Once upon a time, a beer was served in a pint glass, but with the wave of craft beer and micro-breweries, and a new appreciation of the complexities of beer’s flavours, a whole range of beer glasses are now available for specific beers. Here is a run-down of which beer is for which glass and why.
Imperial pint glass
The imperial pint glass became popular in Great Britain and its territories in the early 20th century. It replaced the traditional tankard of ceramic, silver or pewter, and was brought in as a way to standardise the sale of beer across the empire. UK law requires that a pint be sold in an imperial pint glass of 20 imperial fluid ounces (568 ml). Order a pint in Britain and Ireland and your beer, stout, ale or lager will be served to you in one of these.
American pint glass
The 16oz American pint glass is traditionally what is used in the US to serve draft beer. The straight edges make it convenient for stacking, however, the smaller size means the beer can become warm in your hand if you’re standing while you drink. Recently the glass has given way to curvier alternatives due to the rise in popularity of craft beer and micro-breweries. However, the opposite has happened in Europe, where IPAs and stronger craft beers are often served in the American pint glass.
Traditionally used to serve a pilsner, this glass is long and slender with a heavy bottom. The elegant glass allows the beer’s colour to really shine, and the slender design means the light beer’s carbonation can concentrate at the top and form a nice thick head.
This glass is for serving weizenbocks, kristallweizens, or wheat ales. It is tall and tapered from the bottom, but widens at the top. The wide mouth of the glass is to facilitate the thick, robust head you get with wheat beers. It also allows for the wheaty aroma. The slender design allows for the translucent, cloudy colour to show, while the narrow bottom is designed to trap the wheat sediment that is found in these beers.
The beer mug was introduced in the 1920s. It is a ten-sided glass with a thick bottom and a handle. The idea was that the handle kept the hand away from the glass and therefore kept the beer colder for longer. The glass is out of favour today, but still used in specialist pubs and bars and is often used for serving specialist ales.
The tulip glass has a wide bulb which tapers and then opens at the mouth. It is designed to allow the drinker to really savour the flavours and aromas of stronger ales and IPAs. The glass can be held by the stem to keep the hand away from the beer. As Scottish beers are generally stronger and more full-flavoured, the tulip is known also as a thistle glass, the national flower of Scotland.
This squat beer glass with a stem is for stronger beers, like Belgian ales, double IPAs and German bocks. With a wide mouth allowing for a thick head, it is for serious beer connoisseurs who really want to savour the aroma. The wider body allows the drinker to take deep sips of the beer more easily.
The tall, straight stange is designed to really savour the flavour and aroma, as it amplifies the beer’s malt and hop volatiles. It emphasises the flavour and qualities of the brew rather than the drinking experience, and is a favourite of beer connoisseurs.
Also known as an IPA glass, the glassware is a modern invention designed to release complex and volatile aromas that a beer style like an IPA possesses naturally. The wide bowl, tapered top and laser-cut lip allow for excellent tasting and aroma savouring. The grooves in the stem keep the beer aerated, allowing air in when the glass is tilted for drinking, meaning it stays fresh and lively all the way to the bottom.
The quarter-yard glass with a wooden stand, also known as a coachman’s glass was designed for coachmen who could not leave their horses unattended and so had to down their beers in one before rushing outside to quiet the horses. Today it is used in craft breweries as a way to showcase a beer's unusual qualities and its flavours. It is also used for drinking games, particularly by university students.