English | Deutsch

The beer and the glass – a complicated relationship

My grandmother, meanwhile 82 years old, still loves a glass of beer. And since her descendants have developed a similar passion, it’s obvious that at family get-togethers one or the other beer is often poured. With the emphasis here being on POURED because my dear grandma gets very strict about one thing: you never-ever drink beer straight from the bottle but pour it into a glass or mug first!

She shares this attitude with many people because a beer’s real class makes itself known in the glass where its aromas and above all the head can properly unfold. So far, so logical, if there weren’t so many different beer styles around: haven’t you, too, wondered at times what type of glass belongs to what beer? And what about the good-old earthenware mug? And why do you in Bavaria feel like a criminal if you don’t drink your wheat bear from a wheat beer glass? Yes, you see, the relationship between glass and beer doesn’t seem to be a straightforward one. This is why I drank one over the eight in order to get to the bottom of the question ‘Which type of glass goes well with what beer style?’

I would have loved to draw up a nice tabulated overview for you on the subject but unfortunately it isn’t as easy as that. Why? Because on the one hand there are ‘neutral’ glasses suitable for many different beer styles, and then again those glasses which are only ever used for one specific style of beer. The prime example for this is the Kölsch stange glass. Here, it has even been officially codified in the Kölsch Convention that Kölsch must be drunk exclusively from this type of glass. Presumably to the beer’s advantage because the slim cylindrical glass, typically holding only about 6.75 ounces (0.2 litres on average), makes sure the rather unstable head can unfold properly and also means you’ll empty your stange before the beer gets warm or flat.

As its name indicates, the Pils-Tulpe (pilsner tulip) is the glass from which the pilsner beer, very popular among Germans, is drunk. When you hold the glass by its stem while drinking, the beer doesn’t get warm; what’s more, the tulip or bud shape of the glass ensures lengthy head retention and brings the pilsner’s hop flavour properly to the forefront.

Also included in the list of beer glasses customary for one style of beer only is the wheat beer glass. The yeast can be deposited at the bottom of the long slim glass, preventing it from being swallowed while drinking. These glasses are typically rather thick-walled, which means the beer stays cold for longer. OK, I have to admit that these are two cogent reasons why in my circles at least people are fervently insistent that wheat beer is by all means drunk from its proper glass.

But fortunately, there are also glasses with which you can take some liberties. The top seller and the standard glass among the neutral glasses is in Germany the Willi becher, which you will probably find in every inn since it can be used for a great many drinks. Mostly, innkeepers serve pale beer or lager in the willi becher but it’s also very well suited for soft drinks.

Another allrounder, by the way, is the beer tasting glass, which – what a surprise – is used for beer tastings and suited for sampling almost any style of beer. The exceptions here: pilsner and lager beer, which are not doing so well in this glass. Its typical curved goblet shape enables the beer to breathe properly, thus allowing its aromas to unfold to particularly good effect; what’s more, this glass creates a wonderful head. The stem, in its turn, makes sure the beer stays cold.

With the exception of the tasting glass, the glasses I’ve mentioned so far come primarily from the German cultural area. Now when you direct your gaze to the north-west, you come across the pint glass from the United Kingdom. Its name denotes the volume it holds (in England approx. 586 ml), and the glass widens towards the top. What’s characteristic for it is above all that the head is scraped off, there is no fill line, meaning the pint glass is filled with beer to the brim.

The beers typically served in a pint glass are IPAs, stouts or porters. In the beer-loving land of Belgium, the traditional types of Tripel, Dubbel, Blond or Trappist beers are, by the way, served in goblet- or cup-shaped glasses. The Belgian beers’ complex aromatics have enough space to breathe in the round goblet, and the beers quickly lose their CO2 which given their high carbonation is in fact a desired effect. My grandma, by the way, would feel very much at ease in Belgian inns – because there serving the beers in their matching glass is mandatory. Since at the same time Belgian inns offer a remarkably huge number of different beers, most of them have an equally impressive array of different glasses to choose from.

Oh dear, I would almost have forgotten it: the good-old earthenware mug. But this is in actual fact hardly used any more because the glass mug has more or less replaced it. One reason: with an earthenware mug, you cannot see whether the landlord has really filled it up to the fill line. But as the forerunner of all beer mugs, it has so far still not disappeared entirely; however, it mostly serves rather representative purposes, frequently with printed-on logos or pictures. The glass mug is therefore more common in the inns of these parts, or on the proper occasion the stein as well. The biggest among the beer mugs, by the way, also has the thickest walls, so as to keep the beer nice and cool.



As you will have noticed, it is not necessarily simple to identify a common denominator between beer and glass. But there is one tip I don’t want to withhold from you: if at a private beer tasting, you don’t have the matching glass handy, you can also take a wine glass! Its full-bellied shape narrowing towards the top means that the beer’s aromas can unfold to full effect in this as well. And if then people start talking shop, you now have at least some basic knowledge – I hope to finally impress my grandma with it at the next family get-together 😊

Share on Pinterest
Your Comment

All (*) marked fields are mandatory fields