Elevate Your Glassware Game With Real "Beer-ware"

By Fred Crudder, Foodable Industry Expert

Dear Shaker Pint­­,

We hereby thank you for years of dutiful service, and respectfully bid you farewell. You did what was asked of you: you held beer, and no one will ever forget that. But that is really all you did, and unfortunately for you, we need a little more out of our beer glasses now. It is not enough to simply hold beer any longer. You may now return to the cocktail shaking from whence you came. The beer drinkers are done with you. 

As we say goodbye to that bar staple so prevalent these last 20 years or so, the obvious questions are, “why?” and “what next?” We will spend more time on the latter, but first…

What’s wrong with the shaker pint? 

The quality of beers people are enjoying so much of now have many attributes that are not allowed to shine in a shaker. The production and retention of a dense head on a beer, the resulting aromas produced and captured, and the simple appearance of a well­-poured beer are all done poorly by the lowly shaker, which is little more than an inverted, steep-sided triangle. 

These glasses entered mainstream use for two important reasons: They hold 16 oz. of beer and they are cheap. Back in the day, that was enough. Not anymore. Why are we pouring our best beers into our cheapest glassware? 

What do my beer glasses tell my customers?

Better yet, what do you want them to tell your customers? That you are cheap, don’t care much about the quality of your product, and that your customers are too dumb to notice or aren’t worth the trouble in the first place? If you answered yes, then a shaker pint is the glass for you! You can stop reading now. 

Want to send a message instead that says, I am progressive in my approach to the modern American beer drinker? I am not satisfied with the status quo, and my customers shouldn’t be either? Then something as simple as a few different “beer­-friendly” glasses can help. So, if you are serious about being taken seriously by real beer drinkers, read on. 

Keep It Simple

A “tulip” glass is nothing more than a shaker glass with some curves — smooth, sexy curves. The narrow base, opening up into a wider bowl, so to speak, encourages the carbonation in the beer to be drawn out more slowly and gently than a shaker. The result is better head production and head retention. A tulip glass is like a comfortable pair of shoes that the beer loves to slip into, whereas the shaker is a hard, unforgiving shoe that wears out the beer from the moment it’s poured. Tulips are affordable, too — an instant upgrade without going broke. And while you’re at it, stop buying glassware that only fits the amount of beer in it that you are trying to sell. Give it some room. (More on this later.)

Stemmed glasses aren’t just for wine anymore. Look for a tall, stemmed glass that looks like someone took a snifter and stretched it out to make it taller. The bowl at the base holds the beer, and the gently tapering top extends upward a few inches, drawing the beer’s head into a tighter area, compacting and condensing it. This helps capture the beer’s delicate aromas while aiding head retention. Plus, it’s just a damn pretty glass of beer. They will be in the beer section of your glassware catalogs. 

That’s it? Just two glasses? 

Those two glasses will be a huge step toward upgrading your bar glassware. Do you need more? That is up to you. Or more accurately, up to your beer selection. If you have a deep and diverse beer selection, then you’re going to need quite a few more glasses to do the job. Go with something small and fancy for very unique (and expensive) beers. There are plenty of short goblets designed for beer. Pick your pour size (allowing room for foam!), and there will be a beer goblet waiting for you. 

After that, look at what you sell the most of and consider a special glass for those beers. Are you near the beach and going through a ton of wheat beers? There are specific glasses for those beers. Want something that is really eye­-catching for a bright pilsner or snappy IPA? Willi Becher. Look it up. Full of beer, a Willi Becher can command attention from across the room. 

If your beer selection is so diverse that you need more than four different glasses, well, you probably have a full-­time beer person in the building who should know what to do.

What NOT to DO

All of the upgrades to your glassware can be easily undone by making a few common yet critical mistakes. Some of these you may be guilty of now. There is no shame in that. If you are still guilty of it next week or next month after reading this, be ashamed. Be very ashamed. Don’t look your beer drinking customers in the eye. You’ve wronged them deeply and don’t deserve their forgiveness. 

DO NOT use frozen glasses for quality beer. Unless you live in the 80s, frozen glasses are out. For watery beer, they are ideal. Cold kills flavor. Watery beer has little flavor, and underneath the surface, there are nasty flavors that need to be kept down by cold. Ever drank a warm light beer? If so, you know what I’m talking about. Quality beer has wonderful flavors that brewers worked hard to impart, and your customers are paying a premium for those flavors. Let them live. Don’t kill them with frozen glasses. 

There are so many other bad things about frozen glassware that I won’t enumerate here. OK, you talked me into it: It kills the head, kills the flavor, kills your taste buds, waters down the beer, freezes cleansers and sanitizers to the glass, and generally makes a sloppy mess out of your bar. There, I said it. 

DO NOT use beer branded glassware if you are not prepared to pour ONLY that beer in the glass. Serve a beer from Brewery A in a glass from Brewery B? That is bush league. Every beer lover knows that you shook down some beer rep for free glasses, and now you don’t even have the class to pour his or her beer in the glasses you were given. 

DO NOT teach your bartenders to pour beer without a head on it. Foam enhances flavor. Foam enhances aroma. Foam makes the beer look good. Damn good. Delicious in fact. I want one now. Beer with no head puts all of the gas into the customer, making him or her feel bloated. Bloated people don’t order more beer. Bloated people don’t enjoy their food or drink as much.

A nice inch to inch-and-a-half head on the beer also means less beer in the glass, which means better yield from your draft system.

DO NOT serve beer in a dirty glass. Sounds like common sense right? Have you ever seen a full beer with bubbles stuck to the inside of the glass? Dirty. The bubbles are stuck to dirt or funk or who knows what. You don’t send out food on dirty plates. Don’t send out beer in dirty glasses. 

DO NOT make people ask for a glass when they order bottled beers. Bottles are for containing beer, glasses are for drinking beer. Again, light watery beer… who cares, drink it out of the bottle or can. Real beer wants to be poured into a glass. 

A little upgrade on your barware can tell your customers a lot about how you feel toward the rapidly growing number of craft beer aficionados. Upholding the status quo can tell them something far different. What message does your barware say?