Why So Many Different Beer Glasses?

Why is craft beer served in different glasses? Here’s what you need to know.


How many times have you walked into a bar, ordered some hairy-chested-sounding craft beer, expecting to get it in a heavy, frothy pint glass only to have it appear in one of these:

Craft beer IPA draft in a snifter glass
An IPA beer poured into a snifter glass.

I mean, c’mon – it has a stem, right?.

Or maybe you get a glass that looks like one of these:

A variety of craft beer glasses for IPA, porter, stout, lager and pilsner
Beer glasses come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are frequently matched to the style of craft beer you’re drinking.
So what’s the deal with the different glasses? We’ll give you the quick rundown.

As you know, draft beer is what typically makes it into a glass. But much like craft beer, glasses have taken on a whole science all their own.

As a general rule, beer glasses are designed to control the beer’s aroma since that’s part of the tasting experience. Some want to trap it close to the beer. Others want it to be more dispersed. 

So if you have something like a lager or porter, it’ll likely come in a pint glass. Something like a Belgian wheat ale, however, will be in a tulip glass (tapered with a stem) so it holds onto its aroma and attempts to mitigate any warming effect by your hand.

Beer glasses also vary by location, based off of things as varied as local laws and, quite frequently, tradition.

For example, a pint varies in volume depending on which country you’re drinking in so a “pint glass”can be 95ml. larger in England than in America.

Or perhaps you’ve seen those fancy beer steins with shiny, metal lids. As legend has it, the lids were introduced during the Black Plague so as to keep infected insects out of your beer.

And then there are glasses that were developed by the breweries themselves, including the Chalice from Stella Artois, and this cool little glass from Samuel Adams that features a tapered glass, and even a laser-etched bottom to help improve carbonation.

Samuel Adams craft beer glass
Samuel Adams Brewing developed this glass to deliver the optimal drinking experience for their beers. The tapered top allows some aroma to be trapped toward the top of the glass, while the bottom inside is finely etched by lasers to reduce surface tension and generate more bubbles.

So does it really matter?

Personally, I tend to think it doesn’t. If aroma was such an important part of the tasting experience, then why do we drink something as aromatic as coffee out of a mug or, even worse, a cardboard cup with a lid? And if you’re human, you hold your breath while you swallow anyway, right?

The reality is that really only the most discerning palates will notice a difference in beer glasses. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself and let us know in the comments what you find. 

Bottom line? Just get out, enjoy some great beer, and don’t be too concerned about the glass it comes in.

16 comments on “Why So Many Different Beer Glasses?”

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