Taste gets all the attention, but great beer really can delight four of the five senses.
There's a beer's color and clarity, beckoning from the glass. There's aroma, where a deep inhale can hint at the flavor to come or bring wonders of its own. There's flavor, of course, tickling the taste buds. But after the sip, there's also how a beer feels in your mouth, dry or creamy, thin or full, fizzy or flat.
Brewers put a lot of effort into each one of these dimensions of a beer, so if you're really going to appreciate beer, you've got to stop drinking it out of the bottle or can. Without a pour into a glass, you're almost entirely ignoring sight and smell, and shortchanging flavor to boot, because a large portion of taste is derived from smell.
Let's take a look at eight different glasses you should own to enhance your beer-tasting experiences.
-- Chris Drosner, Beer Baron
NONIC PINT: This is my workhorse. Somewhat similar to the shaker glass, the nonic ("no-nick") glass has a broader top than bottom, so it's stackable, which wins points in the food service industry, but it has a little flare on the neck that helps retain the beer's aroma, although not as much as some of the other glasses we'll see below. This glass is English in origin, so it's traditionally paired with styles like brown ale, pale ale, porter and IPA. If a beer is really special, though, I'm looking for a glass that focuses aroma better. Its large volume has made it useful in my home also as a water glass, if you're into that sort of thing.
TULIP: No other glass in my cupboard says "I'm a beer geek" more than the tulip glass, but that distinctive stem and the dramatic shape have purpose. The stem minimizes warming hand-to-glass contact. The shape preserves the beer's head and allows the aromas to be concentrated at the inward taper while also providing an easier-to-drink outward taper at the top. Some call this dandiest of beer glasses a Belgian ale glass, but I find it also works well for heavy-aroma beers such as IPAs and stouts.
GOBLET: This isn't quite a true goblet, which tends to be heavier, with a broader mouth and less inward taper — all reasons I like this glass more. The stem and inward taper are similar to the tulip, but that taper continues all the way to the mouth, preserving those aromas. Some call this a porter/stout glass, focusing on color, to which I'd add amber for the same reason and IPA, for the aroma-enhancing qualities.
FOOTED PILSNER: This tall, slender glass was developed to showcase its namesake beer's light color and effervescence. And the bubbles do look really good in there, but I find it a little too teetery to use it for much more than its traditional pairing.
WEIZEN: One of the most distinctive glasses in the beer world, the tall, high-volume weizen glass evolved to hold German wheat beers. It's noted for its height and large volume, which were designed to show off the hefeweizen's trademark cloudiness and promote the yeasty, fluffy white head. A shorter and much smaller version of this glass became the standard "tapper" glass in Wisconsin bars several generations back. Loyal readers will know I don't do much recreational drinking of wheat beers, and the weizen glass isn't versatile enough to get much use with other styles I drink more often.
WILLI BECHER: This might be the best beer glass in the world. The Willi Becher is also known as the German pint, and while it looks pretty straightforward, there's a barely noticeable inward taper at the top that does that aroma thing really well. There's no stem, so it's a little more practical than the goblet or tulip, and it's a little less fancy, which I usually consider a plus. Many beer bars use the Willi Becher as their default serving vessel for a 16- or 20-ounce pour. It's a tapered variant of the stange, a glass traditionally used to serve German bocks, kölsches, altbiers, but I use it for just about anything.
IRISH PINT: The shapely Irish pint — most of them you've seen probably had the Guinness logo on the side instead of the Leinie's one above — succeeds where the shaker fails because of that gentle curve that usually flares inward at the very top.
SNIFTERS: I turn to one of my snifters — both have logos, so I've never used them for column photos — when I break out a really special beer. The snifter focus beer aromas more than any of the other glasses here, and the smaller size is helpful with high-alcohol (and, generally, high flavor) beers. It's a mainstay of any good beer bar, particularly for 6-, 8- or 10-ounce pours.