With San Antonio Beer Week over, you may find yourself doing two things: attempting a grapefruit-and-persimmon liver cleanse and arranging your huge haul of brewery-branded glassware. Some of them might be short, bulbous and sitting on a stem; others might be long and lean and flare out at the top. Or they might look like glass-blown copies of a beer can. Having gathered all the glassware like a hoppy Pokemaster, it's time to figure out what difference their shapes make.
Aside from accidents of historical origin and practical application, the chief reasons to differentiate your glassware are the temperature and your nose. Contrary to claims made in Super Bowl beer commercials of yore, beers aren't best ice-cold — lighter styles are best between the mid-to-high-40s, with some of the heartiest ales ideally coming up to 55 degrees Fahrenheit — and each realm of the beer-making world has developed glassware to keep its drinks right on the mercury.
Aside from climate control, there are olfactory concerns to consider. While no one tends to worry over the particular aromatic profile of their favorite lawnmower lager or reliable amber ale (nor should they start doing so), there's enough at work in the aroma of more boutique styles to warrant decanting into the proper vessel, as one might do for red wine or cognac.
The most iconic glass in America, by far, is the pint glass — the shaker pint glass, to be technical, so named for its other use (agitation for cocktails). It's hard to botch a pour with these guys, and they're best suited to brash American styles like Ranger Creek's Dark Side Of The Hop or Branchline's Woodcutter's Rye. The shaker pint finds its European counterpart in the nonic pint. Sporting a little love handle just beneath the lip of the glass — easy to stack and easy to grip in the close quarters of the pub — and makes an ideal vehicle for porters and darker ales, like Freetail's Local Coffee Stout.
As their names imply, pilsner glasses and weisen vases are designed for the Bohemian lagers and wheat ales of central Europe. Tall and tapered, they can handle the ample head and substantial drafts favored in Cologne and Prague — hence Ranger Creek's branding a pilsner glass for the release of its Love Struck Hefe.
Rounding out this abbreviated list are the small, round glasses — tulips and snifters — that deliver the wild lambics and boozy tripels of Belgium. Similar in style to wine glasses, their diminutive serving size opens up their aromas and provides portion control. If you were lucky enough to snag one of Karbach's snifters last week for their Double Rodeo Clown cask at the Huebner Big Hops, congrats — you've got the Charizard of glasses.