The Beer Geek’s Guide to Glassware

Pick the right glass for every style of beer (or drinker).

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Beer glasses for every type of beer

With the explosion of the craft beer movement, there has also been a (fortunately figurative) explosion of updated beer glasses claiming to improve the taste of specific types of beer—and a few glasses that claim to be best for all of them. But which ones actually make your beer taste best and which ones are all head? We tasted five different styles of beer (lager, IPA, American wheat beer, barrel aged beer, and stout) in a whole lot of glasses to find out. Here are some of the best beer glasses for every type of brew. Burp!

Rastal Teku — The New Industry Standard

When Italian brewer Teo Musso of Birra Baladin and legendary beer/sensory expert Lorenzo “Kuaska” Dabove partnered with glassmaker Rastal to create the TeKu glass, their mission was to create the perfect universal beer glass. They hoped it would act as the beer industry equivalent of the wine industry’s famous ISO glass. The Teku is clearly inspired by wine glasses, but features sharper contours and a flared lip. The pronounced taper helps concentrate the volatile aromas of beer, and focus them on your nose as you drink. And the flared rim increases turbidity as the beer flows to your lips, forcing the carbonation out of solution along with more aromatics.

The Downlow: The Teku really works, releasing and concentrating aromas, and amplifying the overall experience of many beers. This can be a good or a bad thing. In most of our taste tests (wheat beer, IPA, and barrel aged), Teku finished in the top two or three glasses, sometimes even outperforming specialty glasses for that style. It was the top performer for sour beers, and for when we drank our stoner-oriented “Munchies” stout. But when we used it for everyday lagers (hat tip to Miller High Life and Tecate!) it was a bit of overkill, drawing attention to the flaws as well as the good qualities. We tasted them too much: Something to keep in mind if you just want a nice, simple cold one. This is definitely a great, versatile glass to have in your cabinet for a lot of styles, and your beer nerd friends will give you a knowing nod when you bust out the Tekus. But keep them for the serious stuff.

Spiegelau Craft Beer Glasses — A Specialized Tool Set

Comprising specialized glasses for IPA, American wheat beer, stout, craft pils, and barrel aged beers, the Spiegelau Craft Beer Glasses collection aims to bring out the best in complex craft beers. And while owning a full set is a bit like walking into a local dive with your own pool cue, there’s plenty to like about them. Each one is designed specifically with the qualities of a particular style of beer in mind, from the IPA glass’s ridged base that help agitate hops back into suspension to the barrel aged glass’s large tulip bowl that focuses complex flavors like a wine glass. And they look pretty cool to boot.

The Downlow: If you’re a fan and regular drinker of these craft beer styles, the glasses really do make a difference. In several categories (IPA, American wheat, and barrel aged), the Spiegelau Craft Beer Glasses bested all other competition. In fact, the only one that didn’t impress was the stout glass, which allowed our Kills Boro sample to go a bit flat and flabby. And even that one stood head and shoulders above standard mugs and pilsners for the genre.

Classic Tulip — The Festival Favorite

If you use terms like “hop character,” “high gravity,” or “brett fermentation” when talking about beer, you’ve also probably held a classic tulip glass at some point. That’s because this shape is the go-to among beer neckbeards (neckbeers?) everywhere, and is ubiquitous at serious beer bars and tasting festivals. Valued for its ability to not only concentrate beer flavors and aromas, but to make you look knowledgeable just by holding it, the tulip glass is known as a great choice for beers that deserve a better home than a plain old pint glass. They come in a variety of price points, so even if you’re still stuck in your mom’s basement, you’ll be able to find one of these you can afford.

The Downlow: Like the Teku, this glass brought out both the best and worst, depending on the beer. Tulips were our runner-up choice in the taste test for both barrel-aged beers and stouts, which is no surprise since those styles are festival favorites, and pack serious flavor. The tulip also did well with IPAs. The only beer styles that didn’t seem at home in a tulip were the everyday lagers and wheat beers. But you’d feel a bit silly drinking those in such a schmancy glass anyway, wouldn’t you?

Libbey Craft Brews Variety Pack — Value-Priced but Genre Specific

If you’re hoping to jump on the speciality glass bandwagon but don’t feel like shelling out top-shelf prices, Libbey offers their own collection of glasses for assorted craft brew styles. Featuring sets of 4 and 6 glasses, this collection of sturdy glassware includes Nonic pints, classic pilsners, Belgian ale glasses, porter/stout glasses, and more. Durable and dishwasher safe, these glasses will give your beers a craft pub look without being too fussy.

The Downlow: These are based more on the traditional ways of serving the various beers styles than on any new engineering or science. So while they are a nice way to present your brew, they don’t have the same ability to enhance their contents that the Speigelaus do. Still, if you’re after the look and feel of being in a local pub rather than geeking out about the nuances of your beer, these are a good choice.

Pilsner Glass — An Elegant Choice for Lighter Styles

One of the iconic beer glass shapes, a pilsner glass looks great, and makes any beer in it seem like it’s more refreshing. While a stout or strong ale might seem out of place in this shape, the pilsner glass makes a decent choice for any lager, pilsner or even many wheat beers.

The Downlow: While the pilsner didn’t fare well with the heavier and more flavorful beers, its use wasn’t solely limited to its namesake style. The pilsner was a surprise runner-up to the Spiegelau specialty glass in the wheat beer category as well, besting fancy tulips and the like.

Dimple Stein Beer Mug — Just Like Your Grandpa Would Have Wanted

When you picture an old school beer mug, chances are these are what’s in your head. And if you’re of a certain age and you’ve been to a pub in Britain, chances are these are what was in your hand. Sturdy and easy to grip, the dimple stein mug is an old school classic. It’ll stand up to repeated washing, and will probably last longer than some of those young craft beer drinkers have been alive.

The Downlow: If all this talk of fussy glassware makes you yearn for simpler days, the dimple stein will give your beer the added flavor of nostalgia, which no amount of simcoe hops can do. This mug is designed to hold your beer, and make it easy for you to hold it. That’s it. Heck, go ahead and freeze a couple for one of those really hot days when all you care about is how cold your beer is going to taste, and not what sort of farmer grew the grains in it.

Nonic Pint — An Sophisticated Update to the Classic Pint

You know those slightly classier pint glasses with a little bulge an inch or two from the top? The kind that you see at the sorts of bars where they don’t assume you’re a little child who is going to break everything they put in your hands. Well, that’s called a nonic pint. Created to make them slightly easier to grip, and also so they won’t stick together when stacked, the nonic pint is also a bit thinner and nicer to drink out of than a standard conical or “shaker” pint (more on those later). While not intended to enhance your craft beer specifically, they do exhibit some useful qualities and the design is now considered a classic of smart engineering.

The Downlow: A definite upgrade from the basic shaker pint, the nonic is a versatile glass for a wide variety of beers. Almost any style will be at home in it, even if it doesn’t focus flavors and smells as much as the engineered glasses. The design supports a good head, and is a great glass for someone who cares about beer, but doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it.

A Big Old Regular Wine Glass — A Repurposed Standard

Just because a glass isn’t made for beer doesn’t mean it won’t make a great beer glass. If you want to serve a complex beer, like a Belgian ale, double IPA, imperial stout, strong ale, or even a sour, and you don’t have a speciality beer glass handy, a large volume wine glass makes a great choice. Having a similar shape to a goblet or tulip, along with a stem that keeps warm hands off the beer, a big wine glass focuses smells and flavors on the palate, and looks great.

The Downlow: It may not be made especially for this task, but for certain styles, like barrel aged beers, IPAs, and sours, we preferred a big wine glass to standard pint glasses. They do a really nice job, and they’re useful for other things as well, such as gin and tonics, and, well, wine.

Conical or “Shaker” Pint — The Bar Basic

In all likelihood, the bar you did your underaged college drinking in served their beers in these. And so do many of the bars in every neighborhood around the US. But the nicest thing you can really say about it is that it’s tough to break. It’s main purpose isn’t even to hold beer: it’s really intended as half of a cocktail shaker. Designed for utility and not for helping beer, it’s the sign of a bar that doesn’t really care that much about the beer it serves. So why subject yourself to it at home, where you have a choice? They’re fine for drinking water, or as keepsakes from bars or breweries, but you can do much, much better for your beer.

The Downlow: Even though they’re widely used, the shaker pint did a really poor job of everything a beer glass is supposed to do. It didn’t produce or hold a head at all, and it made even great beers taste worse, with little aroma or flavor making it from glass to mouth. Their thickness also feels terrible and they’re dangerously slippery in the hand, all while doing a lousy job of temperature retention. But by all means buy one if none of these things stops you.

Red Solo Cup — “I Like Beer!”

Like a siren song to bros everywhere, the red solo cup is more than just a drinking vessel. It’s a symbol of that awesome pass/fail semester in whatever college town that was made even better by the fact that we barely remember it. Plus, it’s pretty impossible to break, and you get like eleventy gahoollion of them for the price of just one of the glasses used by the people who actually paid for your college education.

The Downlow: Using a red solo cup is a deep sensory experience. Sure, it doesn’t do anything for the taste or smell of the actual beer inside it, but drinking from one will make you swear you still smell the aroma of gallons of spilled stale beer in a sketchy basement. You will be almost guaranteed flashbacks to other, even-less-tasty beers that will make you glad you can barely taste the one you’re drinking now. Plus, you can’t play flipcup with a dimple stein now can you? Or can you…

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