Picking The Proper Beer Glass
You don't have to take glassware as seriously as a Belgian beer cafe to benefit from using a glass that flatters the style of beer you choose for the moment. As well as the visual aesthetics -- a beautiful beer looks even better in a beautiful glass -- there are serious tasting considerations when making your choice.
Yes, we know people who have ordered beer in Belgium and then been told they couldn't get it NOT because the cafe didn't have the beer in stock but because they didn't have the proper glass to serve it from. No country in the world does as wonderful job of matching beer glass to beer style, and even individual beers, as Belgium. Breweries all make their own glasses with colorful logos, and offer different styles for different beers they brew.
For instance, if you order a Lindemans Framboise, it is best enjoyed in a champagne-style flute with Lindemans logo on the side. Drink Hooegarden White in a stocky tumbler, but try the Hooegarden Speciale in its own flute. Have Duvel in a large tulip goblet, and ... we go could on an on.
OK, we'll back up. You're probably not ready to go out and buy 300 beer glasses, and you sure don't have any place to store them. Let's start instead with six glasses that will cover most occasions:
Basic pint glasses - Many brewpubs and bars use tumbler or shaker pint glasses, and you've probably got some of those at home. These are sturdy, easy to stack and OK for serving many styles of beer. That's why they are popular, but it also means that they aren't great at anything. A British-style pint glass, bulged near the rim, will serve you better for pale ales, bitter, porters and stouts. The glass will draw in the distinctive aroma hops you expect in an American pale ale, while also capturing the darker, roasted malt flavors of stout.
Pilsner glasses - A proper pilsner glass is tall with an inverted cone shape and focuses the hop aroma of a beer. It allows for zesty carbonation and a robust head.
Weizen glasses - You need the height of one of these to serve a traditional Bavarian weizen (wheat) with a big head and high carbonation. The slightly bowed-out shape and narrower top will focus the yeasty, fruity aroma.
Goblets - Excellent for big and malty beers where hop aroma plays a small role in the flavor profile. The bowl should be big enough to hold the whole beer and still collect the aromas you want to savor before drinking. Some call these chalices, some goblets and while their may be a technical distinction between the two don't worry about it.
Tulips and snifters - These accentuate the nose for specially aromatic beers. A snifter has a somewhat smaller opening and taller cup. Its design is perfect for aromatic Belgian ales. Snifters are ideal for barley wines, allowing the complexity of malt aromas and alcohol to blend. Yes, a brandy snifter will work fine. If you are serving smaller amounts then wine glasses make an acceptable alternative.
Thistles - We are getting into specialty glassware here but these are too cute to leave out. The are bowed at the bottom, then open a little like a pilsner. They also work with Belgian ales, but think of them first when drinking Scottish ales. They will accent the malty aromas while allowing your beer to sneak under a robust head. Many single-malt whiskey drinkers favor a smaller version of a thistle, but without a stem.