Beer Glassware

dimpled beer mug

Beer glassware comprises the drinking vessels made of glass designed or commonly used for drinking beer. Different styles of glassware exist for a number of reasons: national traditions; legislation regarding serving measures; practicalities of stacking, washing and avoiding breakage; promotion of commercial breweries; or they may be folk art, novelty items or used in drinking games.

They also may complement different styles of beer for a variety of reasons, including enhancing aromatic volatiles, showcasing the appearance, and/or having an effect on the beer head. Several kinds of beer glassware have a stem which serves to prevent the body heat of the drinker’s hand from warming the beer. Beer glasses include German steins, old English tankards, and Belgian novelty glassware.

International glass styles include the pilsner glass, and snifter. German and Austrian styles include the weizen glass, beer stein, maß, stangen and becher (a beer glass and tray combination, and the bierstiefel (beer boot). Belgian and Dutch styles include the flute glass, goblet or chalice, tulip glass, and café glasses. British and Irish styles include the tankard, Toby jug, yard of ale, and the pint glass.

A pilsner glass is used for many types of light beers, including pale lager or pilsner. Pilsner glasses are generally smaller than a pint glass, usually in 200 ml, 250 ml, 300 ml, 330 ml or 400 ml sizes. They are tall, slender and tapered. The slender glass will reveal the color, and carbonation of the beer, and the broad top will help maintain a beer head.

Typically used for serving brandy and cognac, a snifter is ideal for capturing the volatiles of aromatic beers such as, Double/Imperial IPAs, Belgian ales, barleywines and wheat wines. The shape helps trap the volatiles, while allowing swirling to agitate them and produce an intense aroma.

A weizen glass is used to serve wheat beer. Originating in Germany the glass is narrow at the bottom and slightly wider at the top; the width both releasing aroma, and providing room for the often thick, fluffy heads produced by wheat beer. It tends to be taller than a pint glass, and generally holds 500 milliliters with room for foam or ‘head.’ Wheat beers tend to foam a lot, especially if poured incorrectly. In pubs, if the bottle is handed to the patron for self pouring, it is customary for the glass to be taken to the patron wet or with a bit of water in the bottom to be swirled around to wet the entire glass to keep the beer from foaming excessively.

A Beer stein is an English neologism for either traditional beer mugs made out of stoneware, or specifically ornamental beer mugs that are usually sold as souvenirs or collectibles. Such Steins may be made out of stoneware (rarely the inferior earthenware), pewter, porcelain, or even silver, wood or crystal glass; they may have open tops or hinged pewter lids with a thumb-lever. Steins usually come in sizes of a half liter or a full liter. Like ornate tankards, they are often decorated in a nostalgic manner, but with allusions to Germany or Bavaria. It is believed by some that the lid was implemented during the age of the Black Plague, to prevent diseased flies from getting into the beer.

The Maß [mas] is a Bavarian mug containing one liter of liquid. As a maß is a unit of measure, various desings are possible, but modern maß krugs are often handled glass tankards, although they may also be in the form of steins.

The high, narrow and cylindrical stange (German: stick or rod) is traditionally used for Kölsch. A becher, traditionally used for altbier, is similar, though slightly shorter and fatter. The stange usually holds between 100cc and 200cc (though larger ones are now sometimes used to reduce serving work), the becher between 200 and 300cc. Stangen are carried by slotting them into holes in a special tray called a Kranz (‘wreath’)

Beer boots, or Bierstiefel, have over a century of history and culture behind them. It is commonly believed that a general somewhere promised his troops to drink beer from his boot if they were successful in battle. When the troops prevailed, the general had a glassmaker fashion a boot from glass to fulfill his promise without tasting his own feet and. Since then, soldiers have enjoyed toasting to their victories with a beer boot. At gatherings in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, beer boots are often passed among the guests for a festive drinking challenge. It is an old joke to hand the boot to a young novice drinker with the tip pointing away from his person, which will result in beer pouring over the drinker’s face uncontrollably when air enters the tip; seasoned drinkers always point the tip towards their body until the glass is sufficiently drained.

A vessel similar to a champagne flute is the preferred serving vessel for Belgian lambics and fruit beers. The narrow shape helps maintain carbonation, while providing a strong aromatic front. Flute glasses display the lively carbonation, sparkling color, and soft lacing of this distinct style.

Chalices and goblets are large, stemmed, bowl-shaped glasses adequate for serving heavy Belgian ales, German bocks, and other big sipping beers. The distinction between goblet and chalice is typically in the glass thickness. Goblets tend to be more delicate and thin, while the chalice is heavy and thick walled. Some chalices are even etched on the bottom to nucleate a stream of bubbles for maintaining a nice head.

A tulip glass not only helps trap the aroma, but also aids in maintaining large heads, creating a visual and olfactory sensation. The body is bulbous, but the top flares out to form a lip which helps head retention. It is recommended for serving Scottish ales, American double/imperial IPAs, barleywines, Belgian ales and other aromatic beers. Some pint glasses which taper outwards towards the top are also called tulip glasses, despite having notably less curvature.

A tankard is a form of drinkware consisting of a large, roughly cylindrical, drinking cup with a single handle. Tankards are usually made of silver, pewter, or glass, but can be made of other materials, for example wood, ceramic or leather. A tankard may have a hinged lid, and tankards featuring glass bottoms are also fairly common. Tankards are shaped and used similarly to beer steins.

A Toby Jug – also sometimes known as a Fillpot  – is a pottery jug in the form of a seated person, or the head of a recognizable person (often an English king). Typically the seated figure is a heavily-set, jovial man holding a mug of beer in one hand and a pipe of tobacco in the other and wearing 18th century attire: a long coat and a tricorn hat. The tricorn hat forms a pouring spout, often with a removable lid, and a handle is attached at the rear. Jugs depicting just the head and shoulders of a figure are also referred to as Toby Jugs, although these should strictly be called ‘Character Jugs.’

A yard of ale or yard glass is a very tall glass used for drinking around 2.5 imperial pints (1.4 l) of beer, depending upon the diameter. The glass is approximately 1 yard long, shaped with a bulb at the bottom, and a widening shaft which constitutes most of the height. The glass most likely originated in 17th-century England where it was known also as a ‘Long Glass,’ a ‘Cambridge Yard’ and an ‘Ell Glass.’ It is associated by legend with stagecoach drivers, though was mainly used for drinking feats and special toasts. Drinking a yard glass full of beer is a traditional pub game. The fastest drinking of a yard of ale in the Guinness Book of Records is 5 seconds.

A pint glass is a drinking vessel holding an imperial pint (568 ml ≈1.2 US pints) of liquid and is usually used for beer. The common shapes of pint glass are: conical, nonic, and jug. Conical glasses are shaped, as the name suggests, as an inverted truncated cone around 6 inches (15 cm) tall and tapering by about 1 inch (25 mm) in diameter over its height. The nonic, a variation on the conical design, where the glass bulges out a couple of inches from the top; this is partly for improved grip, partly to prevent the glasses from sticking together when stacked, and partly to give strength and stop the rim from becoming chipped or ‘nicked.’ The term ‘nonic’ derives from ‘no nick.’

Jug glasses, or ‘dimple mugs,’ are shaped more like a large mug with a handle. They are moulded with a grid pattern of thickened glass on the outside, somewhat resembling the segmentation of a WWII-era hand grenade. The dimples prevent the glass slipping out of the fingers in a washing-up bowl, and the design of the glass emphasises strength, also to withstand frequent manual washing. These design features became less important when manual washing was superseded by machine washing from the 1960s onwards. Dimpled glasses are now rarer than the other types and are regarded as more traditional. This sort of glass is also known as a ‘Handle’ due to the handle on the glass. They are popular with the older generation and people with restricted movement in their hands which can make holding a usual pint glass difficult.

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