There are three types of beer-drinkers in the world. The first type of drinker will consume his or her beer directly from the can, bottle, or, when they’re feeling fancy, the red cup. The second type is the aggressive millionaire: someone who will drink from a glass, but feels compelled to hurl the glass against the wall once the drink is done. The expense of constantly replacing pint glass makes this lifestyle somewhat unreasonable, so there probably aren’t too many of this category of drinker.
I count myself in the third class of beer drinkers. These are the drinkers who like drinking from the glass to attain the full potential of their beer. These are practical people who take care of the beer glasses so they can spend money on quality beer instead of disposing of broken glass. So let’s talk about how you treat your beer glass.
The first step is obviously choosing a glass for your beer. They come in all different styles and shapes for any number of reasons. Some are traditional glasses (gotta love those Germans!), and some are meant to accentuate certain flavors or attributes of specific beers. If you can afford the space and expense, it’s not a bad idea to get a variety of glasses and choose what you’re drinking from based on what you’re drinking.
As someone who can’t afford the space or the expense, my beer glass of choice is the Sam Adams Boston Lager glass. It’s a hybrid between a pint glass and a tulip glass, so you get a vessel that works well with more styles of beer than your typical glass. Go with what works for you. I’m always drinking different beers and trying new tastes, so I like a versatile glass. If you tend to enjoy a particular beer more than others, you should go with a glass that goes well with it. Choosing a beer glass is a lot like choosing a guitar… maybe it’s the action or the tone or maybe it’s just the one that looks cool.
So you’ve chosen your beer glass. But don’t start knocking ‘em back just yet. First, we have to clean it.
Look, I know what you’re thinking, and I agree. When I come home, open the fridge, and see a delicious beer just sitting on the shelf, I want to drink it right away. I don’t want to clean a glass. Well, sucks to be you. Because a clean glass is an important part of proper beer enjoyment.
I’m not saying the best part of drinking is looking at a glass you just soaped up and rinsed off, nodding to yourself and thinking, “Boy, I sure know how to clean a glass!” I’m saying that dust, oils, dirt, and who knows what else are probably on your glass right now, and those things will interfere with your beer drinking pleasure. You may not taste these things, but they can mask flavors you should be tasting or affect how much head is produced. So take the time to clean your glass with warm to hot water, some liquid soap, and a non-abrasive sponge. It might be obvious, or it might not be, so I’ll just say it. You don’t want to scratch the glass, so use the soft side of the sponge, and if you put a glass through drastic temperature fluctuations, that glass will not be long for this world.
OK. So here we are. We’ve got a clean glass and a delicious beer. Let’s make it happen.
Many different people have many different ideas about producing a good head when pouring a beer. You’re going to want some head, but not too much. There are two pointers I would offer up. The first is to pour at an angle. If you hold the glass at about 45 degrees, and pour beer on the side of the glass instead of the bottom, it won’t foam up too much.
The second piece of advice is something I just picked up a few weeks ago. An old German trick involves leaving just a little bit of water in your glass. I would have thought pouring at an angle is enough for any beer, but my latest batch of homebrew foams up something fierce if you’re not careful. It turns out that a quarter-inch of water and pouring at an angle give the Scarecrow’s Revenge the perfect amount of head. Like I said… gotta love the Germans!
My final bit of advice is to ditch the beer glass every once in a while. You don’t want to be the pretentious jackass cleaning out your glass in the middle of a Mario Kart tournament. Not every beer you drink has to be pondered over and tasted with the utmost attention to detail. Sometimes a beer is just a beer. Grab a bottle and bottoms up. You earned it.
To learn more about glassware, check out the Beer Geek Shop. Most of what I know about glasses, I learned from them. Their article on the Sam Adams glass perfectly reflects what I knew in my heart but couldn’t quite put in to words.
So go find a glass and drink a beer. I know I will.