Category Archives: glassware project

Glassware (revisited)

My friend sent me this Lifehacker link on why there are so many different types of glasses for beer. It’s pretty comprehensive and I found it to be educational enough.

The first comment, predictably, says: “Is it beer? Then it goes in a glass.” Essentially saying that the glassware doesn’t matter at all.

But that’s not what I discovered. The shifts may have been incremental but I could detect them. Is it science? No, but it still suggests that there’s more to the experience of drinking beer than “a glass is a glass is a glass”.

That doesn’t mean that I think anyone should be snobbish one way or another. If you have the glassware for a style, power to you! If you don’t, please enjoy your beer!

No one can tell you how to enjoy your beer.

Glass Experiment: Third Shift Amber Lager

I got some of Third Shift‘s amber lager for the Glass Experiment because the last lager was so bad. Also, with 90 degree days coming up this weekend and god knows how much humidity, lager options are good. Finally, this allows me to justify trying something new. For science!

From the snifter, we both picked up more yeastiness than expected, which the girlfriend felt had a low level Belgian funkiness/fruitiness to it.  I noticed it more from the pint but that scent lingered longer from the snifter. But it finished very cleanly and there was just enough amber malt and hop bitterness to give this beer some body and make it drinkable.

We both agreed it was a solid beer and we would have another. She didn’t have a glass preference for taste, but the pint has visual qualities, maintaining a nice head throughout and ease of drink that pushed it forward.

The next set had a really interesting thing come up, visually. The mug seemed to give bigger bubbles, with a rapidly disappearing head. This made the beer seem blander to me. The carbonation was bigger and harsher, so it’s less pleasant. The schooner actually provided finer carbonation with a bit of scent traveling to us as we drank.

In the end, we both thought the schooner was the best glass for this beer, though I wouldn’t refuse a pint glass either. The mug was startlingly unwelcome for this one but the beer itself is worth the time, especially with an overly hot weekend coming up.

Glass Experiment: Brew Free or Die IPA

I was more excited for this experiment, because I really like the Brew Free or Die IPA from 21st Amendment.

First, the snifter and mug were up. The mug did offer nose for me, because head is here, something which dissipates by the time I get to drink it in snifter, even on a repour.

Despite the much reduced nose, the girlfriend picks up a green tea flavor, first noticed in mug, followed by a finishing bitterness but repeated in the snifter. There is a caramel in the middle to give it a sweet note, contributing to sweetness.

We both prefer the mug here. It just provides a better drinking experience overall. Which I know sounds pretentious as hell but I suppose it’s better to sound pretentious than be wrong.

The schooner was very attractive visually with a big head, helping bring up a pine nose in an immense way.  But while it had the better nose, I found I could get plenty on the pint and still enjoy the IPA just fine.

I agreed that visually, the schooner does look nicer. Aromatics seemed to last longer too, so in the end, the girlfriend preferred the schooner.

I found the continuing carbonation on the pint to provide a lighter mouthfeel later in the drink, but this was a very subtle shift. I probably would take the pint with a  mug-schooner tie and then the snifter.

I Still Did It First (sorta)

CNN has a neat little story on the efforts to make a better beer container. It ends with the writer doing a comparison between a glass designed for IPAs and a regular pint glass.


Teasing aside, while I think it’s neat to have glasses specifically designed for a particular beer, there is one problem. With no less than 30 styles of beer and a minimum of two but usually three or more substyles beneath that, the obvious question comes up: “How would making glasses for each style be practical for anybody?”

If your IPA glass is great at keeping carbonation up throughout the drinking process, then what does that do to a style like a stout, which isn’t supposed to have the same level of carbonation? If the solution is: well, just get a stout glass, then the cost starts to get really absurd, if you like to drink many styles of beer (as I do) and you assume a cost of $10 a glass.

I have better things to do with $300. This is also why I didn’t care about glassware for the longest time: it was the kind of issue that seemed more trouble than it was worth. Even as I do the glass experiment, I have to admit that in most cases the improvement on my beer is notable but not overwhelming. Which brings up the next obvious question: “Why bother? Just give me a clean glass.”

Of course, that doesn’t take away from the functionality of a proper glass or the cool idea. Just because it’s a pain, doesn’t mean that the proper glass doesn’t improve the drinker’s experience. Advances that are too expensive now can be improved on and hopefully made cheaper, so we get better glassware for our across the board style of drinking. That doesn’t suck.

Glass Experiment: Duchesse De Bourgogne

After the last disaster, I decided to go with something that I know is good, regardless of the glass: Duchesse de Bourgogne.

First, we had the schooner and the mug:
The schooner offered a nose of cherry and raisin but the mug, unsurprisingly had no nose, but left a bit more sparkle on the tongue and I noticed a hint of chocolate.

The girlfriend didn’t like the mug at all: no control over sips, you pretty much have to take a larger drink. She wasn’t too thrilled with the schooner either because it offered too much foam when tilted towards the mouth, but it was visually more attractive and had a nice balance, with flavors leaning  to the sweet side.

About 2/3 down I get more nose in the mug: more space for aromatics, the girlfriend confirms.

The mug has finer bubbles, it seems and she speculates that it’s because it keeps the cold in better. Apparently champagne is supposed to be served in chilled glasses for just this reason: tiny bubbles.

We move on to the snifter and the pint glass.

Pint offers a nice nose, but is foamy in a way I don’t notice that on the snifter.

The girlfriend declares: this is a beer I don’t want foam on top of.  She likes snifter best because it offers most control over the mechanics of drinking.

I like the pint because of the reverse: the snifter is a little narrow, but the nose lasts longer and with the Duchesse this is a plus. The greater spread of oxygen in the snifter does push the carbonation out fast.

Agreed that too much head on pint glass makes for a poor visual as it looks like custard and longer lasting fizz seems odd for this beer. But we could get some nose from the beer all the way down and it didn’t get overwhelming.

I think it goes pint, schooner-snifter, mug for me and snifter, pint, schooner, mug for her.

Glass Experiment: Ft. George 1811

In some ways, I’m really glad I had this experience. I just want to say that up front.

Because neither of us liked this beer.

The schooner had a better nose than the mug, which was a  surprise, given previous beers. I got a hint of something lemony. But the mug: nope. Just bitterness at the end. Difference is in the feel of the glass. The beers don’t change much, but the schooner is more comfy in hand.

Because what it’s boiling down to is simple: the Ft George 1811 lager is too bitter. It’s overwhelming. The girlfriend agrees.

Moving on to the next set: Pint keeps better head, and we notice more of a sulfurous funk. I got a touch of malt from the pint and later some corn in the nose but again, the bitterness is taking over the other flavors in this beer, and any other kind of finish is obliterated.

She doesn’t like the snifter because it doesn’t let her take a solid gulp. That glass is meant for sipping and lagers should have swigs taken from them. Snifter gives me more of a hint of corn on the nose but it dissipates too quickly to provide anything else.

Her; a cold mug (in Summer this might work), schooner, pint, snifter.
Me: schooner, mug-pint(tie) snifter.

So now we sit down and try to work it out. The truth is, we don’t like this beer much. Sulfur on the back end, funk in the nose, it smells like cheap beer from our youth, the stuff our fathers used to drink when they bought cheap crap. It tastes bad, its bitterness making it challenging to drink and frankly, I feel ripped off as these four cans cost me over nine bucks. It is not a product that justifies it’s high price tag.

Which is just so strange. I really want to try the stout. I’ve had Ft. George’s Vortex IPA and liked it quite a bit! But this lager is unpleasant to drink and costs too much. No glass is going to fix this problem.

Glass Experiment: Old Rasputin

For this experiment, I took the lessons from the previous one and only poured two glasses at a time. This let us slow down and appreciate what was going on, which was as relief from the pressure of the last experiment. In addition: Old Rasputin is an imperial stout, which means it’s strong and benefits from warming up. Time would be on our side, if you will.

Now take a look at the head on the mug! I can’t explain that to save my life. I poured the beers at the same time but it’s clear that the brandy glass wasn’t allowing any head on this beer at all. Why was there such a different? No idea. But the nose is quite potent at first hit from the mug, moreso than with any other glass.

The girlfriend said the mouthfeel changes with foam. She preferred the foam here, even suggesting the pint over the schooner glass, because the head retention is better. The drink seemed smoother and she enjoyed it more.

The drinks from the brandy glass were warmer. This would happen in the mug eventually, but it took more time and that seemed to matter; the mouthfeel played a bigger role in the enjoyment of the beer and for some reason, the insulation provided by the mug was working in favor of the stout. The beer also would become too warm too quickly in the sniffer, which offered flavors that were less optimal and more roasted.

The pint and schooner glasses didn’t seem to change at all on initial pour, with the head being thicker in pint glass. Nose detection was minimal in these glasses but I expected that, given the style.

As it warmed up, the pint really made a difference. The end of the schooner glass still offered a carbonated bite, the pint didn’t and I thought the pint is better for that and she agreed. The stout became less pleasurable with a concentrated dose of carbonation at the end.

What was most interesting was that unlike the previous test, the mug glass fared the best for this style. The beer was kept a bit colder, so it didn’t suffer as much when you got to the end of the drink. The bountiful head gave a great first whiff but when it died down there was still a very drinkable beer.

Glass Experiment: Mirror Pond

The first ale I chose for the glass experiment was Deschutes’ Mirror Pond. I picked this ale for two reasons: I like it and I know how it tastes. I hoped that this would give me a solid baseline: since I know what Mirror Pond is supposed to taste like, I would have a better sense of how it was affected, if at all.

Here’s what we noticed: Nose was nice in schooner but there was less nose, in the pint glass.

I noticed more malt flavors in the mug and the brandy glass not much nose, at all, initially. I wondered if a short pour as effecting the experience: as you can see from the photo, the brandy glass has the least head on it of the four.

My girlfriend caught more scents than I did but said the flavors was largely unaffected. She didn’t like the weightiness of the mug–which I tried to suggest wasn’t really what we were testing for but upon discussion I had to admit was part of the experience. She got more nose in brandy glass than I did, which I was surprised at because there was no foam on top. The pint glass had and kept foam best, with the mug a second, yet the schooner offered more scent than the mug did.

We agreed that these differences in Mirror Pond were subtle. Very, very subtle. We made a mistake by pouring all four beers at once, which caused us to hurry through each of them at first, trying to get scents, and then work our way through the rest of the experience slower. It made picking differences out more challenging but I will point out that because each beer was the same, plucking differences out should be difficult. Regardless of the challenge, in the future we’ll have all the beers on the same evening but two at a time so we don’t have to rush.

As we drank, I got much more nose from brandy glass-too much. By the end of the floral notes were almost sickening to me. That was a very, very confusing moment because no other glass provided this experience. Also the mug kept the beer coldest out of the glasses. We proposed that it might be better for lagers.

She liked the lager glass then the pint glass, the brandy glass then the mug. I went pint, lager, mug, brandy.

Conclusions: this won’t make a bad beer better, nor a good beer excellent but each glass does push some style points of this beer further than others.

So the first thing to say here is: I was wrong. The glassware does have an impact. I am genuinely surprised by this. I still believe that most people can be forgiven for not caring about the glass much and I don’t think that people should become snooty about their glassware because those differences were small, gentle ones and not really enough to change lead into gold. I feel that a wonderful beer will show its true colors in any container.

But the glass could brighten (or dull) a beer in a few tiny ways that could affect a patron’s enjoyment and sometimes those little changes make all the difference.

Glass Experiment

I’ve made comment before about how I believe the ‘proper glass’ to be a bunk idea. And I have been called out on it.

So there’s only one thing to do: science!*

Here are four different glasses:

I chose these glasses because they’re pretty solid approximations of what might be used to present a beer in an actual pub. I will admit they are not be 100% accurate but my hope is that they’ll be close enough that my results will be credible.

What I’m going to do is get a commercial beer, pour it into each glass and try it, taking notes. Each beer will be drank it its entirety. The hope will be to determine if the glassware is impacting my drink and how much that matters to my enjoyment of the beer.

Some ground rules:

  1. Same set of glasses, every time. I have a lot of pint glasses but I’ll be using the same one every time in order to reduce variance. While I feel that a pint glass should be the same world over, the truth is that one pint glass may be a little different from another. I don’t want the results to appear tainted because I changed a glass.
  2. Commercial beers as samples. Homebrews, as consistent as they can (and should) be, cannot compare to the kind of near-certain quality of a commercial beer. Since the goal is to discover whether or not glassware impacts a beer and how that affects the experience, the base for that experience has to be the same and again, to avoid tainting the results I want that base to be built by a professional.
  3. Multiple beers will be sampled over the course of this experiment. There are just too many styles of beer out there. To run the experiment with an IPA and then presume those results would apply to all other styles is foolish. I won’t get to every style of beer but I will run the experiment multiple times with different beers, so readers can see how things play out.
  4. I will have at least one other person to try the beers with so we can compare notes. This will usually be my girlfriend. Beer judging has long been a collaborative thing and I see no reason to change that. Again: this will help refute any bias I may have and provide better results.
  5. All glasses will be cleaned prior to use. Just so we’re clear.

I think that covers it. I’ll have some results very soon.

*should not be taken for actual science