I had no idea how terrible standard pint glasses are for drinking beer. I’ve always thought they were just fine, and have consumed approximately 5,000 beers out of them during the course of my drinking life, but apparently people who are serious about beer can’t stand them. The problem, as it was explained to me, is that they’re so thick they draw the cold out of the beer, making it hotter and flatter. More importantly, however, is that they disperse the aroma of the beer so you can’t smell it, and smelling a beer is a big part of the experience. (Another problem is that lager louts in the U.K. occasionally "glass" other people with them, but that’s a story for another time.) And so glassware companies like Spiegelau make glasses designed for better beer drinking. Spiegelau has a whole line of glasses dedicated to different types of beer – lager, wheat, barleywine – but they never had one for India pale ales, until now.
This week Spiegelau introduced its first IPA glass at an event at the NoMad hotel that was attended by bar owners, beer sommeliers (which is a real thing these days), and a couple of booze writers such as myself. It was hosted by Spiegelau and also featured Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head brewery in Delaware, and Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada brewery in California.
I was a skeptic about the glass at first, thinking that the obsession with proper glassware was 10% fact and 90% marketing bullshit. I came away with those figures reversed, because they set up a taste test where we compared beers poured into style-specific beer glasses with beers poured into pint glasses. The biggest difference is in the smelling. We poured Dogfish Head Midas Touch into a pint glass and a tulip glass. I stuck my nose into the pint glass and got a faint whiff of what was probably beer but could have been anything. Sticking my nose in the tulip glass yielded a big whiff of wonderful aromas: honey, papaya, melon. It tasted great too.
Then we moved on to the IPA glass, tasting Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA. Again, the aroma is so much more pronounced in the IPA glass, thanks to its bowed shape and wide mouth. But the glass also affected the taste of the beer – or at least the experience of tasting it. Here comes the science: You see in the picture how the glass has those weird-looking ridges at the bottom. Bubbles of CO2 cling to those ridges until you tip the glass back, when they release and float to the surface and give you an extra kick of effervescence as you take a sip. You can even watch it happen. It’s cool.
For the grand finale, the two brewers introduced a special beer they brewed together for the occasion: Life and Limb Rhizing Bines IPA. Again, we tested it in the new IPA glass against the pint glass, and again, the IPA glass kicked the pint glass’s ass. But I was already sold on that part. How does it taste?
The verdict: Rhizing Bines is a great brew. I’m actually not the biggest fan of IPAs. I like my hops just fine, but sometimes I think you can overdo it with the bitterness, and I’ve got nothing to prove, I just want a good beer. But somehow they were able to extract that nice grassy complexity of the hops without making it too bitter. It’s a flavorful, delightful beer, and I drank a little bit too much of it, and the next morning my head hurt, but it turned out I was actually just getting sick.
And so, beer drinkers of the world, go out and get yourself a set of style-specific beer glasses from Spiegelau (or the style-specific beer glass maker of your choice) and start enjoying your beer more. I was a skeptic and now I’m sold. Now if only we could get bars to ditch their pint glasses and upgrade. Someday …