Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Beer and Glassware

Early on in my exploration of craft beer, I started building a collection of "shaker glasses." You know, those V-shaped glasses that many breweries and pubs put their logos on? They're also referred to as "shaker pints." Cheap, heavy, sturdy, easy to hold. (BTW, watch those "pints" you order in the pub. A US pint is 16 ounces, an Imperial (UK) pint is 20 ounces. However, most of these souvenir "shaker" glasses are only 12 ounces, though served as a "pint" in some pubs.)

Then my family gave me a set of very nice Pilsener glasses as a gift. I understood why pilseners had to be poured into that tall glass. However, I still didn't really see how the glass made that big of a difference for most beers. But before long I picked up a set of Chimay glasses in Ebay. I soon added some Hefe Weizen glasses to the mix. These tall glasses really do enhance the wheat beer drinking experience by allowing the head to develop and the wheat and clove scents to reach the nose. When the liquid swirls around in the widened part of the glass, the carbonation is increased and the flavors are released. At the Great Divide brewery in Denver I picked up a pair of their Cervoise glasses after drinking from them at the Tap Room. These glasses have become my favorite choice for Pale Ales and IPAs. I've since added similar glasses from Stone Brewing. Next came some brandy snifters from Brooklyn brewery. Perfect for Imperial Stouts and "Winter warmers." I don't mind the glasses having a brewery's logo, even if I'm enjoying a different beer. I have a pair of Smithwick's pints that are favorites for brown ales and the like. I'm constantly adding various other glasses to the mix.

It doesn't seem all that long ago that I swore by shaker glasses for everything. I will still pick up souvenir brewery glasses on occasion. The shakers are good all-around glasses, great for when you need a lot of glasses, or don't want to risk your good glassware getting broken. However, most of the time I prefer not to make that compromise. The proper glassware really does enhance the enjoyment of the beer. Some of this is visual, but we're visual beings. Eating fine food is better done off of nice tableware, rather than paper plates. A clear glass allows you to see the beer and appreciate the various colors of different styles of beer. Take a look inside Michael Jackson's Great Beer Guide here to see what I mean. Of course, I avoid drinking from a bottle whenever possible. I'll take one of those ubiquitous red plastic cups over the bottle. Who knows where that bottle's been before you put it to your lips. You can't detect the aroma of the beer nor see it's color from the bottle. The correct glass not only releases the qualities we enjoy in beer; aroma, carbonation, flavor, but it just adds to the fun. A nice glass feels good in the hand. My assemblage of glassware has outgrown the kitchen cabinet space available so some of it is relegated to a shelf in the basement until it's needed. I think we are collectors by nature, so it shouldn't be a surprise when our collection of glassware grows over time. Why should wine drinkers have all the fun?

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