Putting the Ass in Glassware

I’m sorry to be blunt, but coming from the wine world, I have had numerous spirited conversations about glassware, their shapes, their sizes, their uniqueness, and, of course, their efficacy. And it seems like time and time again, there are those snobs (remind me later to delineate the difference between a snob and an elitist) that ignorantly tout the benefits of the right glassware with the right beverage. I have met both Georg and Maximillian Reidel and experienced first-hand how the shape of a stemmed bowl enhances wine aromas and flavors. So the bottom line is this- Does the shape of a glass affect the contents of it? In a word: Yes. In six words: Stop being an ass about it.

So what do these uniquely shaped glasses have to do with beer? Well, Riedel doesn’t just stop at wine; this 11th generation Austrian glass company makes glassware for a variety of fermented and distilled products: wine, port, beer, whiskey, tequila, and grappa to name a few. So why does Riedel make beer-specific glassware?

I’m sure you’ve seen the packaging trend in the craft beer industry: more and more craft breweries are packaging in aluminum cans versus glass bottles. There is a very specific reason for this (much like the screw caps you see on more and more wine bottles.) Cans seal better than bottles. That’s it. They totally block out sunlight, which keeps beer tasting fresher and longer than beer that is exposed to ultraviolet light. Cans are also more fun. You can take them to the pool, concerts, lakes, hiking, kayaking, hot tubs, golf courses, and anywhere else you can’t take glass. There’s also environmental considerations; cans are twelve times lighter than glass and are easily recycled.

So what do cans have to do with glassware? Remember the Transitive Property from math class? I know I’m making you think right now, but let’s think about it logically. There is glassware designed for craft beer. Craft beer is packaged in a can. Therefore beer glassware is a perfect vessel for canned craft beer. Thank you Mrs. Flynn (one of my math teachers, who would be laughing right now if she knew I just applied middle school math to beer consumption.)

Derek Fernholz, Co-Founder of Fernson Brewing Company, says it best, “A can is basically a miniature keg. It’s the best way to deliver fresh beer.” Makes sense to me. Makes sense to can beer. Makes sense to enjoy said beer in a special glass. Even the BeerAdvocate states, “As soon as the beer hits the glass, its color, aroma and taste is altered, your eye candy receptors tune in, and your anticipation is tweaked. Hidden nuances become more pronounced, colors shimmer, and the enjoyment of the beer simply becomes a better, more complete, experience.”

If you’re still reluctant to believe any of my carefully crafted tirade (or you’re just an all-around skeptic,) then I challenge you to be an elitist and not a snob. A snob is someone who thinks they know a lot about a subject, and an elitist actually does. Here’s your challenge, should you choose to accept it: Bring home one of your favorite beers and set up two glasses, a traditional pint glass and a red wine glass. Pour your beer into the pint glass and take a whiff, really look for the tiny little hints of fruit or earth aromas. Now taste. Tastes pretty good I would imagine. Now pour your beer into the red wine glass. Give it a gentle swirl to aerate your beer a touch. Now smell. Notice anything different? Notice anything more pronounced? Notice anything new in your beer?

You will never become a believer, or an elitist, until you see it, smell it, and taste it for yourself. Embrace the brewers that are packaging their beers to ensure freshness and get some proper glassware to enjoy them on a whole new level. Carpe Fermento!


Riccardo Tarabelsi is the VP of Sales and Marketing for Fernson Brewing Company. As a Level I Sommelier, Riccardo brings his unique perspective to the craft beer world. To reach him, contact Riccardo@fernson.com.