Beer Basics: Glassware.

Glassware is one of those things that you see a lot about.

Yes, you should be pouring your beer into a glass.

But if someone offers you a bottle or a can and it doesn’t come with the appropriate glass, the beer won’t be ruined. Just relax and enjoy the fact that you are drinking a beer.

This guide is primarily for people wanting to drink nice beers at home, but given the amount of junk online, don’t know where to start.

The right type of glass?

Spiegelau IPA, Spiegelau Stemmed Pils, Teku, Basic tulip

Spiegelau IPA, Spiegelau Stemmed Pils, Teku, Basic tulip

I could sit here and type screeds of style specific glassware based on years of tradition, but deep down we all know that no one is buying and using the full gamut of glassware just so they can have their British-ales in a shaker pint and their Belgian-quads in a goblet.

And here’s the big non-secret that we all seem to be afraid of admitting… it’s all unnecessary. Every glassware article you read will trot out the same tired reasons for having 12 different glasses, often based in history and tradition rather than actual function and taste.

And if you are like me and will roll through 5 or 6 different styles in a night, then you don’t want to wash 5 or 6 glasses the next morning.

So what should you do?

You find one glass that you really like and use it. It’s as simple as that.

I won’t pretend I’ve tried every glass in the world with every style, so I can only recommend what I use; which is the Spiegelau Stemmed Pilsner (tulip).

We learned, during our podcast glass comparison, that the Spiegelau Stemmed Pils and IPA glass were head-and-shoulders over a regular catering-store tulip and the much hyped Teku glass. Since then I have put those on the shelf and stuck to the Pilsner glass exclusively.

People often balk at the price of these glasses, which go for around $30(AUD) for two.

But take a step back and think how many beers you’ll be putting through it. You’re paying at least $20 for a decent six-pack these days, so why be a cheapskate and cop-out on the glassware?

I’ve also been told they are too fragile. After two years of using them, I’ve broken two. One because I dropped it on the ground, the other because I was overzealous while cleaning it and banged it on the side of the sink. If you think that makes them too fragile, then go drop one of your “sturdy” glasses on the ground and see what happens.

I will concede that if you are the kind of person who regularly holds bottle-shares, big family dinners or dinner parties; then a dozen of these might seem excessive.

For you, the other option that I’ll gladly recommend are the Crysta III (Crysta is not a typo) Footed Lager glass.  With a bit of canny googling you can find a catering or hospitality store which might sell you them in small runs but the best I’ve found is 24 for under $100.

If you can’t find anything better than that – find 3 friends and split the cost. Now you’re getting 6 glasses for $25. Bargain city.

These glasses are used by a couple of my favourite places around Melbourne and I’ve found they hold up better than any similar product. I actually bought four branded ones from a bar recently and really enjoy drinking from them.

I should note: Footed Lager, not “Footed Beer”. The Crysta Footed Beer glass is ugly.

The only small concession I’ll give here is that some styles (mostly Belgian) have higher carbonation so a big Belgian goblet or over-sized wine glass can be useful to avoid 4 inches of head.

But for the glasses I’ve recommended, all you really need is a bit of patience with these styles (see “Pouring your beer” down below).

Cleaning and upkeep

Like unique styles for unique beers, glassware upkeep is another thing people over-think. You will find endless debates on forums about using homebrew products, or bi-carb soda and vinegar, or whether to use a dishwasher or not…

Dishwashing liquid - not a head-killer

Dishwashing liquid – not a head-killer

To be honest – regular dishwashing liquid, hot water and a good rinse are all you need. I also use a “glass towel” which is specifically designed to leave no lint but I’m increasingly finding that just letting my glasses air-dry is easier and just as effective.

Before people come along in the comments and tell me my head retention will suffer because I’m using dishwashing liquid, I will argue: no it doesn’t.

How do I know this? Because my beer foam is bilious and plentiful. There is no substitute for real world experience.

If you are one of those people, feel free to comment and feel free to keep using whatever excessive method you want.

Before serving I like to rinse them out again just in case dust or bugs have landed in the glass at any point.

I’ve been told that you absolutely MUST dry your glass out after rinsing to stop your beer getting watered down… but seriously… if you are worried about a few drops of water ruining your beer then you have bigger issues and should seek help.

In-between beers, I just rinse them out under a cold tap. Nothing more than that (Obviously if you’ve been eating greasy food with your hands then you may need to do more. I’m sure you can work that out though).

Pouring your beer

The glass MUST be at 45 degrees and you MUST pour off the far edge so the beer swirls concurrently AT EXACTLY THE RIGHT SPEED.

Nah I’m just kidding.

There is no absolute way to pour a beer correctly. Your imperial stout will have little carbonation compared to your Belgium dubbel so you aren’t going to pour them the same.

You have to just use some common sense. If it’s an everyday ale or lager, just leave the glass flat on the bench and pour straight down at an even speed. If you notice you aren’t getting any head, then pour quicker… too much head, stop for a few seconds and pour slower.

Same beer as previous pic. Patience cures all.

Same beer as previous pic. Patience cures all.

If it’s blowing up and your beer is all head and no beer, wait. Keep waiting.

Wait a bit more.

It’ll settle eventually.

Once it’s settled, pick up your glass, tilt it, and pour gently down the inside. Gently.

Beers have different carbonation so no method is substitute for common sense.

The only thing you want to avoid is slamming the bottle against the top of the glass. Who knows what grubby hands have touched the bottle neck.

And that’s it. Buy a nice glass, wash and rinse it, pour beer into it.

NOTE: collecting glassware can be fun, and different types of glassware can be fun to drink from. This guide is for “everyday” use but if you have a branded glass, for example, and like to drink that brewery’s beer from it, then do it. If you think your imperial stouts look great in your brandy snifter, then do it. This isn’t an absolute hard and fast “only do this” guide. Those are stupid. Remember – this is supposed to be fun. If you are having fun, then you are doing it right.



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3 Responses

  1. 250 Beers says:

    Oooh, the can of worms of cleaning and washing glassware! Excellent post Luke. I’m slightly over reading about people telling me how to clean my glasses and how not to use regular dishwashing liquid. I use it daily – there I said it – with warm water, rinse with cold and let the glass air dry. If it’s good enough for the plates that I eat off, then it will bloody well do for the glasses that I drink out of.

    • Jack says:

      Exactly Daz, and great article Luke. I’ve never understood the fear of detergents, unless you’re not rinsing them (which would be crazy anyway).

      Personally (and I note your reddit comment) I am a big fan of the reidel stemless red range for all purpose beer drinking.

  2. John says:

    Nice article, and I love my Spiegelau tulips for everyday beer drinking.
    Also, I agree that dishwasher detergent shouldn’t affect head retention one bit. In the US (don’t know about Aus), what we need to avoid is the blue non-spotting agent that we add to the dishwasher. That’ll kill head dead, as it doesn’t rinse off of the glassware well in the dishwasher. So I tend to wash my glasses by hand. The horror.

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