We all know that there is to every wine style the perfect glass shape but what about beer? We order our favourite lagers, our classic ales and wheat beers which normally come in different glasses. They are branded so that other customers canimmediately identify what you are drinking but also shapes vary and there are a lot of reasons why.
The same applies to beer as to wine; a suitable glass is recommended to achieve the best aroma. The glass is not just there to let the beer look sexy but also influences aroma, foam and taste. The shape makes a difference but also the thickness of the glass. Thicker material or mugs made out of stone let the beer appear more rustic and heavy compared to a thin glass which makes the beer seems light and elegant.
The opening allows more or less air on the beer which decides the aroma intensity during drinking and influences the drinking speed. A wider top gives less foam, more aroma is allowed out and you automatically drink slower. The other way around is a small top, sometimes more foam, less aroma and beer is flowing quicker which brings out the bitterness. You don’t just eat but also drink with your eyes so glasses with more depth are great to intensify the tones of a darker beer, slim glasses let light beers appear more bright. So there is no universal beer glass and that is good otherwise you would miss out on so much aroma and many other things.
Let’s start with a German oldie, the beer mug. It comes in all sorts of materials and sizes. The classic measures are 0,5 l and 1 l and it traditionally serves festival beer, Märzen or Helles. Easy drinking beer with malt-forward characters. In the English language the term “Stein” is often used for 1 l beer mugs which is not really correct. “Stein” is a German word and translates into “stone” which is a short form for stoneware, the material those mugs were traditionally made of. It can be any size so has no particular measure and has to have an attached lid which makes it a Stein. The lid was very important in the 15th century as Europe still suffered from the plague. To enforce higher hygiene standards every person had their own Stein as the lid protected the beer from flies which were spreading the disease. Everyone having their personal Stein also brought out the creativity in some and quickly material changed from stone to tin or even silver or ivory for the more flashy personalities. It got so far that they became status symbols and soon showcased painted family emblems, historical scenes or engraved names. Around the 1800s the quality of the beer improved so brewers and also costumers wanted to show how great the beer looks in their mugs so everyone started investing in glassware. A change of material was not realistic earlier as glass production was expensive and engraved glass steins were too fragile.
Today the lid is gone and the traditional 1 l mugs are called “Mass”, it does not just describes the type of glass but also the amount of beer in it, kind of like a pint. On Oktoberfest and other Bavarian beer festivals the classic way to serve a beer. The Mass is heavy and already weighs 1 kg without any liquid. In the north of Bavaria often still made out of clay to never forget the traditional old days. The thick material keeps the beer cool for longer when you drink it (hopefully) on a sunny day.
Another special type of glassware is the wheat beer glass. People having aversions to foam probably won’t like this one because a wheat beer needs a good head. The high carbonation needs protection so you want a really thick foam layer resting on your wheat beer. The glass was particularly designed for this beer style. The slim shape will let it stay fizzy as long as possible as carbonation takes longer to rise from the bottom to the top. A heavy stand is important for balance and of course to cheers properly as in Germany we use the bottom.
You will definitely find these types of glass in England and maybe even the perfect shape for a Pils which is a tulip. In Germany you say to pour a perfect Pils it takes 7 minutes to build a solid foam layer and let the aromas unfold perfectly. If you really want to take that much time for the pour is debatable. But it is the best shape for the beer style and the most common beer glass in Germany. One reason is that the glass is so thin and fragile that you need a lot of backup. As the glass is so thin-walled it tends to turn warm quicker you serve it in a smaller measure of 0,33 l but also available in 0,5 l for the Pils lovers under us.
If you’ve ever been to Cologne you maybe also have seen beer glasses which look more like they came from a chemical set. Bavarians often joke about how small the 0,2 l glasses are compared to their 1l Mass. But there is a reason why they serve the beer from Cologne called “Kölsch” like that. This particular style is low carbonated so serving it in a smaller glass with a slim shape will prevent it from turning stale too quickly. The serving style is also quite unique, the waiters are responsible for their own tables then they buy the beer from the bar, fill up their trays and run around trying to replace as many empty glasses with full ones as possible. Every time they serve you a new Kölsch they make a mark on your coaster. When you are finished and want to pay, put the coaster on top of your glass. The waiters stop serving you and bring the bill. No words are needed.
At German Kraft, we care a lot about our glassware. We pour our wheat beers into the appropriate glassware, at our traditional Mayfair church venue. We make use of ceramic beer mugs and at our beer garden, we have classic German-handled glasses which allow you to carry 12 pints at once. Efficiency.
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