I understand the basic distinction for wine glasses: red wine glasses are shaped to help keep some of the aroma inside the glass, whereas whites don't. But shapes for beer glasses, such as pilsner vs a standard pint glass, just seem to be an aesthetic difference. Yet I've had people insist that glasses make a big difference for things like Belgian beer.

Is there a sound reason to use the "right" glass for each kind of beer?

  • I feel like this is probably too broad, there are no less than a dozen different types of beer glasses and each of them is intended for a different type of beer. Questions should be more specific. – wax eagle Jan 21 '14 at 21:00
  • You could probably also ask "what", if there are any, the right kind of glass for each beer would be. – brandonscript Jan 21 '14 at 21:00
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    related What glasses are meant for which beers and why – mdma Jan 25 '14 at 5:39
up vote 44 down vote accepted

Yes. Taste is really smell, and different glasses can capture aromas differently. Furthermore, different aromas may be more or less present dependent upon temperature, and a glass may be crafted to be held a particular way (gathering more or less heat from your hand). The same is true for wine glasses.

That said, how much of a difference it makes to you is what's important. Going back to the wine comparison, I can sometimes tell the difference between different glasses, but not consistently. So it's not the most important thing.

Now that that's said, there has been some informal, perhaps less than perfectly scientific studies, including a blind test. Beer advocate provides some more detailed information. Some of my local bars carry stemware for specific European beers, and I know of one stateside brewery, Black Shirt Brewing in Denver, which really wants you to stick your nose up in it (to good effect, in my experience).

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    A good answer here should include how various types of glasses work. – wax eagle Jan 21 '14 at 20:59
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    I don't think there has really been a scientific study on the beer glass shapes etc. HOwever there have beeen some on wine aromadictionary.com/articles/wineglass_article.html Which basically said the shape of a glass can affect the aroma but many shapes can have the same impact. The major factor in aroma enhancement was the ratio of glass cup diameter to the diamter of it's opening. Check out the last study on the linked page for more info. – Bill Rawlinson Jan 21 '14 at 21:02
  • I tried to add a little more info about the glassware; hope this helps. – object88 Jan 22 '14 at 0:27
  • As far as I know the shape of the glass also effects the foam layer – clabacchio Feb 26 '14 at 10:29

I would like to point out that taste is not the only important criterion when drinking beer. What you want is a good experience, and the taste is only a part (albeit a major part) of that.

Having different glasses for different types of beers can affect your drinking experience in a number of different ways. First off, having an unusual or unique glass can often be very fun, because it's probably not something you're used to. The first time I ever drank beer from a litre mug was a very fun experience for me, and not because it made the beer taste differently. Secondly, I find that different types of glasses encourage me to enjoy the beer in different ways. I find that glasses with stems, which are often used for stronger beers, encourage me to drink the beer more slowly and savor it a bit more than a glass without a stem. I think these effects on experience are one of the big reasons for the wide variations in beer glassware. As a beer manufacturer, if I could make a unique glass that will better help people remember my beer, I would consider that a worthwhile investment.

I'm not trying to say that the effects of glassware on taste don't exist or are unimportant; I think they are important. But they're only part of the story.

As a Belgian I am always told by bartenders and brewers that for special (heavy) Belgian beers a Tulip glass is a good choice, except for Belgian Lambics (nl:Lambieken) for which one should use a flute glass. These glasses are sometimes scratched at the bottom to better accommodate the bubbling (for example: Duvel Glasses)

Studies have shown a correlation between a foods presentation and the perceived goodness of the taste. So even excepting the usual reasons for matching a beer style to a glass style (head retention, aroma dispersal, etc.), presenting a beer in a good looking vessel will enhance its taste.

I spent many years in Germany and other European countries drinking many different types of beer...I can tell you, for me, a Pilsner is best served in tall thin glasses, export beer in mugs, preferentially stein type and wheat beers in flute style glasses....taste, aroma and the expereince is all different with these glasses...oh and for general knowledge, fruits and other flavors only ruin beer....

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