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Tim Bissell Tim Bissell
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Three Pint Stance - What's in a glass?

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Let me start by making one thing clear right off the top - there is absolutely nothing wrong with drinking a beer right from the can or bottle. Anyone who casts aspersions on those who do is a beer snob through and through.

In fact, I would venture to guess that more than 90 percent of us had our very first beer experience drinking from a can or bottle. Not only do I, as the beer authority on these fine pages, find it acceptable, but I would go so far as to say there are times when drinking from the container is an experience enhancer.

That being said, when you want to observe the complete beer experience and truly appreciate the flavors and complexities of a craft beeryou really should be pouring that beer into a glass.

So what's the deal with glassware, you ask? Do you need a fancy, style-specific glass for every beer you drink? Heavens no! But there are a few basic tips and ground rules you should know so you can get the most out of your beer.

First, make sure your glass is clean! More than the shape or thickness of the glass, stemmed or un-stemmed, what matters most about your beer glass is how clean it is. One of the keys to beer presentation and proper appreciation is the head, the foam at the top of the beer. Pouring a beer and producing a head opens up the aroma and brings forth the more nuanced, volatile compounds in the beer. A dirty glass will have a tough time forming and maintaining a head, and will leave you with a muted version of the beer. Always hand-wash your glassware and be sure to rinse out any soap that may be left over from the cleaning process.

Beyond cleanliness, there are advantages to having a few different shapes or styles of beer glass at your disposal. I won't go into every possibility in this column, but I highly recommend the BeerAdvocate article on glassware for a more in-depth look at which glass goes well with which style of beer (

My executive summary of their exhaustive list goes a little something like this. Have at least one straight to semi-straight walled glass that doesn't have a stem. These are great go-to beer glasses for lighter, more highly carbonated beers like pale ale, kolsch and pilners. Also, keep a goblet or snifter on hand for darker, more robust beers as they allow more head space for aromatics and for a thick head to form. Lastly, have a thick-walled mug with a handle around at all times. These work-horses keep a beer cold, are comfortable to drink from and are tough as nails. If you normally just grab a shaker pint glass for your beer (the ubiquitous beer glass' that every bar uses but that actually isn't a beer glass), upgrade it to a half-liter or 16oz. stein. You'll have more fun drinking beer and the beer will taste better. Classic win-win.

(Disclosure: This article was written while drinking an imperial IPA directly from a 16oz. can. I have no regrets.)

So, show some class, pour those suds into a glass! Or don't, but if you do, do it properly!


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