Fine glassware with your beer is not something we have seen a lot of in Australia. If you were asked to conjure an image of typical “Australian beer drinking”, chances are the only glassware brought to mind would be a bottle or a standard pub-style glass. As beer appreciation in this country grows, however, so does the awareness of the importance of the glass it is poured into.
Unique or specific beer glassware is not a new phenomenon, and visitors to Germany or Belgium will be able to share stories of the esoteric glasses they saw along the way. Now modern beer is coming with its own glasses - and you would struggle to find a passionate craft beer drinker who isn’t also passionate about the receptacle.
While they come in all shapes and sizes, the goal for a beer glass is the same as any other fine glassware, be it a stemmed Bordeaux glass or a Glencairn glass for whisky. Like whisky or wine, a nice glass should accentuate a beer's character, present it elegantly, and assist the drinker in getting maximum enjoyment from their beverage.
Spiegelau, a familiar name to wine lovers, have been building a range of beer glassware designed specifically for beer styles, much the way that wine glasses have done since time immemorial. Beginning with their basic range, consisting of a tulip glass, a wheat beer glass, a pilsener glass and a lager glass, they have begun adding glassware specifically for modern beers.
The first, an India Pale Ale glass, designed in conjunction with American craft beer heavy-hitters Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head, was a modified version of the Riedel Red + White glass (Riedel are Spiegelau's parent company). The modifications give larger dimensions to the bowl while the ridges at the base help aerate the beer and keep the volatile hop-aromas active and lively as you drink it.
While it divided opinions when launched with its odd appearance, it is now almost ubiquitous glassware for any craft beer lover. In taste tests that I personally have conducted it has come up tops for a number of styles.
Spiegelau have since added an American Wheat glass and a Stout glass with similar shapes, minus the ridged base, that are also winning an audience with beer-lovers.
Another item of glassware incredibly popular with drinkers around the world is known as the "TeKu" glass. Designed by Italian brewery Baladin, in conjunction with an Italian sensory expert, its unique angular appearance makes for a striking presentation while the narrowing shape helps contain and present aromas and flavours extremely well.
Increasingly, breweries and festivals are using the TeKu glass as their branded glassware of choice, with the much cheaper classic "pub" style pints and smaller versions usually used for branding ultimately falling out of favour.
For those who want to enjoy their beer but don't want to navigate the world of TeKu or Spiegelau products, there are a range of other sizes and shapes available made with varying qualities of glass, and many beer-lovers simply opt for brandy balloons or wine glasses as their domestic glassware of choice.
Such glasses, particularly red wine glasses, offer versatility across a number of styles and nice, large sizes to give the beer head-space, allowing aromas to swirl around the bowl as well as containing the head of beers with a more lively carbonation.
The outlay for any of these glass styles is also reasonably low, and little over $20 should get you something well-made and aesthetically pleasing. If you are a beer-lover who likes trying a range of styles then it is a small price to pay for something that will vastly improve your enjoyment of the product.
While the idea of presenting your beer in fine glassware can seem novel to those used to popping the top of a bottle or can and swilling right from the vessel, if you want the most out of your beer and a different sort of experience, then nice glassware is an absolutely essential tool of your trade.