Fancy beer glasses aren't just for fun; the proper vessel enhances the beer drinking experience both by directing the beverage to the proper part of the tongue for maximum flavor and by allowing for aromatic expression and head retention. Navigating through the sea of different glass styles isn't as difficult as one might imagine.
Selecting the perfect glass is only half the battle. Glassware storage and serving is the other half. Avoid frozen glasses as the ice melts and waters down the beer, while frost causes excessive foaming. Clean glasses thoroughly by hand; washing glasses in the dishwasher along with dirty dishes will cross-contaminate and leave a thin coating of oils that destroys foam and ruins aromatics.
Pilsner Glass: The straight walls of the pilsner glass are perfect for many lighter styles of beer, including its namesake and almost all lagers. Some pilsner glasses have a foot or stand and a few even have a slightly exaggerated figure, but a proper pilsner glass should avoid any substantial curvature. The tapered shape of the glass allows lighter beers to sparkle and maintain proper head. This is the perfect glass for Great Lakes Dortmunder, Eliot Ness and Wright Pils, as well as other local lagers like Fat Heads Gudenhoppy and Brew Kettle's Lake BeErie.
Tulip: The Belgian tulip glass is named after the flower it resembles. The bulbous body allows the beer to remain undisturbed beneath the dense head. The unique open-mouth design encourages head retention and pushes aromatics up towards the drinker's nose. Many tulips, including the world-famous Duvel glass, feature laser etching on the inside bottom. The ridges become nucleation epicenters, pushing forth a steady stream of bubbles that refresh the crowning head. A tulip is a great choice for any beer from Indigo Imp or for a locally brewed saison or Belgian pale ale. Many craft beer drinkers consider the tulip their go-to glass.
Weizen or Wheat Glass: Since wheat beers tend to foam when poured, the flared mouth of the weizen glass allows for three or even four fingers of head, facilitating the expression of notes of clove, banana and even bubblegum. While it's often mistaken for a pilsner glass, the weizen glass embraces the concept of curvature, ensuring maximum enjoyment of a hefeweizen, dunkel, weizenbock or even American pale wheat ale. Just leave out the lemon wedge or orange slice; the acidity in the fruit will destroy the signature pillowy head. Market Garden Pearl Street Wheat Ale and Buckeye Wheat Cloud taste great from this gorgeous glass.
Snifter: The snifter focuses the volatile aromatics of stronger beers to create an intense and memorable olfactory experience. The shape allows the beer to coat the sides of the glass, opening up and evolving over the course of a session. The stem promotes swirling while pondering the meaning of life (or, at the very least, what beer to drink next). Use a snifter to bring out the best in any double IPA, barleywine, wheat wine, strong ale or old ale and grab a seat by a roaring fire. Great Lakes Barrel Aged Blackout Stout, Thirsty Dog Wulver Wee Heavy and Hoppin' Frog BORIS the Crusher all were made for a snifter.
Goblet or Chalice: This glass looks like the Holy Grail for good reason: it's often used for the classic Trappist beers of Belgium. While glassware connoisseurs draw a distinction by noting goblets usually have thinner walls than chalices, both serve the same function: allowing deep sips from a wide mouth to really experience the rich depth of Belgian ales. Both feature a large bowl and fancy stem, completing the perfect look for a divine drinking adventure. Many goblets and chalices feature nucleation engravings similar to tulips. Select one for a Belgian quad, tripel, dubbel, Belgian strong ale (dark or golden) or Abby single. While few Cleveland breweries bottle traditional Belgian style beers, this glass would bring out the best in a growler of Brew Kettle Tripel or Fat Heads Head Trip.
Pint Glass or Nonic: The "proper" English pint glass is the utilitarian choice for almost any ale. The curved lip is designed to aid your favorite bartender with storage and stacking, but the wide mouth and subtle curvature promote easy drinking and fit common serving sizes of beer with room for an expressive head. Remember, the Americanized version with straight sides, referred to as a tumbler or shaker, is a substandard choice as the conical shape allows precious aromas to easily escape. The nonic is the preferred vessel for Fat Heads Head Hunter, Brew Kettle White Rajah or Willoughby Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter.