If you thought glassware in the wine community was a big deal, wait till you hear about the variety of beer glasses available and the reasons why they all exist.
Since the styles of beers brewed come from different flavors and preparation methods, the glassware in which they can be best enjoyed also comes in different shapes and sizes. Plenty of breweries suggest their own glasses to showcase the beer they work so hard to make.
After all, it is the glass that provides the initial aesthetics of the beer. Basic beers are served in pint glasses such as Pale Ale’s, IPA’s, Porters, etc. The experience with glassware such as Snifters helps you absorb the aromas of the beer as well as the taste as the nose is inserted in to the glass while sipping it. The end goal… to better experience the taste associated with certain styles of beers.
What is a beer snifter?
The Snifter, also known as the inhaler, is a short-stemmed glass with a large bottom leading out to a tapered mouth. Although these glasses are commonly used for whiskeys or brandies, these glasses are also popularly used for strong ales that have high alcohol content.
The large bottom surface area in the design of the snifter allows for better evaporation of the contained liquid and the tapered top prevents the aroma from escaping the glass. Many use the rounded bottom to also cup the glass to keep it warm.
These attributes have made the snifter a preferred glass for many styles of beer as brewers want their consumers to experience the complex aromas of the beer while fully enjoying it in the way they intended.
Apart from this, beers with an ABV of over 8% such as imperial stouts, Baltic porters, barley wines and double pale ale are also best recommended sipped from a snifter.
Snifters are often used for high alcohol content beers, beers that are consumed in lower quantities or beers that you can’t drink quickly as compared to other common everyday beers. And once poured into the snifter, they are treated like fine wine. The beer is even given a slight swirl to enhance the flavours, improve the aromatics and also the carbonation in it. Like the wine glass, the beer snifter is designed in a manner in which the beer can be swirled around a bit without causing it to spill. The volatile stirring helps in releasing the full aroma of the brew.
Pouring the beer right
This is an important step if you do not want to lose out on the aromatics of the beer or strip it of its carbon dioxide content. Also, if you do not give the beer enough head when it is poured in to the glass, your beer tasting experience will suffer.
- The first step to pouring your beer right is to ensure that you have a clean glass that is free from any residue, cleaning detergents or chemicals… basically anything that could impact the flavour of beer.
- The beer glass must be angled at 45 degrees and the beer is ideally poured an inch or so away from the lip of the glass and dropped right in the center on the side walls of the glass.
- As you see the glass filling up to nearly 75-80% tilt the glass to its upright positions and pour towards the center to create just about a half an inch of head.
- English styled beers often produce minimal head and so you can be a lot more aggressive while pouring the beer straight into the center of the glass allowing it to hit the glass with a little bit of force so that some of the carbonation is released into the head.
- Belgium Beers, on the other hand, (that for which Snifters are used) produce a lot of foam and you must try to keep the foam down to levels of half an inch.
That being said, most bars will not really offer you a snifter for your beer. However, it shouldn’t discourage you from trying it. Many have the notion that snifters are used only for tasting cognac or brandy, but the truth is that snifters are also used for beers primarily to enrich the aromatics of the brew.
The beer snifter has plenty of resemblance to a wine glass or a goblet. The large bowl at the bottom designed to hold plenty of liquid is attached to a thin stem and footer. Despite a large surface area, the glass isn’t topped all the way to the rim as it a glass type that is used more for beers with considerably strong flavours and aromas. Filling the glass up to the rim will limit you from enjoying the beer to its full potential. Beer enthusiasts would suggest Double or Imperial IPA’a and Belgian Ales as those that are most enjoyed with the snifters.
There is a wide selection of beer glasses available, but so much is dependent on the style of the beer and how it is best enjoyed. The importance of the glass when consuming beer is where the beer is intended to hit you on your palate.
In the case of the snifter, due to the design and shape of the glass, it makes it easier for you to take bigger sips, hitting you further back in the palate as opposed to a different style of glass that will hit you at the front of the palate.
Glassware is selected depending on what each brewer wants you to experience from the beer. Also, stemware glasses such as snifters are meant to be held at the stem mainly because you do not want to modulate the temperature of the liquid with your body heat. The shape of the snifter gets the nose into the glass before you sip it, which is one of the main highlights in experiencing the taste of the beer poured in it.
Carbonation is often overlooked when beer is served, but this is preserved when using a snifter. The foam itself traps plenty of aromas in it which stays in the glass and makes for a visually appealing presentation.
Beers generally served with the Snifter are American Barley wine, Belgian Strong Pale Ale/Dark Ale, American Double/ Imperial Stout, American Strong Ale, Braggot, English Barley wine, Double Bocks, Belgian Quads among others. The typical volume is anywhere between 12-20 ounces.
Some Beer Snifters we recommend are:
- Shidao,22 oz,Set of 2, Premium Strong Crystal Snifter Beer Whiskey Drinking Glasses, Ecological & Lead Free Crystal, Clear
- Personalized Engraved Beer Gift Growler & 2 Snifters Modern Hops and Wheat Design
- Personalized Engraved Newlywed Beer Snifter Set with Yours and Mine Joined Name Art 18oz (Set of 2)
Glassware similar to the Snifter are Goblets and Chalices which can also be used as an alternative to Snifters due to the close similarity in shape and design.
Goblet and Chalices
Goblets are one of the more extravagant forms of glassware that beer is sipped from. Pint glasses hold a specific amount of liquid in them. Goblets, on the other hand, come in different varieties and sizes. The stem of the goblet is thick and long which holds a bowl sitting on top.
Chalices have a similar shape and are often referred to as Goblets as well. One feature that differentiates the two is that Chalices are built with thicker walls and thus are heavier.
Chalices and Goblets are also available with golden or silver rims, which is more of a decorative feature. Just like Snifters, Goblets and Chalices are also used for serving beer such as Belgian Ales and German Bocks that are heavy and malty.
Just like the Snifter, this type of glassware has an opening that is wide– meant to assist with enhancing the overall flavour profile and aroma of the brew.
Tulip & Thistle Glasses
Another form of glassware similar to the Snifter are Tulip & Thistle Glasses which are essentially designed to maintain a nice thick foam head and enhance the flavours and aromatics of hoppy and malt brews.
Just like the Snifter, these glasses also have a small stem and footer and the bowl that is in the shape of a tulip flower. To keep the foam head trapped, the glass has a top rim that curves outward. Thistle Glasses are more like a stretched out version of the Tulip in its shape. The design being taller has less curves around the lip. It is preferred glassware for serving Scottish Ales. Just like the Snifter the tulip glass is also used to serve stronger brews such Belgian Ales, barley wines and Double IPA’s.
Most commonly used glasses
The shaker pint is a common glass typically used to serve beer, specifically the American pint glass often used at bars or restaurants. Sometimes also referred to as the Shaker glass, the glass has a cylindrical shape that widens towards the top. A typical Shaker Pint can hold up to 16 oz of beer in it and is common for serving, ales, IPA’s stouts and lagers.
A similar form to this glass is the English pint glass that is shaped close to the design of the American Pint but has a slight lip near the top.
A highly robust form of glassware for beer mainly due to the large quantities it can hold, the beer mug is common in many parts of the world. It is characterized with its wide handle on one side along with a wide cylindrical shape.
The walls of the glass are thick and meant to keep the beer cool. The handle placed on the side is to prevent the heat of the palm from warming the beer. The handle also helps to properly grip the glass.
Very similar to the beer mug, the stein differs in characteristics with a hinged lid along with a level to place your thumb on and open easily.
Apart from glass, steins are made in a variety of materials such as porcelain, stoneware, pewter, silver and also wood. ‘Stein’ gets its abbreviation from the German word ‘Steinzeugkrug’ which means stoneware jug or tankard.
Among beer drinkers this type of glass is more regarded as ornamental or as a souvenir.
Pilsners glasses are designed for light beers and are tall and thin in shape with little-to-no curvature on the top, towards the rim. The variation is similar to a pint glass but holds less beer than a regular pint glass.
With this design, the glass allows for better appreciation of the color and assists with carbonation bubbles in the glass. The rim is generally wider towards the top as it is meant to retain the foam head of the poured beer.
Often confused as pilsner glasses due to the similarity in shape and size, the Weizen Glasses have more of a visible curvature to them. They are narrower at the bottom and wider towards the top. When compared to a regular pint glass, the Weizen holds almost half a litre of beer in it. These glasses are most preferred for wheat beers. Beers poured in these glasses encourage a thick foam head and better allow the aroma to appreciate which is associated with wheat beers.
Also referred to as Stangen glass, stick glass or a rod glass, this glassware is named after the German word “rod” as it closely resemble one. Tall and slender, the Stange Glass can hold up to 6.5 ounces of beer in it. However, there are large sizes available as well.
Delicate beers such as the German Kolsch are served in Stange Glasses as the glass works well to intensify the flavours and aromas of the brew.