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Craft beer has stormed the nation, and with it, the rise of specialty beer glasses. Glass selections today range far beyond your standard pint glass—there are snifters for bold barleywines, whisper-thin stemware, and cicerone-beloved Teku glasses.
"Whether you realize it or not, many things happen when you pour a beer into a glass,” says Patrick Bisch, certified cicerone at Illinois' The Open Bottle. "To wax poetic a little bit, it's like the blossoming of a flower, but a blossoming of your sensors: carbonation is released, and that releases gas that further enhances the aromas of the beer." He continues, "The sight of the beer, no longer covered up by the brown glass or aluminum can, shows off its color and clarity.”
Simply put, you can keep sipping your low-cost lagers out of a can, but for craft beers, do the brews justice and drink them out of a glass. “You're robbing yourself of all these subconscious enhancements that truly make a beer enjoyable when you drink out of a bottle or can,” says Bisch. “So pour your beer into a glass and realize its full potential!”
Best Overall: Rastal Teku Stemmed Beer Glass
If you’re going to invest in a really great beer glass, Teku's beautiful stemmed glass is a worthy pick. Designed by brewers Lorenzo “Kuaska” Dabove and Teo Musso, the glass was initially designed to be the beer equivalent of the ISO, a universal wine tasting glass used by professional wine tasters. And that’s just what it achieves: the 14.2-ounce glass showcases the full flavors and aromas of each beer. Made in Germany by Rastal, the angular, modern shape traps the aromas in, so when you sip, waves of the flavors hit your nose. A tiny lip that curves outward lets beer roll from the glass right onto your palette. Plus, the wine glass-stem lets you hold your beer without your hands warming up the drink.
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Best Budget: Libbey Pint Glass
Libbey’s standard fare pint glass is built to last. The classic glass (with the shape found at every pub and bar across the country) is made with a DuraTuff heat-treated rim, designed to resist thermal and mechanical shock. There’s a reason why so many bars stock these 16-ounce glasses—they are durable, affordable, dishwasher-friendly, and resistant to rough and tumble use. When this versatile glass is not holding fresh suds, it doubles as an excellent cocktail mixing glass.
Kaitlin Vandenbosch, brewmaster at Mill Street Brewing, prefers these glasses for nitro beers. “Nitrogen charged beers—whether served from draught or can—need to be served in a wide mouth glass." She adds, "You pour the can of beer directly upside-down into the glass and allow the nitrogen in the beer to create the cascade effect that produces a thick puck of dense foam on the top of your beer."
Best IPA: Spiegelau IPA Glass
Most everyone in the beer world agrees that Spiegelau sets the standard for beer glassware. This German glassware company has been a leader in the industry for decades and its beer glasses have racked up design accolades from the German Design and Red Dot Awards.
Made of lightweight, non-leaded crystal, Spiegelau’s 18-ounce glasses were designed by two beer masters (Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione and Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman) to perfectly amplify the flavors of an IPA. “It was tested, engineered, and proven to be a great glass for drinking any aromatic beer, but especially IPAs,” explains Bisch. “As you pour the beer into your mouth, its ridged, narrow bottom agitates the beer while simultaneously releasing carbonation (and therefore aromas)." He also adds, "While the glass sits upright, the etched logo on the inner base provides a nucleation point for the CO2 to release upward, creating a denser, thicker head that captures aromas.”
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Best for Stout Beer: Bormioli Rocco Snifter Glasses
Bigger beers with high alcohol, like English ales, barrel-aged beers, and imperial stouts, require a glass that shows off the complex layers of flavor, like a snifter. Similar to the snifters used for whiskey, the curved shape of these Bormioli Rocco glasses concentrates the flavors. “Higher ABV beers, such as stouts and Belgian quadruples, deserve smaller glasses that remind you to sip and enjoy gracefully while narrowly focusing and capturing aromas with a smaller, tapered curve at the mouth,” says Bisch. “These glasses are typically thinner, which allow for heat transfer from your hands that warms the beer to enhance the flavor—beer tastes better between 40 to 50 degrees and not ice cold.” Plus, the larger surface area and small stem allow for ideal heat exchange. This Italian-made glass holds 18 ounces of beer.
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Best Classic: Restaurantware Imperial Nonic Pint Glass
As for his all-time favorite beer glass, Bisch points to the 20-ounce imperial nonic pint glass. “I tend to gravitate to this glass because it's compatible with many different beer styles such as English Milds, IPAs, lagers, etc." He says, "Its wide mouth allows for an easier flow of low ABV, sessionable beers."
Consider this glass your everyday beer glass: just like a classic English pub glass, the wide rim and slight bulge make it easy to stack and store these glasses. But just because they are easy to store, doesn’t mean they lack in quality—the 19.5-ounce, machine-blown glass (a little less than the standard 20-ounce glass) boasts above-average glass clarity. “Not to mention, it fits a lot of beer and just feels damn good to hold,” adds Bisch.
Best Set: Spiegelau Craft Beer Tasting Kit
Ideal for the serious beer aficionado, Spiegelau’s ultimate craft beer tasting kit contains glasses for any and every beer you’re sipping. The paper-thin, dishwasher-safe glasses are ideal for most craft beer lovers, with a thin lip that pours the beer right onto your palette. Each of the set’s four glasses is designed with beer experts to amplify the aroma and flavors of the beer: the set includes a 19.1-ounce rippled IPA glass, a 26.5-ounce deeply rounded American wheat glass, a 21-ounce stout, and 17.7-ounce stemmed barrel-aged beer glasses, all made of lightweight, non-leaded crystal and crafted by Bavarian artisans. Order one set, or pick up a few to host your own tasting club.
Best Splurge: Zalto Beer Glass
Zalto's stemware is the gold standard of wine glasses, and their beer glasses offer just as much prestige. This 14-ounce glass is designed specifically for beer (Pilsen and Marzen styles), with the gentle curve of the glass titled at 24, 48, and 72 degrees to match the tilt angles of the Earth. These carefully-made glasses are whisper-thin and have a classic, deep tulip shape that excellently showcases light beers.
While it may be your first instinct to wash these by hand, the pressure of hands can add torque to the bowl and potentially cause breakage. Instead, wash them in a half-filled dishwasher with minimal detergent—the glass is crack- and chip-resistant.
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Most Unique: Iittala Krouvi Beer Mug
While beer mugs are commonly seen in German beer gardens, this delicate Iittala Krouvi mug is far more at home on a modern bar cart. These Scandinavian-style mugs were designed by Oiva Toikka in 1973 and have a retro, yet modern feel. The glass has a smooth, polished rim and an embossed vintage-inspired 50cL measurement. Better yet, a handle keeps hand heat from warming up the beer (though note that this mug cannot be used for warm measurements). This glass is shorter than most beer glasses, but its size is deceiving—this mug holds 20 ounces.
Good to Know:
“One more thing about glassware: please never, ever drink from frosted glass," advises Bisch. "Dust particles and impurities from the ice ultimately melt into your beer, making it taste worse—that's not to mention that ice-cold beer means less flavor."