How do you like to drink your beer?- May, 2010

For many Canadians beer is meant to be drunk out of a cold, frosty bottle, but for a connoisseur, beer is not something to quaff.  For those with a nose for the aroma, and eye for the hue and sparkle, and an obsession for the size of the ‘head’, every beer has an appropriate glass.

The glass or jar from which you sip your beer can come in many different shapes and sizes. For example, a Belgian fruit beer suits a flute glass because the narrow shape maintains the carbonation, and a tulip glass, with its bulbous body and flared lip, is best for Scottish and Belgian ales or aromatic beers because of the way it traps the aroma and maintains a large head.

A wheat beer glass is more narrow at the bottom and slightly wider at the top in order to release the aroma and providing ample room for the head. And you can feel perfectly manly about drinking a beer out of a glass with a stem, if you want to savor the ‘nose’ of the brew.

 “Certain beers are are supposed to have an open nose, an open top, so that you can be sure to smell it”says Lilia, owner, with her husband Shaun, of the Pumphouse Brewery in Moncton , “and some glasses have a a stem, so that you can hold it in your hand to warm it up and release the flavors, there are so many styles for the different beers”.

“Some glasses are created to hold the head  because the head keeps in the flavor and aroma, and each sip that breaks through the head gives a fresh taste and smell of the beer”, says Shaun.

Shaun and Lilia obviously share their beer passion; their descriptions of the delights of beer drinking make you want to hop into the nearest brew pub.

Shaun says that The Pumphouse customers have all different tastes, from those who drink from the small eight ounce tulip glass to those that insist on the classic American/British Isles pint. Some even like a handle on their jar.

Sometimes the choice is more emotional than aesthetic. If you are British you might have strong feelings about drinking beer from a pint sleeve rather than the heavy dimpled mug.  According to The Guinness Drinking Companion by Leslie Dunkling, “ The  sleeve is said to be Northern English and working class. It is also unkindly said that the chunky jug is preferred by those who feel a need to demonstrate their masculinity”.

But aside from casting aspersions on your masculinity, the man who loves his beer in a sleeve may just like the feel of it in his hand. Says beer lover Marc Lecour, “I’d rather drink beer from the bottle but if it is a really good beer, I  like the classic glass, the pint. It breathes, and it just tastes better”.

Dave Boucher, the brewer from the  Brew-it Store in Dieppe says he likes a thick glass, “I like the weight and I like the thickness of it”.

Or you might want to drink your beer out of a boot. The ‘beer boot’, offered at the Pumphouse,  holds three liters and is usually ordered by a table of friends who play a game in which the last one to swig from the boot and finish it off must pick up the tab for the next boot of beer.

The tradition of ordering a celebratory ‘beer boot’ or ‘bierstirfal’ is based on a story about a general who promised his troops that he would drink a beer out of his boot if they were successful in battle. When the soldiers were victorious the General had a glass maker fashion the boot in order to avoid ruining his boots, and his beer.

Shaun explains the importance of the beer glass by putting it in perspective, “in the early days of beer- making the brews were cloudy, but no one could tell because the drinking mugs tended to be wooden or opaque anyway.  When glass became much more common the beer’s appearance became more of an issue and the new glasses were created to show off the color and clarity of the beer”.

The traditional German stein with the hinged lip and levered thumblift is much more common in Europe than North America, says Lilia.  Some say the lid was created and even made mandatory in Europe in the Middle Ages because of the prevalence of diseased flies getting into food and drinks.  Says Lilia, “I believe it is also good for the beer, because when the beer is exposed to the air it goes flat, so the lid keeps the foam and protects it under the lid”.

Lilia says that although she saw the beer stein frequently in Europe it is more of a collector’s item and souvenir now. They did not order any for The Pumphouse because of the expense and the difficulty of washing them properly.

Lilia says that In North America,  “many people want their beer ice cold, and that means that the beer does not really have any flavor. That’s why you have to drink it ice cold,  because if it warms up it is going to taste like nothing. If you are talking about a full flavored beer, which is usually a  mirco beer, it is a totally different story because if you are serving it cold you are losing the flavor of it”.

“If you are a real beer drinker”, says Shaun, “you will know that the good brews are served at the temperature of  the cellar from which they came”.


Beer Glasses – ( from Wikipedia)

Beer Stein –

The traditional German beer tankard or mug (pewter, silver, wood, porcelain, earthenware or glass). Usually with a hinged lid and levered thumb-lift.

Flute Glass  –

Preferred serving glass for Belgian fruit beers, it has a narrow shape in order to maintain carbonation. Flute glasses are made to display carbonation and color.

Pint Glass –

Drinking vessel that holds an imperial pint ( 568 ml). Usually for stout, porter and bitters.

Goblet or Chalice –

Large stemmed bowl-shaped glasses used for heavy Belgian ales, German ‘bocks’ and other ‘big sipping beers’. Goblets are more delicate and thin compared to the heavy thick walled Chalice.    

Tulip Glass –

The glass has a bulbous body with a top that flares out to form a lip that helps ‘head’ retention and traps aroma. Used for Scottish ales, barley wines, Belgian ales and aromatic beers.

Stange and Becher –

A stange ( German: stick or rod) is traditionally used for Kolsch. A becher, is similar though slightly shorter and fatter. Both are cylindrical and hold about 200- 300 cc.

Beer Boot –

A “Bierstiefel’ has a century of history and culture behind it. It is believed that a General promised his troops to drink beer out of his boot if e were successful in battle. The General had a glass maker fashion a boot from glass in order to avoid drinking from his boots. Soldiers traditionally celebrate victories with a ‘beer boot’ and drinking challenges. The 2006 ‘Beerfest’ movie made beer boots more popular in the United States.


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