I counted one day, and I regret that I did. While I won’t divulge the exact number, I will share that we have considerably more “fancy” beer glasses and pints than we do regular drinking glasses. Some, came along with tastings. Some, we bought because I liked the logo. Some, we bought because their shape supposedly impacts the way beer presents itself. So, it’s got me thinking, does it actually have an impact, or have we just bought into the hype?
Red wine consumed out of a glass intended for white wine has no influence on flavor to me. Is that wrong? In fact, I’ve had wine out of a red solo cup, out of a coffee mug, a thermos (maybe I should stop there, it sounds like I have a problem) and the wine still tasted fantastically winetastic. So, what about beer? Here’s some information I found.
There are at least nine different glass shapes that include: Tulip, Chalice, Pilsner, Weizen, Snifter, Pints (of varying sorts), and Tumblers. Some of the shapes, like the Tulip, are designed to emphasize the aroma while drinking beer. I must say, I personally find the scent to be an incredibly influential portion of the tasting process in how I interpret what I’m tasting and the overall flavor of the beer. So, having a glass that highlights this feature does impact the tasting process for me. Some folks who are highly sensitive to smell will be influenced, regardless of the glass they’re drinking out of. Others, who have limitations to their smell (my father, for example, has had his sense of smell damaged as a result of cancer treatments), may actually need a way to magnify this feature in order to even make a note of it while drinking. Even then, it may impact their interpretation of the flavor complexities in the beverage they’re consuming.
Certain shapes allow for taking sips more easily. I’ve never experienced any inconvenience with having a drink reach my mouth (or food for that matter), but I guess that may be an issue for someone. If so, be happy to know that there are glasses created to ease with the glass to mouth transition. Hurrah!
Some of the shapes are intended to highlight the overall appearance of the beer. While I do take note of the color and clarity of the brew, it is more of an incidental correlation between murkiness, for example, and drinking a beer that hasn’t been filtered. The lack of filtration impacts the flavor, but not the appearance itself. In fact, I could probably tell that a drink was darker in color or murky in nature after having taken a sip and never looking at the glass containing the beverage.
One final note that should also be discussed is temperature exchange. Glasses that have a stem allow for people to drink from the glass without the heat of their hands warming the liquid. This can impact a person’s tasting experience. I have learned, however, that flavor is most emphasized as the contents are going through a temperature change either being heated or cooled (so, it isn’t a bad thing when folks add an ice cube to their wine, for example). So, the warmth of a hand isn’t necessarily a detriment to the flavor interpretation. I have even found myself saying when trying beers, and wines “I like it better now that it’s warmed up.” I have also said to folks when drinking certain beers, especially lighter styles “I wouldn’t enjoy this if it weren’t cold and crisp.” In that event, I would likely seek a glass with a stem, to prevent the heat of my hand from warming the beverage, thus impacting my taste. The husband would probably joke that I just need to drink faster, but I’m a sipper and savorer (is that a word?).
My conclusion, although not scientific, is that it boils down to personal preference. Whether or not it really makes a huge change to flavor may be in the hand (and mind) of the sipper. So, take your glass, raise it in the air, say “Cheers” and enjoy. As long as you’re enjoying the experience and flavor, that’s all that matters! Lastly, the type A, motherly part of me also wants to say “as long as you’re enjoying your beverage safely and are not drinking to excess or getting behind the wheel.” Carry on, I feel better after having said that part.