Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Special Tools: Beer Glasses

When you are thirsty and you grab a glass to drink from, any glass will do.  But, did you know that there are dedicated glass shapes and sizes for various drinks?  We all recognize some of the more familiar glasses  - shot glasses, martini glasses or margarita glasses.  But, there are dedicated glass shapes for alcoholic and non-alcohollic drinks alike.  Sure, any glass will hold water --but I think it's fun to know about the reasons behind the different shapes. And I love tools -- glasses are just another weapon in the mixologists arsenal!
The primary reasons for different glass shapes are:
1. Tradition
2. Sized to Contain Proper (and legal in some cases) Serving Measurements
3. Practicality for Storage (stacking in bars, industrial washers)
4. Enhancing the flavor of the beverage
5. Enhancing the appearance of a beverage or ingredient
6. Promotion of a brand or company
7. Safety

The first glass that I researched was beer glassware.  Beer glassware are quite numerous and have a long tradition. While some people prefer beer left in the cold glass bottle or even the chilled can, pouring beer into a glass allows the drinker to appreciate the aroma.  The handles on glasses prevent the heat from your hand from warming the glass which in turn warms the beer.
We all remember seeing English tankards or German steins that look like giant mugs in various historic imagery.  Steins usually were made of stoneware before the advent of glass.  Mugs are sturdy and great for clinking after a quest or crusade. A stein was a German mug that had a lid to keep flies out after the 14th century and the bubonic plague.  Nowadays, lids are less common but beer mats are used to cover the beer to keep out unwanted particles while outdoors.
Pilsner glasses are used for beer due to the shape which is slender and tapered. Pale, light beers and lagers are the primary use for pilsners to show off the beer color. The shape is useful as the broad top of the glass will maintain the beer head. A pilsner glass is smaller than a pint glass between 200 ml to as large as 500 ml in Europe.
 Believe it or not, a snifter (chalice or tulip) is also an appropriate glass for beer.  The shape captures the aroma of strong and sweet beers such as IPAs, ales, stouts,  barelywines and wheat wines.
A pint glass comes in a standard 16 oz US Tumbler (a poor man's pint) to a 20 oz Imperical (nonic).  This is the go-to glass and works for all varieties of beers.  Sometimes it has a bulbous portion that makes for good head on the beer and makes it easy to stack them.
The Bavarian Weizen glass is considered the classiest of all beer glasses. It holds half a liter and allows room for foam.  Wheat beers are served in this and if poured incorrectly, will result in too much foam.  Many bars solve this problem by giving the patron the beer from the bottle along with the weizen with a bit of water in the bottom. This keeps the beer from foaming excessively.

There are additional ways of serving beer  -- yards of ale, dimpled pint glasses, pewter tankards, but most are variations on the the basic shapes.

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