you wouldn’t hit a man with glasses


Glassware – it makes a difference. So do beer snobs.

On glassware, case in point: the Tripel from the previous post. (By the by, tangential props and gratitude to my friend Ian at the Four Firkins for the bitching Karmeliet stemware seen in those photos.) We had a bottle of the Tripel out of an inexpensive, thick-walled Libbey goblet the night before – exact same cellar temperature, exact same case and type of bottles – and another from the Karmeliet on salmon night. It was an entirely different beer in the bigger-bowled, thinner-walled, taller and more fluted glass: the spicy and fruity aromas were more pronounced and distinctive, easier to distinguish; and the sweet notes of the malt and alcohol came through much, much better.

And I haven’t had the privilege to try the new Riedel IPA glass yet, but citizens who have done side by side tastings with them have related to your author that this glass is a net positive for hop/nasal cavity interfacing.

Before we continue, a disclaimer: I have been accused of being a beer snob. Mea culpa. But I am also an unapologetic owner and user of shaker pints. Most days I’d rather have a pale ale, pils, mild, dry stout … a session beer, if you will … than a vintage sour or 10% abv anything. I like my Karmeliet glass and I also unironically like Coors Banquet, and I’m not above drinking beer from the bottle or can, especially in a boat. So, as I imagine it is for most of you as well, it’s complicated.

Back on track to beer snobs: there has been a nice convo over at Brewpublic this week on the problematic side of beer snobbery. Lots of good points, but I can’t help but consider that, just by drinking craft beer, we’re all a little bit snobbish and exclusionary by definition. This is, after all, a subculture that gets off on going against the grain, and which defines itself as much by what it is not (“macro,” “corporate,” something a Lite beer drinker would enjoy) as by what it is (which is malleable from year to year and subject to interpretation and debate). Public image and marketing aside, it’s pretty tough to call a  6.5% share of the market the demographic norm and $20 bombers populist. Sounds a bit elitist, actually. Kind of boutique.

And I’m okay with that. In fact, I’d argue that it’s not all bad. It’s good to not settle. There was at the very least one little pebble of snobbery amongst the rocks that helped to start the craft brewing avalanche: some iconoclasts in the 1970s cast down their frosty pop-tops and fatefully pronounced “inadequate,” or “not as good as I had in Europe,” and then went and threw a bunch more hops and malt into their repurposed dairy equipment, and here we are today.

Here’s what I’m saying: actual market share aside, craft beer is still a big tent, yes? Let’s leave a little room in the corner for the snobs, be they unapologetic or obnoxious or complicated or otherwise, because they are the custodians of style and the watchdogs of quality in an era of explosive change for the American beer scene.

Historically, beer has happily and successfully filled every niche from the daily bread of workers and religious ascetics to a vintage-dated luxury item for the groaning boards of the landed gentry. It still does that for us, from commemorating birth, death, and marriage, to taking the edge off after a grueling stint on the lawn mower or fueling partisanship at intramural softball games. Ten year old gueze in a dusty bottle? Birthday dinner, maybe don’t share. Three percent abv bitter on a handpump? Fill Imperial pints all the way to overflowing, all night every night. Beer has been and still can be whatever we need it to be, socially and gastronomically, day in and day out.

That same kind of jack-of-all-trades dynamic balance can and should be brought to our appreciation and consumption, too. Too much preciousness is exhausting and obnoxious; but too much complacency as a consumer base gets us beverage monoculture.

And from now on you’re damn right I’m getting out the fanciest-ass glass every time for the 10% Tripel I’ve been cellaring for 2 years.

So, glassware. How do you drink your beer? A glass for every style and a style in its own glass, hand-wash with baking soda and hot water only, Cicerone at home? Whatever’s reasonably clean and can hold 16 ounces without leaking? Some happy medium?

25 thoughts on “you wouldn’t hit a man with glasses

  1. I have a quite a collection, and generally try to drink out of the appropriate glass for the style, but sometimes I just don’t know what glass to use and then I just use my favorite.

  2. I work at a beer bar, so at home I keep it simple. 1 Firestone branded Brussels tulip for high gravity/belgian/misc, 1 Duvel branded tulip as a backup and for bubbly stuff. 1 tall pilsener glass for hefs/pils. Nonic imperial pints for most everything else. And occasionally will dip into my wine stemware for very acidid sours or BBL aged beers.

  3. Sometimes, especially if it’s been awhile since I’ve had any Belgian beers in the house, I’ll pour an IPA into my St. Bernardus chalice just to keep it guessing.

  4. I love to use the newer glasses from Sierra Nevada that has a hop etched into the bottom of the glass. It focuses all the carbonation to come up from the middle of the glass and really seems to aerate every beer nicely… but obviously best with hoppier styles. Got introduced to them after taking the brewery tour.

    Otherwise, I love to use my brandy snifter and old school stein for no apparent reasons other than they are cool looking. Plus I can separate them from everyone else’s pint glass after too many brews.

  5. I enjoy the benefits of drinking from a glass but, thanks to my additional knowledge about glassware get frustrated when a glass is not properly clean. Leading me to sometimes drink from the bottle or can if I know that none of my glasses available were hand washed. In conclusion I should just nut up and clean my glasses properly, or buy more. Though the snobbery I have acquired has brought me more enjoyment than frustration this is one of the necessary evils that I lament.

  6. I use only two at home: 16oz snifter (makes me feel like an arrogant snob, for good or bad), and a .4 liter dimpled “parkbrau” mug I got in a second hand store (makes me gulp, the mug tells me to do bad things) I have hard water so the only thing besides a quick soapy handwash with a good rinse is to make sure it gets dry.

  7. In recent months, I’ve tended to reach for the Belgian snifter or pint tulip for most beers. Exceptions being: pilsners and other light lagers in pilsner glasses, english ales in nonic pints, and (as soon as they arrive) IPAs and other hoppy beers in the Riedel IPA glasses.

  8. I got some really nice 16oz. Pilsner glasses for 50 cents apiece at a flea market. the shape really concentrates the aroma on the nose which I like. I have some 14oz. snifters for Barleywines and belgian tripels, and some kolsch Stangs, but my favorites are the 7oz, shorties that I rescued from the basement of a bar because they remind of going to the VFW for the $2.99 friday night fish fries with my Grandparents/parents in the 60’s, where all they drank was PBR, Schlitz, Blatz, or Gettelman. There are alot of things that go into the senses and I think memories and experiences play a part too.

  9. For consumption of mass quantities: the shaker. For imperials and other strongs: the snifter. For the stuff in between: I’m usually rummaging through the cabinet trying to find a quasi appropriate wine glass-without stem if I’m keepin it real, with stem if I’m pimpin beer snob style.

  10. Here and at one point it was considered a big step up to pour something from a bottle in to any form of glass. Myself I keep it simple both because its easier and because I’m moving soon. Moving crates of tulip glasses seems cumbersome, but I do have three or four tulip glasses for the high abv things and those that would benefit from having the aroma’s concentrated. I’ve got some pilsner style glasses for the obvious but generally I’m rolling with your standard pint or shaker glass for my home brews. For most standard drinks I use those for as well, but the more rare drinks I do try to hit it up with at least a nice tulip glass and the appropriate temperatures.
    With that Beer Snobbery link you posted I tend to agree with this mind set with out a doubt. I do have quite a lot of friends that don’t want to go out and buy anything more than some lite beer. And you know what there is nothing wrong with that, I will not judge them as I myself go and buy a case of something cheap for various reasons. I will however try to share what I might have on hand, Say friend, why don’t you try this nice brown or amber ale? Perhaps you would like this pale ale or Maibock? God for bid at that point I worry about glassware for them, just let them try something and enjoy a beer with me in the way they do, even if it is straight from a bottle or a can with me.

  11. I have a couple of shaker glasses for general purpose drinking. I recently have gotten into Belgian beers and am collecting Belgian Snifters, I have found I like them better for most beers anyway. Wrong glass for the beer, ask me if I care.

  12. I don’t have that large of a catalog of glasses but enough to satisfy me. From my .5L steins, 1L steins, weizen glasses (currently in use), snifters, imperial pints, pilsner flutes, a few shakers, and for those special times the Stiefel. In the end the .5L steins and my imperial pints get used the most and the rest collect dust and take up space. Does the correct glass matter…yes. Do I use the “correct” glass each time…no. The one thing that is constant is that I won’t drink out of bottle or a can unless glass is prohibited or it can’t be helped. Call me a d-bag or call me a beer snob, either way it is what it is. And yes, hand washed. Drives my wife crazy!

  13. We have a large collection of pint glasses picked up from various drinking establishments over the years and have started to try and keep some glassware beer clean. Just picked up a couple Belgian tulip glasses and will use an occasional brandy snifter for something really outstanding (Usually a home-brew bourbon barrel porter or a seasonal Surly bottle)
    How do you clean your glassware? We have been using baking soda and a sponge that is not allowed to touch anything but beer glassware. Seems ok until someone comes over and grabs the wrong glass lol.

    • For the special-occasion and/or fragile glassware, same as what you do; truth be told, the army of shaker pints usually just goes in the dishwasher.

  14. Beer to me is all about buddy culture; a friendly exchange of information over a few pints of the good stuff. It’s OK to geek out on craft beer, I know that I do, but it’s obnoxious when that devolves into something ultimately mean spirited. Between the awful internet forums out there (present company excluded), the competitive and somewhat snooty message that the BJCP and Sommelier programs foster and the price gouging that some craft brewers are clearly engaging in, I’ve sort of grown tired of the “brotherhood” of brewers and beer enthusiasts. Will I continue to support craft beer? Sure. Do I always agree with their message? No.

  15. My snobbish-ness ends at my disdain for shaker glasses, which are like sweat pants for your beer. I generally drink sours and high-gravs from my wine glasses and everything else in nonic pints.

    BUT, ber taste real pretty outta ma BTV shaker.

  16. Maybe it’s because of the company’s deep roots in my home state of Indiana, but I really enjoy the novelty of drinking my home brew out of a Ball jar. Grandma’s home grown pickles, farmers market peaches, arts and crafts as a kid, all use Ball jars. Grandma won’t give the men of the family the pickle recipe, so I guess using the jars for my brew is a subtle nod to family tradition.

  17. I have lots of glassware – just let folks know that you are a homebrewer and watch the number of glasses you get as gifts for dispensing your beer freely; I like Belgians and stouts from the tulip or bowl stemmed glasses, the lighter beers and ales (regardless of color) from some 10 oz nonics that I bought online with my garage brewing moniker and the word “Cheers” stenciled below that. They are one of just a few small extravagances I’ve allowed myself – but they get nice comments and some folks ask to keep them (which I routinely oblige). But I’m no snob – I frequently go right from the bottle on somebody’s front porch on a lazy spring weekend day.

  18. I use my Sam Adams half tulip glass for everyday use, It has the etching on bottom and is great for hoppy beers, which are my mainstay Pull out the tulips for the heavier beers, especially if we have guests. Hand wash, and as said by Scott M above, drives my wife crazy. She bought me a special drain cage and mat so I would keep my glasses out of her sink!

  19. My personal favorite every time are Riedel Vinum. These glasses are 13 oz which is perfect for a 12oz with a good head. If I don’t have a clean one, well then I go for the BrewTV glass of course, a true collectors item.

  20. I typically enjoy my beer out of the skull caps of fallen enemies. I’m not quite sure what level of beer snobbery that puts me on. Maybe those are best reserved for gruit and sahti?

  21. Snobbery is an interesting subject. I tend to think there are no snobs (only zool), merely people who don’t understand or care about their particular passions. Wine, beer, food, music, anything…if you don’t care about these things you tend to view people who devote a lot of time to them as crazy, or wasting their time, or snobs. You should see my wife’s face when I watch youtube videos of John Palmer talking about water chemistry. Or for that matter, videos of guys sitting in a room tasting beer. Likewise, I run from the room when she breaks out the quilting videos.

    I’m not sure if that has any bearing on rooms full of glassware, but then that’s just snobby.

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