Thursday, November 26, 2009

Shaker Pints Need Not Apply

Let me first say that I have drank many a beer out of shaker pints at bars and, every so often, at home. 'Tis a far cry better than drinking from the bottle, but in the overall indulgence of smelling and tasting your beer, they are pretty worthless.

The more aromatic and flavorful your beer is, all the more critical it is to savor her liquid pleasure in an appropriate glass. And on the other end, should she be delicate and subtle, all the better to use a glass which will bring those delicate aromatics and flavors to the forefront.

Not everyone sports an ever-growing epic glassware collection like myself and many other beer aficionados, but enjoying a brew to its utmost potential can be as easy as grabbing that red wine glass or brandy/scotch snifter in your pantry. The more bulbous they are, the better. You can use this general rule of thumb at home or at a bar should the need arise.

It would seem that as America explores the beer frontier, we are also inspiring other beer-minded individuals all the world over to let creative freedom ring. Ironically, many of those countries have understood, embraced, and nourished the enjoyment of beer in proper glassware. As we are in the cusp of a brewing evolution, it is only fitting that we should rediscover the pleasures of flavorful beers of celebrated diversity in proper glassware of a similar notion.

We will put the issue of branded glasses and marketing to the side for now because, quite frankly m'dear, that is another topic of contemplation altogether.

The reality behind proper glassware was and still is to maximize aroma and taste, and in the case of branded glasses, to proudly claim that glorious beery nectar within as your own. Enter understandable skepticism, but that's where actually smelling and tasting the beer come into play.

There is specific science involved in the details of how and why certain beer styles work in certain glass styles, but I'm here to muse over their tangible aesthetics. Besides shape, the quality and thickness of the glass as well as any potential chips, scratches, and most importantly, cleanliness, are all important factors.

Speaking of cleanliness... For goodness sake, never ever stick your precious beer glasses in the dishwasher as they can and will chip, the heat places undue stress on the glass, and the soap residue never ever wholly rinses off, thus building and building with each additional wash cycle. Brrr! Hand-washing only, please, then set said beer glasses upside down on a clean dishtowel (as lint-free as possible) to air-dry to spotlessly clean perfection. Do not hand dry as you will inevitably leave behind lint on the glass surface. If your fear is junk left on the glass, well, that's why you hand-wash them. After a slow air-drying session, an easy eye-inspection will reveal your precious glasses in all their crystal clear sparkling glory.

On another and very important side note, whomever invented the wash-rinse-sanitize sinks so often found in bars these days needs to be shot. I've gotten more dirty, lipstick encrusted, chipped, and tastes-like-sanitizer glasses from those washing abominations than I care to recall.

Let me reiterate: hand-washing is goodly.

Before I delve into some of the most commonly used styles of glass, I have one more public service announcement: do NOT chill your glasses.

8 Standard Glassware Styles:
  1. Tulip Pint - porters and stouts
  2. Nonick Pint - English ales, light session beers, cask ale
  3. Snifter (brandy/scotch) - big beers such as old ales, barleywines, and imperial stouts. quite frankly anything big and imperial does well in these.
  4. Tulip or Poco Grande - most ale ranging from sessionable to big
  5. Tapered Pilsner - any and all pilsners and lagers
  6. Weissbier - any German or German-style hefeweizen, dunkel included
  7. "Bolleke" Goblet, aka the Chalice - strong beers, especially of the Belgian and artisanal small-batch variety
  8. Thistle - scottish and scotch ales, especially any of the wee heavy variety
(thanks to Randy Mosher and his book, "Tasting Beers")

Generic unbranded glasses of the above styles are actually rather easy to acquire these days and believe you me, just a few years ago that was not the case. Specialty household stores and markets worth their mettle will have the majority of styles to choose from, often from a variety of makers. If you are looking for something a bit more classy, Riedel and a few other specialty glass makers now offer a fabulous collection of exquisite designed and produced glasses.

Once you start amassing an appropriate collection of beer supping glasses, storage is just as important. Keep them somewhere safe, preferably not in the open, resting upside down, and never ever stacked atop one-another.

I'll never have enough glasses because I am a glass whore, but that is me. Besides, enjoying different beers in their variously styled glasses is as exciting as the variety of beers there is to enjoy. It only takes one extra step to bring tasting beer to the next level, and glassware is an intricate asset of that journey.

(an original work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)

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