Choosing the Best Beer Glasses for Your Brews
Whether you're opening a bar with dozens of craft beers or operating a restaurant with a more limited selection, serving beer in the right beer glass can enhance your customer's experience. Some types of beer glasses are suitable for serving a variety of beers, while others have been specialized for serving specific types. Check what's on tap, then read through our guide to decide which beer glasses belong behind your bar.
Pub & Pint Glasses
The terms "pint glass" and "pub glass" are often used interchangeably, but these glasses are actually differentiated by their shape. Also called a shaker glass, an American pint glass was used to mix cocktails before it became a standard beer vessel, while the pub glass got its start in English pubs before crossing the pond. While an American pint glass has a conical shape with straight sides and a 16-ounce capacity, an English pub glass, or nonic glass, features a bulge near the top. Nonic glasses are traditionally designed to hold a British pint of 20 ounces, but are available in sizes to serve an American 16-ounce pint. For establishments without a discerning clientele, these versatile beer glasses can be used to serve everything from ales to porters, but might not be the best way to present specialty craft beer or high ABV beers.
Beer Steins & Mugs
Stein is a German word for stone, a name applied to this type of vessel because it is a shortening of steinkrug, another German word that means "stone jug." That's a nod to the fact the name technically refers to a stoneware beer mug with a lid that's usually meant to be ornamental, but stein is used today for a variety of glass mugs and tankards. Dimpled steins, another staple in British pubs, are patterned with dozens of circular indentions and might be marketed as Oktoberfest steins or mugs.
There is no standardized size for beer mugs, as they range from a modest 81⁄2 ounces to more generous 333⁄4-ounce capacities. However, they almost always have handles to let customers comfortably drink out of them while preventing hand warmth from warming the brew. These glasses are made with thick walls for better insulation. Beer mugs are recommended for serving a variety of ales and lagers.
Wheat Beer and Pilsner Glasses
Pilsner and wheat glasses are two other types of beer glassware that are often confused for each other. Although neither is completely straight-sided, the pilsner glass has a more conical shape than the wheat glass. The latter is usually designed with noticeably curved sides. As its name implies, the wheat beer glass is designed for brews like weizenbiers (literally, "wheat beers") and hefeweizens, and might also be called weizen glasses. Pilsner glasses are usually designed to hold fewer than 16 ounces of beer, although some can hold as much as 23, and can be paired with their namesake beers, as well as lighter lagers.
Stemmed Beer Glass
The stemmed beer glasses category encompasses a number of different types, each meant to complement different beers. Stemmed beer glasses are commonly used to serve high-ABV products, as they are usually designed to hold smaller portions. Although some types of traditionally non-stemmed beer glasses, like pilsners, are available in stemmed versions to enhance their appearance, there are several beer glass styles known for their stems.
Goblets and schooners both have large bowls, but schooners are usually larger and, unlike most stemmed glasses, are meant to hold amounts in the 20- to 36-ounce range. A tulip glass, which has a large bowl with a narrower top diameter, is also referred to as a Belgian beer glass because of the beer it is often used with. Another flower-themed beer glass, the thistle glass, features a unique bulb-type bowl and a top that flares out. The snifter, commonly thought of as a scotch glass, can also be used to serve beers that benefit from the emphasis placed on aroma. In addition to Belgian beers, these beer glasses are recommended for ales, stouts, saisons, porters, dubbels, and tripels.
Other Beer Glasses
Not all beer glassware is made with tradition in mind. Ciders are a popular choice among customers who may not like beer, and glasses designed for serving ciders will let those customers know their drink is served with the same thought and attention as a beer. Other styles have been designed for casual environments, like the beer glass that looks like a beer can, beer glasses with sports themes, and the yard of ale, complete with a wooden stand. Nucleated beer glasses include laser etching on the inside of the bottom of the glass to encourage carbonation, which can enhance the aroma and appearance of some beers.
Whether you run a bar or restaurant, you'll want to invest in beer pitchers and tasting glasses. Pitchers are a necessity for groups that want to pitch in on a large quantity of beer to share or for running beer specials. Tasting glasses can be put together in a flight to let a table try multiple beers, usually four or five at a time, which helps them decide which brews they want in full pours. Breweries or markets that sell beer for customers to take home will also need to keep growlers, which can hold 32 or 64 ounces, stocked and ready to go.
Does Beer Glassware Really Matter?
Specialized types of beer glasses are designed for enhancing aspects of particular beers, such as improved head retention on a foamy farmhouse ale or to showcase an IPA's citrusy aroma. Whether your customers will pay much attention to the glass their beer is served in largely depends on to whom you cater. Are you courting beer connoisseurs with heated opinions about how that stout pairs with that shaker glass or serving beer enthusiasts who don't much care how their beer is served as long as they get to drink it? Chances are that opinionated customers will let you know if your presentation doesn't match their expectations, and if your customers don't think your glasses suit your selection, you'll need to expand your drink service.