Sometimes drinking a fancy beer out of a Solo Cup just isn’t going to cut it. But in the wide and varied world of glassware, does it really matter what you put your beer in? The short answer is a subtle and quiet yes. On close inspection, though, the glass really matters most for three things: appearance, speed, and all of the smells.
The most important thing to keep in mind when you decide which beer glass to use is the width of the rim. A rim can change the entire way you drink a beer. Wide rims send the beer charging out of the glass and into your mouth like Braveheart, while narrow rims let the beer out in a relative dribble. A wide rim also allows the beer to quickly aerate. More exposure to the air means more carbonation leaving the beer at once. Luckily, the wide rim encourages chugging the beer before it goes flat anyway.
Before the rim dictates your drinking speed, however, there are the smells. A tulip glass that’s wide at the bottom, thins out near the top, then flares at the rim holds the head of the beer in the bottleneck of the glass. The head of the beer is where all the citrusy, hoppy, and wheaty aromas sit. A well-maintained head on your beer means that the aromas will be right there for when you need them.
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Finally, there’s appearance. It’s a statement to drink out of a glass branded for the specific beer you’re drinking, just like it’s a statement to drink straight from the can. A chalice (like the one Stella Artois made famous) is just as much about being seen holding fancy stemware as it is about keeping your hands from warming up the beer. But it’s not just people who can look better holding certain glasses; beer can look better in certain glasses too.
Pilsners are thin, light, easy-drinking beers. They benefit from the pilsner glass, which is just as simple in design. It’s tapered up from the bottom and it’s tall, showing off the beer’s color and encouraging a long pour that brings a comfortable head up to the top of the beer. A weizen, or wheat beer glass, shows off what’s inside in a similar way. The glass is a mix between a chalice and a pilsner glass with a narrow bottom leading up to a slightly bigger bowl area on top. There’s plenty of room to show off the unfiltered, hazy color of the beer as well as a wide rim to contain the thick head of foam.
While beer glasses present obvious differences in appearance, the effect they have on the beer inside is subtle to negligible. The beer itself does the heavy lifting when it comes to how it tastes, not the glass. In the end, no matter the occasion, the best receptacle is the one at hand.