Beer tastes better in the right glass

Dear pint glass. It’s time for a rest. You’ve been pulling double duty long enough.

The utilitarian glass, also known as the pub glass — the kind some breweries give out as a tour souvenir — will no longer serve every purpose. Well, it will. But it shouldn’t.

The rising popularity of craft beer — with styles from pale ales to barrel-aged stouts — inspires beer drinkers to think twice about the glass from which they sip. It also inspires parallels to wine drinking — snobby ones.

Red wine and white wine are separated into different sized glasses based on aroma. Red wine is served in big, bulbous glasses to let the wine open for more complex flavors. White wine, which is served colder, is served in slimmer glasses to slow down any warming.

Beer, especially craft beer, has a similar guideline, said Rick Boelter, president of Boelter Beverage Group in Waukesha.

“Certain glassware will hold the aroma,” said Boelter, whose company serves breweries across the country. “You can get really specific. There are theories as to where it (elements of the beer) hits in the mouth for tasting.”

Dave Hansen, general manager of The Malt Shoppe, 813 N. Mayfair Road, in Wauwatosa, has been collecting beer glasses for 40 years. He suspects he has 270 glasses in his collection.

“All the traditional type of glassware has been around for a while. It goes back to Germany and England,” Hansen said. Pint glasses worked for ales in England. Tulip glasses were for Belgian-style beers and some Pilsners.

Breweries would often have a logo engraved on the glass so other patrons could tell the brand of beer someone was drinking, Hansen said.

Two American brewers have found a way to do much the same.

Left Hand Brewing teamed with Rogue Ales to work with Spiegelau Glassware and Riedel to make a stout glass for their products. Among the reasons it’s recommended: The “wider, conical bowl significantly amplifies aromas and also provides superior flow to mid-palate, improving the taste, mouth feel and finish of a complex stout.”

Sounds a lot like a wine description. The one thing you should never do goes against all the beer advertising you’ve ever seen: Never pour beer into a frosty mug.

“A frozen glass burns off carbonation and burns away flavor,” said Joel Kennedy, who produces a podcast called Craft Beer Compass about beer.

Kennedy prefers a snifter glass with a wide body and a stem so that body heat won’t warm the beer. Most beers are best served at 55 degrees or warmer, he said. He sells the glasses at his website.

American breweries and stores such as Crate and Barrel weren’t selling the range of beer glassware back when Matthew Cummings needed it. He made his own.

Cummings started the Pretentious Beer Glass Co., a Tennessee-based business in which he makes glassware for “every element of beer — aromatic, yeasty, malty.”

Cummings matches key characteristics highlighted in the beer with a properly shaped glass. For instance, he’s a huge sour beer fan and uses his Imperial beer glass to capture the wild yeast smell.

His wife is not a fan so he’ll pour her portion in a tulip-shaped glass. “The tulip on the top nose dictates flavors and how you smell it and how the smell is delivered,” he said. “In a tulip glass, the hop is softer.”

Cummings has been a glass blower for a decade and is a professional sculptor, but it wasn’t until he was part of a beer group — one person would bring “some great beer, normally small-release batches” — that he began thinking about beer in terms of design leading to flavor.

After perhaps one too many, a club member suggested Cummings design glasses. Cummings started with a tulip-shaped glass which could work for most beer styles. He took that one step further and engraved individual handprints into the glass.

“It’s so pretentious it’s ridiculous,” Cummings said. His business was started. This year Cummings moved from Kentucky to Tennessee. He’s currently building a brewpub to go with his glasses.

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