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Glassware for Beer

So what's in a beer glass? Hopefully beer, but there's much more to be found. Though some beer novices say "the vast majority of glassware is just marketing," this couldn't be further from the truth. As BeerAdvocates, we feel that beer drinkers deserve better than this. So here's the real deal ...

Sure, there's a marketing component to beer glassware, but one only needs to look beyond the branding to discover that something bigger is taking place. As soon as the beer hits the glass, its color, aroma and taste is altered, your eye candy receptors tune in, and your anticipation is tweaked. Hidden nuances, become more pronounced, colors shimmer, and the enjoyment of the beer simply becomes a better, more complete, experience.

Still think it's just marketing? Well the sophomoric pun "head is good" has a mature side. Scientific studies show that the shape of glassware will impact head development and retention. Why is this important? The foam created by pouring a beer acts as a net for many of the volatiles in a beer. What's a volatile? Compounds that evaporate from beer to create its aroma, such as hop oils, all kinds of yeast fermentation byproducts like alcohol, fusels and fruity esters, spices or other additions. So a glass that promotes a healthy foam head may enhance the trapping of certain volatiles. And as varying levels of head retention and presentation are desired with different styles of beers, different styles of glassware should be used accordingly. Presentation marries science.

So which glassware do you use? The answer can often be overwhelming. In Europe, especially Belgium, each brand of beer will often have its own glass. In fact, some breweries have been known to engineer the glass before the beer, and many bars will also stock unique glassware for every brand of beer they serve, which could be hundreds or thousands. And while it's always a good idea to use glassware designed by the brewery for a specific brand of beer, sometimes this is not an option. But fret not! We've complied a quick guide of recommended glassware that will cover most beers and arm you with a very versatile arsenal of glassware.

Flute Glass
Flute Glass The world of champagne lends elegance to certain types of beer. Long and narrow bodies ensure that carbonation doesn't dissipate too quickly and showcase a lively carbonation or sparkling color. Stems will often be a bit shorter than the traditional champagne glass, but not necessarily.

Benefits: Enhances and showcases carbonation. Releases volatiles quickly for a more intense upfront aroma.

Use with these Beer Styles:
Goblet (or Chalice)
Chalice Glass Majestic pieces of work, ranging from delicate and long stemmed (Goblet) to heavy and thick walled (Chalice). The more delicate ones may also have their rims laced with silver or gold, while the heavy boast sculpture-like stems. Some are designed to maintain a 2-centimeter head. This is achieved by scoring the inside bottom of the glass, which creates a CO2 nucleation point, and a stream of eternal bubbles and perfect head retention as a result.

Benefits: Eye candy. Designed to maintain head. Wide-mouthed for deep sips.

Use with these Beer Styles:
Mug (or Seidel, Stein)
Dimpled Mug Glass Heavy, sturdy, large and with handle, the mug is a fun and serious piece of glassware that comes in many sizes and shapes. The best part of using a mug is that you can clink them together with more confidence than other types of glassware, and they hold loads of beer. Seidel is a German mug, while a Stein is the stone equivalent that traditionally features a lid, the use of which dates back to the Black Plague to prevent flies from dropping in.

Benefits: Easy to drink out of. Holds plenty of volume.

Use with these Beer Styles:
Pilsner Glass (or Pokal)
Pilsener Glass Typically a tall, slender and tapered 12-ounce glass, shaped like a trumpet at times, that captures the sparkling effervesces and colors of a Pils while maintaining its head. A Pokal is a European Pilsner glass with a stem.

Benefits: Showcases color, clarity and carbonation. Promotes head retention. Enhances volatiles.

Use with these Beer Styles:
Pint Glass (or Becker, Nonic, Tumbler)
Nonic Pint Glass Near cylindrical, with a slight taper and wide-mouth. There are two standard sizes, the 16-ounce (US Tumbler - the pour man's pint glass and most common) or the 20-ounce Imperial (Nonic), which has a slight ridge towards the top, a grip of sorts and helps in stacking them. The 20-ounce version is preferred to accommodate more beer or beers with large crowning heads. A Becker is the German equivalent, tapering at the top.

Benefits: Cheap to make. Easy to store. Easy to drink out of.

Use with these Beer Styles:
Snifter
Snifter Glass Used for brandy and cognac, these wide-bowled and stemmed glasses with their tapered mouths are perfect for capturing the aromas of strong ales. Volumes range, but they all provide room to swirl and agitate volatiles.

Benefits: Captures and enhances volatiles.

Use with these Beer Styles:
Stange (Slender Cylinder)
Stange Glass A traditional German glass, stange means "stick" and these tall, slender cylinders are used to serve more delicate beers, amplifying malt and hop nuances. Substitute with a Tom Collins glass.

Benefits: Tighter concentration of volatiles.

Use with these Beer Styles:
Tulip
Tulip Glass A stemmed glass, obviously tulip-shaped, wherein the top of the glass pushes out a bit to form a lip in order to capture the head and the body is bulbous. Scotch Ales are often served in a "thistle glass," which is a modified tulip glass that resembles Scotland's national flower.

Benefits: Captures and enhances volatiles, while it induces and supports large foamy heads.

Use with these Beer Styles:
Weizen Glass
Weizen Glass Nothing beats serving your Weizenbier (wheat beer) in an authentic Bavarian Weizen Glass. These classy glasses, with their thin walls and length, showcase the beer's color and allows for much headspace to contain the fluffy, sexy heads association with the style. Most are 0.5L in size, with slight variations in sizes. Forget the lemon garnish, the citric will kill the head.

Benefits: Specifically produced to take on volume and head, while locking in the banana-like and phenol aromas associated with the style.

Use with these Beer Styles:
Oversized Wine Glass
Wine Glass "A wine glass for beer!?" Yep, an oversized 22oz wine glass will be most suitable for serving most Belgian Ales. Its size allows for headspace, while the open bowl creates an amazing nose. A lot of smart beer bars are now serving their Belgian Ales in these. It also makes for a great crossover conversational piece. "Is that wine that you're drinking?" And you reply, "No, it's De Ranke XX Bitter from Belgium. Wanna try?"

Benefits: Replacement for a Tulip or Goblet. Conversational.

Use with these Beer Styles:

So there you have it. Remember to always drink your beer in the proper glassware, because a properly served beer is a better beer.

Getting Some Glassware

Many are available on-line, at stores like Crate & Barrel or, for those of you in the beer industry, from restaurant glassware wholesalers. Also checkout your local beer store who might carry a selection of glassware, and even the occasional glassware giveaway with purchase.

Handling Tips

Never chill your glassware, and decline if served a frosted glass. Why? As the beer hits the frosted glass condensation will occur and dilute your beer, while at the same time alter the serving temperature.

Hand-wash all glasses. Some dishwashers will leave a residue, which may effect the head retention as well as the flavor and aroma. Use a mild dishwashing soap, and if you are really anal retentive have a separate sponge for your glass ware so there is not cross contamination from greasy food particles on a used sponge. Let them air dry, do not hand dry because the towel may leave dust particles which will affect the head retention. Caring for you glassware in this manner will also protect gold- or silver- rimmed glasses and glasses with silk-screened brewery logos.

Make sure to read How to Pour a Beer and How to Taste a Beer.