Beer is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from barley, hops, water, and yeast and
sometimes other ingredients.
The three major styles of beer are:
In 2014, the Brewers Association of America recognized 76 styles of Ales, 30 styles of
Lagers and 35 styles of Specialty beers.
Beer is as complex and varied as wine, as such, it should be judged in many
of the same ways.
The Brewers Association of America defines a “Craft Beer” as one produced by
a brewer who’s:
Conversely a “Craft-style” or “Crafty” beer is one produced by a brewer who’s:
Brands like Leinenkugel’s, Henry Weinhard, Blue Moon, Red Hook, Widmer,
Kona, Goose Island, 10 Barrel and Shock Top may have started as “Craft”
brewers, but today, all are owned either fully or in part by SABMiller,
MolsonCoors or Anheuser-Busch InBev. Thus, these brands can no longer
claim to be “Craft” beers that are produced by “Craft” brewers.
There are three main areas to remember when serving beer, whether to yourself or friends:
Would you drink a wine directly from the bottle? Of course not. It is difficult to
appreciate the full complexities of what you are drinking when the container it was packaged in is made of metal or colored glass. Whether your beer is in a bottle, can or keg, it should always (when possible) be drunk from a glass. Be sure to use clear, clean glassware so you see its color, appreciate its aroma and taste all its components.
When you pour the beer, regardless of the style of glass you use, always follow
these simple steps:
Most beers have an ideal serving temperature. The chart below outlines which
styles are served at what temperature, but as a general rule the temperature at which to serve a beer is correlated to the strength of the beer. As beers increase in alcohol level, they are generally drunk at a warmer temperature. This is because higher alcohol and more complex beers often are sipped slowly, and enjoyed for their complexity of flavor and aroma while lower alcohol level beers are often consumed for refreshment.
Beer glassware comes in many shapes and sizes. In Belgium, it’s common to have a different glass for each brand of beer! While breweries
may claim that the glasses were designed specifically for their beer, and there’s no arguing the fun in drinking a beer from its own specific glass
the fact of the matter is that there are really only a few types of glasses you need to know about, in addition to a couple of general principles
about beer glassware.
When drinking beer, the size of the glass matters. As the strength of the beer you are drinking goes up, the size of the glass you are drinking it
from should go down. The reasons for this are pretty obvious. First, you generally drink strong beers in smaller portions, so you want the glass
to be full at that portion size. That way, you aren’t drinking your 6 oz. tasting of English Barleywine as a thin film spread across the bottom of a
2 liter German boot, although that would be pretty awesome. Second, in big glasses, gravity aids in getting the beer to your mouth quickly.
When taking a sip of that refreshing pilsner, as you tilt that long, tall glass up into the air, there’s a lot more beer being pulled towards your
mouth. This accelerates the beer and makes taking big, satisfying sips easier. Try doing that with the English Barleywine and it will be half gone
by your second sip. And since the Barleywine is likely two to three times the strength of the Pils, you’ll be half gone too!
There’s a wide variety of shapes for beer glassware. Usually the shape of the glass will highlight the defining feature of the beer that should go
in it. With wheat beer glasses, for example, the tall, thin, lower portion of the glass highlights the striking color of the beer, while the bulbous top
portion leaves plenty of room for a large fluffy head of foam. The overall size of the glass also makes it easy to drink large, thirst-quenching sips.
Glasses that curve inwards toward the top, such as snifters and tulips, focus beer aromas at the rim of the glass. This is perfect for beers with complex noses, like Belgian Tripels or Imperial Stouts.
As mentioned above, there are many, many types of glasses that you can pour beer into. Below are some of the main glass types you might want to know about.
The Shaker Pint was originally designed for bartenders to mix drinks in before serving. But the extremely sturdy shaker pint quickly became the glass of choice for beer in America.
The Nonic pint is basically the Shaker pint’s English cousin. The glass of choice in the UK, the Nonic has rounded flares at the top, presumably to help grip the glass, and is more visually interesting than the Shaker pint.
Despite the name, Pilsner glasses are great for any light or medium bodied lager, such as Helles, Vienna, Dortmunder, and of course, Pilsner. The fluted shape of the glass promotes head retention and allows the delicate aromatics of lager to be released. They are also designed for drinkers to take large, refreshing gulps. Prost!
The tall, thin weizen glass is sure to get some oohs and ahhs when served at the local pub. The lower portion of the glass highlights the striking color of the beer, while the bulbous top portion leaves plenty of room for a large, fluffy head of foam. The overall size of the glass also makes it easy to drink large, thirst-quenching sips.
Tulip glasses are perfect for a wide range of craft beers. The stem at the bottom keeps your hand from prematurely warming the beer, the inward curve toward the top collects aromas and the oversized height of the glass above the bulb allows for plenty of foam. The most famous, and perhaps most beautiful tulip glass is made by the Belgian brewer Duvel Moortgat for their signature beer Duvel. When in doubt, reach for a tulip glass.
Goblets are most often associated with Belgian Abbey style ales such as Tripel or Dubbel. The heft of the glass matches the heft of the beer within, and the wide mouth of the glass allows for generous sipping. Goblets can be quite striking, and the custom versions of the glass for Trappist breweries such as Chimay and Orval have become synonymous with their beers.
Snifter glasses are best used for strong, highly complex beers such as Russian Imperial Stout or Barleywine. The inward curved glass concentrates the aromas of the beer towards the drinker’s nose, and the large bulb allows room to swirl the beer, helping release the aromatics.
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