What's wrong with Beer Glassware in the US?
I’m sick of the pint glass. Although simple and durable, it lacks personality compared to its Central European counterparts. More importantly, it’s definitely not optimized to enhance the aroma and flavor of most of the beers served within. Ordinary bitter? OK. But IPA? The pint glass cannot do it justice.
In Belgium and much of Germany, each brand has it’s own distinct style of glass featuring a unique shape that is meant to highlight the characteristics of that brand’s beer. The shape affects the appearance of the beer (based on the way light moves through the beer and glass) as well as head development and retention. But more importantly, the shape has a profound effect on the aroma of the beer, by determining how volitile aromatics are released by the beer and retained by the glass. Some glasses create a pocket from which your nose can draw those aromatic delights. This, of course, has a profound impact on our perception of flavor. By comparison, a pint glass, with nearly no shape, is very poor at developing or retaining aromatics, which is a crying shame for the hoppy beers many breweries are putting in them these days.
Further, the glassware provides a strong branding opportunity for each brewery. With the astronomical number of breweries opening each year in the US, any potential branding advantage should be considered. A unique glass not only provides a place to put your logo, but also a recognizable association from afar. I could recognize the distinctive Rochefort glass from across a crowded room any day.
There are a couple of exceptions worth noting. Boston Beer has created a unique glass shape for Sam Adams, which I actually think works pretty well for hoppy beers. Riedel/Spiegelau, the famous maker of wine glasses (of which there are many types, you should note), has recently started making an IPA glass not too dissimilar in shape (see photo above). But we are still a long ways to go, and I hope the increasing influence of Belgium and Germany on US breweries will continue into the world of glassware.