The science of the shape
Tulip… weizen… flute… pilsner… snifter… mug…
These are just some of the different types of glasses that are used to serve beer across the world. There is a huge range of shapes and sizes – each designed to ensure that beer can be enjoyed at its best.
Everyone knows the versatile pint glass, but may not realize there are names for the three most common variations – shaker, nonick and tulip. All three have a narrow body that opens up nearer the top. This releases aroma from the glass and allows for beer to be served with more head if required. But it’s the simple design, durability and stack-ability that have made this style of glass so popular. The shaker glass is also used to mix cocktails making its use even more extensive.
Just as widespread, if not more so than the pint glass, is the mug. Beer mugs evolved from the German beer stein (traditionally made of pewter, silver, wood, earthenware or glass, with a hinged lid) and typically are made from thick glass with a sturdy handle. The thickness of the glass helps to keep the beer cold and the handle allows for a firm grip and to prevent heat transferring from the drinkers hand to the beer. Similarly to the pint glass, the mug’s wide mouth also allows for plenty of aroma to be released.
Next is the pilsner glass, which is used to serve many types of light beers, but was ultimately created for its namesake, the pilsner. Tall, slim and tapered with a straight edge, the pilsner glass enhances the carbonation and emphasizes the color of the pilsner style.
Not to be confused with the pilsner glass is the weizen glass. Used to serve wheat beer, also known as weizenbier or weissbier, weizen glasses are tall, slim and tapered with a curve at the top. The tall glass allows for yeast sediment, present in many wheat beers, to settle at the bottom of the glass.
Moving on to stemmed glasses, some of the most common styles are the flute, tulip, snifter and goblet (or chalice).
Similar to the pilsner glass, the narrow shape of the flute glass enhances carbonation and emphasizes color. While tulip glasses have a plump body and flared top, which helps trap the aroma and allows for a large head.
A snifter is generally used for beers with a higher alcohol content. Also used for brandy and cognac, the snifter’s wide bowl shape and narrow top is perfect for capturing aromas and provides room to swirl the beer to amplify aromas even further.
And finally, also used for higher alcohol content beers, the goblet (or chalice) is another large, bowl-shaped glass. Ranging from the lighter and more delicate goblet, to the heavier and thickset chalice, they are designed to hold a beer with a large head. The inside bottom of the glass is sometimes etched to encourage carbonization, thus creating an endless stream of bubbles to ensure the head doesn’t dissipate.
So the next time you enjoy a glass of beer, take a moment to think about the glass it has been served in. Is it shaped to encourage or limit carbonization? Is it shaped to release or retain aromas? And most importantly, is it the right glass to maximize your enjoyment of your chosen beer?