Cocktails & Spirits

SoBeWFF: Does the Glass Make a Difference When It Comes to Beer?

Mason jar, can, funnel: prevailing wisdom has generally dictated that almost any vessel is good enough for beer. But times they are a changin'. And as beer evolves from college dorm endeavor to serious palate pursuit - glassware is evolving right along with it.

Yesterday, Spiegelau hosted a seminar entitled, "Beer Tasting With Spiegelau: Does the Glass Make a Difference?" And after sitting through the 90-minute show and tell, we can honestly say -- it totally does.

Spiegelau is part of Riedel, the iconic manufacturer of wine glasses. For several years, primarily under the direction of Matt Rutkowski, VP of Spiegelau USA, Spiegelau has been dedicated to pursuing beer glass perfection. Their standard line consists of a tulip glass, a lager glass, a wheat beer glass, and a tall pilsner glass. And, they have an IPA-specific glass up for widespread release later this spring.

Rutkowski led us through the ins and outs of glassware. And it was eye-opening.

So why does glassware matter? According to Rutkowski:

1. Standard pint glasses (branded, in particular) are crap. Made with shoddy materials, they're intended as giveaways. They have a green tint, they're super thick and they distort the scent, appearance and taste of any given beer.

2. Thinner, higher quality glass acts as an insulator. Meaning, the beer stays colder, longer.

3. To hold an aroma, a glass must curve back on itself. The difference in aroma between a pint glass and a specialty Spiegelau glass is astonishing (we speak from experience).

4. Curved glasses also allow a head to linger. After almost an hour, the head on two of our test beers in Spiegelau glasses was still in place. The pint glass lost its head after about 10 minutes.

Rutkowski also taught us some other key lessons about glassware.

1. The type of glass and type of beer DO matter. A wheat beer-specific glass doesn't work as many wonders on an IPA. It's still better than a pint glass, however.

2. The "lazarus effect" doesn't work with different glasses. i.e.: you can't resurrect a beer in a pint glass by pouring it into a Spiegelau. No zombie beer.

3. Even the fancy looking Stella glasses aren't effective. Rutkowski calls Stella "the gateway drug to craft beer." And while they look pretty, they're still mass produced, giveaway glasses. i.e.: crap.

So spring for the fancy-schmancy beer glasses. From our experience, they're totally worth it. Visit Spiegelau's website for lots more info.

(Oh, and the FIU brewers made an appearance at the event. They brewed a specialty beer just for the occasion, and it was glorious.)

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Hannah Sentenac covers veg food, drink, pop culture, travel, and animal advocacy issues. She is also editor-in-chief of
Contact: Hannah Sentenac