How to Drink Like a Beer Connoisseur

Your cheat sheet to drinking your brews from the right glass, as part of our feature on the best craft beer in New England.

By | Chowder |

Just as specific stemware brings out the best in a bordeaux or riesling, the right glass can elevate a pilsner or stout. We asked Meadhall owner Scott Cooper, who stocks a different glass for each of his brewpub’s 100 beers, to explain the different shapes and traditions. Here’s a cheat sheet.

Beer glasses(Photo by Sam Kaplan)

1. Stein: For Low-Alcohol Lagers and Ales
Commonly seen at German beer gardens and festivals, the stein is big, durable, and meant for lengthy drinking spells.

2. Chalice: For Belgian-Style Beers
Traditionally used by Trappist monks, this glass has a wide rim and body, allowing plenty of room for the frothy head created by the massive amounts of malt in these beers. The stem means less handling of the glass, which helps maintain the beer’s temperature.

3. Wine Glass: For Fruit Beers, Lambics, and Sour Ales
Beers with big, fruity, aromatic bouquets are best served in a stemmed glass, filled three-­quarters of the way so you can stick your nose in and get a good, close whiff. Unsurprisingly, these are popular at breweries in or near winemaking regions.

4. Tulip Glass: For Saisons and Belgian Tripels
Like a chalice, it has a wide body, but the tapered top is meant to support aromatic beers with high amounts of yeast.

5. Weizen Glass: For Wheat Beers
White and wheat beers tend to be made with a healthy amount of yeast; the height on this glass suspends it in the liquid, creating a lovely color gradation. A wider mouth with a tapered bottom helps support the beer’s foamy head.

6. Snifter: For Higher-Alcohol Beers
Generally used for beers like barley wine, snifters are also appropriate for those aged in bourbon or wine barrels, which can produce rich, strong-flavored, high-alcohol brews.

7. Nonic Pint: For Porters, Stouts, IPAs, Lagers, and Cask Ales
Originally designed for the British pub, the pint has a shoulder or bulge just below the lip of the glass, making it sturdy and easy to stack.

  • ArtisanalBrewer78

    I can’t help but feel this is a marketing position akin to Riedel stemware.

    As Seth Godin is keen to point out in his book, All Marketers are Liars, Riedel is a highly successful line of glass-blown stemware designed to deliver wine’s “message” via carefully-crafted and uniquely shaped glass for different types of wine. In other words, they claim the shape of the glass makes the wine taste better.

    Skeptical?

    So was Thomas Matthews, executive editor of Wine Spectator. Premier wine critic Robert Parker, Jr. was also initially unconvinced.

    And yet Matthews, Parker, hundreds of other wine experts, and thousands of customers now swear it’s true. Taste tests throughout Europe and the U.S. proved time and again that wine — expensive, inexpensive, and middling — tasted better in Riedel glasses.
    Except it’s not true. At least not empirically.

    When subjected to double-blind testing that doesn’t let the taster know the shape of the glass, people found no detectable difference in taste between glasses. Objectively, the shape of the glass just doesn’t matter.

    But subjectively, when belief in the glass and the experience of the glass are added back in the mix, it matters. And the wine does taste better to these people, just like the placebo effect can make people well.

    So just as Godin asks, can a glass make beer taste better?