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There’s nothing wrong with drinking beer directly from a bottle or can. But for the 360-degree sensory experience, you’ll want to pour your beer into a glass, letting your eyes drink up the tint and carbonation before you take that first sip.
The right glass matters, too. Sure, you can dump that IPA into a Mason jar with a cracked lip, but a glass’s shape and raw materials can take a great beer and make it transcendent. A great glass will accentuate a beer’s aromatics and help the head stick around, creating a beer that looks as good as it tastes. From IPAs to stouts to pilsners and Belgian beers, here are the best beer glasses for any situation.
When searching for glasses for Chicago’s forthcoming Ørkenoy, a design-focused brewpub and community hub, cofounder Jonny Ifergan sought glassware “that was incredibly distinct and different from the traditional beer glass. That’s when we stumbled upon the Bormioli Rocco Bodega Glass.”
The set of 12 merges function form, built from chip-resistant tempered glass, boasting a thick base, and offering crystalline clarity to showcase a golden pilsner, fruit-infused sour ale, or hazy IPA alike. “It’s understated and simple, and the proportions of its wide mouth and extremely easy feel when held in your hand really won us over. Sure, you can call it a tumbler, but tumblers deserve way more credit than they are given in the beer industry.”
The durable shaker pint might be ubiquitous at bars and taprooms, but the glass’s straight shape and wide mouth do little to enhance a beer’s aromatics. After all, the glasses, which come in a set of 12, were originally intended to mix cocktails. Beer writer Kevin Kain of Casket Beer instead favors the style and functionality of Willi Becher glass.
“The subtle curve in at the top fosters better head retention and improves the sensory experience of aroma,” Kain says. The glass is great for low-alcohol lagers, such as pilsner and Helles, as well as pale ales, porters, and stouts. Also, the “curved shape makes it easy to hold and prevents chipping on the rim when stored.”
If you’re looking to build your collection of beer glassware and want a solid starter series of glasses, it’s tough to top this set of six from Libbey on both quality and cost. “It’s a nice collection from a reputable manufacturer that covers just about any beer style,” Kain of Casket Beer says.
Founded in 1818, the glassware firm’s set of value-priced beer glasses includes style-specific glasses for wheat beer, pilsners, Belgian ales, stouts, and more, each shape calibrated to bring out the best in every beer. Better still, breaking a glass doesn’t mean breaking the bank. You can buy replacement glasses for a fair price.
America’s favorite kind of craft beer is the IPA, a liquid vehicle for delivering big fragrances and flavors. Naturally, you’ll want a few great glasses (or eight, as are included in this set) to flaunt the latest and greatest IPA. “These Marta Coolers from CB2 are crafted in the style of Spanish tumblers,” says sommelier Rebecca Flynn, most recently of Eleven Madison Park, a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City.
“While they were likely intended for a large gin and tonic on a hot day, fill them up with your favorite hazy (or filtered!) IPA. The thin glass and contemporary construction will show off your favorite brew, and the wide opening will allow for any excess ABV to blow off while you inhale the aromatics."
Wayne Wambles is a wizard with wood. The brewmaster at Cigar City Brewing, in Tampa, Florida, makes some of the country’s most exciting barrel-aged beers, including versions of his legendary Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout that’s seasoned with chile peppers, cacao nibs, and cinnamon. Fittingly, he helped develop the Spiegelau Barrel-Aged glass set of four, specifically designed to boost the nuances of a wood-seasoned beer (think big stouts, barley wines, and barrel-aged brews).
“This glass has a wide enough mouth to allow for barrel aromatics to reach your nose without over-concentration of spirit or wood character,” Wambles says. “It allows you to focus on the beer as a whole without being overwhelmed by barrel character.”
The crisply quenching pilsner is glugged around the globe, at bars, in backyards, and in between bites of burgers. A well-made pilsner fits in just about anywhere, especially this footed glass (sold in a set of six). Yes, you can drink a pilsner by the can or bottle, but the German manufacturer’s lead-free crystal glass—infused with zirconium for clarity and titanium for strength and durability—bring excellence to everyday beer.
The tall tapered shape provides a brilliant showcase for a pilsner’s energetic bubbles and see-through golden hue, as well as promoting head formation. In short: The 14-ounce glass makes every pilsner look and taste better.
The acidic charms of sour beers excel at the dinner table, setting the stage for the feast to come. “Refreshingly tart and highly carbonated goses and Berliner weisses are great to get a meal started and cleanse the palate,” sommelier Flynn says.
“I love to consider these types of beers as aperitifs and serve them in a Champagne glass. Riedel makes an incredible glass for bubbly that is more in line with white wine glasses than the traditional flutes." Available in a set of two, "The larger bowl and tapered top accentuate flavors and highlight acidity.”
Sommelier Rebecca Flynn favors these bulbous glasses (available in a set of four) for Belgian and Belgian-inspired brews, such as farmhouse ales like the saison, or maybe monk-made dubbels and tripels. The beers shine best when poured into a glass, where you can admire their majestic poofs of perfumed foam.
“The large bowl captures a beer’s aromatic esters, and the tulip showcases a rich fluffy head,” she says. “I used these glasses at Eleven Madison Park for our beer and cheese pairings—they look great full or with just a few ounces in them.”
Given the wide variety of brewers and styles, it’s a blast to sip and compare beers—preferably in a tasting flight. Instead of grabbing a motley mix of glassware, opt for a stylish set, like this one containing six glasses, for sampling.
“For the sustainability-minded beer drinker, recycled drinking glasses provide more than just a vessel,” sommelier Flynn says. “These handblown glasses by Kessy Beldi are made from recycled beer and soda bottles. The shape is reminiscent of an English pub pint, though it is styled after a traditional mint tea glass. A slight seafoam tint shows your commitment to being green, and the short size is perfect for lots of small pours.”
There’s drinking. And then there’s thinking while drinking. If you’re looking to treat a more advanced beer lover who likes to analyze the liquid, follow the lead of Cigar City’s Wambles and pour your beers into a Spiegelau IPA glass (sold in a set of two).
“The shape of the mouth of the glass concentrates aroma, making it the perfect glassware for critical evaluation,” Wambles says of the dishwasher-safe glassware, developed in collaboration with Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head. The glass’s ridges help aerate the beer, while the bowed shape magnifies the distinct fragrances.
P.S. The glasses are also grand for, you guessed it, drinking IPAs. The thin-walled glassware holds 19 ounces, giving you plenty of room to decant a canned pint of IPA and create a crown of lustrous foam.