a small opportunity to elevate the expectation of what someone will be tasting. If wine was served in a shaker, before even tasting it, the drinker's expectation would be lowered because they're drinking something they can also have water in.”
Eric Flanagan: “Aesthetically, it’s packaging for draft beer. History also plays a part in some glassware, which I like. I love low-ABV English Ales in a 20-ounce nonic. In terms of sensory, certain glassware is engineered to aid in good head retention, which not only releases the carbonation, but also showcases yeast by-products and hop oils. A Pilsner glass, or something tall and skinny, showcases the bright clarity and the inch-plus head that the brewer intended. The top of a snifter encloses all the malt and yeast aromas in a bigger beer. Serving sizes also play a part. I’m not really interested in most sours, especially highly acidic and/or acetic ones, in much larger than a 13-ounce snifter. Tulips spread the flavors over tongue, but I think that glass is more aroma and aesthetic than flavor difference.”
Chris Sadler: “In my book, there's really no denying that a basic upgrade from a shaker to some sort of shape that concentrates the aroma of the beer matters. Same with upgrading to a halfway decent wine glass. Beyond that, I'd like to dismiss something like a Zalto wine glass as pretentious bullshit, but the times I've drank out of one at a wine shop or restaurant (no way I'm buying something that expensive and fragile for home use), tasting from something so finely crafted, seemed to make a tangible difference. Maybe that difference was all psychological, but so what, I've come to think. It inescapably made the wine taste better, for whatever reason. Similarly, when I sit back and drink out of a nice Teku from my one of my favorite breweries, maybe it really tastes no different than from a cheaper tulip, but why try and debunk (if you actually can) the enhancement of the beer it seems to give me?”
Mike Sardina: “Glassware is primarily situational. It depends on where I'm drinking a beer, and with whom. If I'm just having a beer by myself at home, after work, 99% of the time I'm drinking from stemware (specifically, a Durabor Charente) that allows me to put a whole can of beer into it at once. That glass is shaped to provide the aromatics, it sits well on the mouth, and I can hold the stem so the beer doesn't get warm, or I can hold the bowl and warm the beer up.
If I'm drinking with friends and entertaining, I might break out smaller glassware, or I might choose glasses that are properly branded for the beer(s) that we are sharing to build on the experience.
If I'm out at a bar or taproom, generally I'm deferential to how the beer is served in that particular space. If I'm at a brewery, especially one that I respect enough to visit, I sure as hell am not going to question the way that the beer is presented to me, and that includes the glassware. Sure, I have preferences, but again, so long as the glass is clean, I'm generally just fine with it.
As for the shaker pint, I honestly sometimes appreciate the heft and weight of it. Some of my favorite bars and breweries use shaker pints, and I frankly wouldn't want it any other way. Toronado in San Diego is a great example. When I'd go there and get a beer, it felt like you were drinking a ‘beer’ beer. Setting that shaker pint back onto the bar, maybe a bit too hard, took all the pretentiousness out of it—it simply felt like you were drinking a beer. Plus, the shape of the glass isn't truly all that bad for hoppy beers, again, so long as the glass is clean and the beer is poured properly with a head on it.”
Rick Owens: “Glassware matters to me from an aesthetic standpoint. I like clean looking, simple glassware. If I’m drinking IPA, Pale Ale, or Pilsner, I’m usually pouring it into one of my Willi Becher glasses. I recently bought some Riedel Ouvertures (both red and white) that are a lot of fun to drink Saison and natural wine out of. The glass shape that GBH chose for the Fervent Few glassware is another favorite. To me, those glasses look cool and serve a dynamic purpose.”
Dave Riddile: “I prefer a glass similar to a wine glass for beers. Something that allows for the beer to open up, present a full aroma, and that lets my nose into or near the opening of the glass as I drink. Generally that will be a tulip or sometimes even a large wine glass depending on the beer. I say all this, but I’m also the guy who will drink a double-dry-hopped haze bomb straight from the can. So what do I know?”
Nick Naretto: “When I am out at a bar I almost always expect to receive my beer in a shaker pint. I’ve definitely had some beers that deserved much nicer glassware, but I’m not going to get bent out of shape about it. Any glass is better than drinking beer straight from the packaging. I usually expect the breweries to respect their beer enough to serve it in something other than a shaker pint, but that’s not always the case. I won’t exhaust you with an entire list of the shapes of glass that I’ve been served beer in, but they’re usually in some form of a pint, sometimes a tulip, and occasionally a large wine glass or a can-shaped glass.”
Nick Yoder: “If it's my first time trying a beer, I would prefer it to be served in the proper glassware. But as long as the glass is clean and not frosted, I'm not going to complain.”
So now that we’ve established what we want out of glassware, what do we actually use at home? Does the Fervent Few keep a large collection of glasses, or stick to one or two styles? And what's the best way to get a glassware collection started?
Johnny Swinehart: “For personal use, I recommend a short-stem tulip that can hold 16 ounces. Works with most styles and leaves plenty of room for foam.”
Lamar Walker: “My personal glassware collection runs the full gamut of styles. At home I drink from tulips, snifters, goblets, nonic pints, weizen, Pilsner glasses, etc., based upon the style of beer I am drinking. Shaker pints are used for water only.
For someone who wants to improve their home glassware collection, ironically the most versatile type of glassware is not in the beer family, but wine. A red wine glass works for most beer, many wines and ciders. If someone wanted to immediately and inexpensively improve a collection that is ‘lacking,’ obtaining a high quality red wine glass would be my recommendation.
It can be expensive to establish a quality glassware collection across all styles, but I find it worthwhile. The actual brand of glassware and what makes one more ‘quality’ than another is an entirely different topic altogether.”
Robbie Wendeborn: “Cheap stemless wine glasses from Wally World are my jam. IKEA also makes a 14-ounce (I think this is correct), slightly fluted stemmed glass that I like a lot, too.”
Jaron Wright: “At home I have a mix of shaker and tulip glasses. They usually are from local breweries, festivals, or places I've visited. I like having an eclectic, non-matching set. I will generally use the tulips first.”
Zack Rothman: “Aside from owning a Teku glass, I’d suggest purchasing a tulip glass for styles that lose much of their character from being poured in a pint glass. While many styles are just fine after being poured in a shaker pint, having a tulip glass to support head formation makes many styles that can be enjoyed in a pint glass taste even better.
I’ve limited my glassware collection to only glasses that are really unique or that I feel I may need, rather than holding onto branded glassware I may never use. It’s nice to have a snifter when you’re drinking a barleywine. Not every beer needs to be enjoyed in a glass, especially those that tell you to ‘drink from the can.’ But when I’m tasting a beer for the first time, I want to get the full experience. When you’re pouring beer into a glass, it helps to have the right one.”
Lana Svitankova: “At home I have a British pint, tulip glass, and a wine glass. It's enough for me, and generally speaking if you want to get the most out of beer, the wine glass will do its job perfectly. Festival glasses tend to crowd the shelf sometimes, but then I give them to a collector friend of mine.”
Nick Naretto: “The glass that I typically drink out of at home is a Spiegelau stemmed Pilsner glass. When I was shopping for some new glassware, I picked this tulip-shaped glass because it works well with every beer style. It doesn’t feature any visible branding, so it is easy to get a nice look at the beer and it also works well for pictures. I also have the Spiegelau Stout glass, which would most likely work well for any beer style, but I tend to stick using it for Stouts only. When I open a bigger bottle or I am sharing a beer I will use the GBH 10.5-ounce tasting glasses. I do have a couple other brewery-branded glasses that are various shapes and sizes, but I tend not to use them anymore. My last choice at home would be a shaker pint, but I would still drink from it.”
Nick Yoder: “At home I predominantly use a wine glass or a tulip glass as I feel both allow me to evaluate the beer properly. I also have a Pilsner Urquell dimpled mug my brother-in-law brought with him on his last trip home from Prague. I reserve that one for Pilsners.”
Whether you have to drink your beer out of the perfect glass, or you're just happy to be drinking beer out of any glass at all, we hope that you found this article helpful and entertaining. We’re going to end this week with Caldwell Bishop who decided to throw away the notion that glasses are even necessary to enjoy great beers.
Caldwell Bishop: “I think you should probably try your favorite beer in every kind of receptacle imaginable. Horn, pineapple, old shoe, bamboo basket, etc. Who knows, maybe you will find a new favorite receptacle. And it might even be like trying a new beer every time.”