Talking Head - A proper beer deserves a proper glass: Glassware recommendations for different beer styles

Miller and Coors introduced new can designs this year intended to make their beers pour more smoothly into the mouth. Last year, Sam Adams reimagined the entire beer glass, employing sensory experts to devise a glass that best highlights the complex balance of malt and hops in Sam Adams Boston Lager. While not the most aesthetically pleasing design (OK, it's butt-ugly), by most accounts, it performs as advertised. The many features include a bulbous shape to keep the beer cold, an etched bottom to promote a continuous release of carbonation for a sustained head, and a flared lip to agitate the beer and release more flavors as it's delivered to the tongue (in contrast to the efforts of Miller and Coors to make a smoother pour so that you can't taste the beer).

The type of glass that a beer is served in is a holy sacrament for some beer drinkers. Beyond the visual appeal of tulip glasses and snifters, the recommended glass for each style brings out the best in that type of beer. Tall, slender pilsner glasses highlight the lager's clarity and effervescence while preventing the carbonation from releasing too fast. The wide mouth of a chalice allows room for the thick head generated by many abbey-style ales. Snifters, like those used for brandy and cognac, trap the complex aromas of barleywines and strong ales and allow for swirling to agitate the head and release volatiles that contribute to the flavor. The reduced opening encourages smaller sips of these intense beers.

Bars and restaurants with extensive beer lists are increasingly providing appropriate glassware, often using glasses branded with the brewery name. Unfortunately, there are many that still use the same glass for all beer, or worse, serve all beer in chilled mugs. Only the most terrible beers deserve that kind of treatment.

If you want to improve your beer-drinking experience at home and impress guests with your beer savoir faire, here are a few must-have glasses that should cover you.

PILSNER (AMERICAN AND GERMAN STANDARD AND LIGHT LAGERS): Golden lagers topped with a dollop of creamy head look great in the tall glasses, and just watching the bubbles rise can provide entertainment during lulls in conversation. They are, however, easily knocked over and can be a challenge to drink from in tight quarters. Some guys who are insecure about their masculinity find the glasses to be a bit effete. I'm not one, as evidenced by the fact that I use words like effete.

SHAKER PINT (AMERICAN AND ENGLISH PALE ALES, IPAS, PORTERS AND STOUTS): The traditional, angle-sided pint glass used in most bars. Its best characteristic is its sturdiness. Its open mouth doesn't trap aromas well but is easy to quaff from, making it fine for standard ales and lagers.

TULIP (AMERICAN DOUBLE IPAS, BELGIAN PALE ALES, IPAS AND STRONG ALES, FLEMISH SOUR ALES, ABBEY-STYLE QUADRUPLES, SAISONS, SCOTCH ALES): One of the most versatile vessels for beer, the tulip is lovely to look at and easy to hold, with a pinched neck for concentrating aromas and a turned-out lip to introduce beer to the tip of the tongue. Duvel made this glass famous, and it's hard to find one without the Duvel name on it.

MUG (AMERICAN AND GERMAN DARK, STANDARD, AND LIGHT LAGERS, AMERICAN AND BRITISH PORTERS AND STOUTS): This should satisfy the manliness quotient for your light beer drinkers during the football game. They're sturdy enough to clank together after TDs and can withstand the occasional spontaneous living room pile-on. The handle keeps your hands from warming the beer.

CHALICE (BELGIAN STRONG DARK ALES, IPAS, DUBBELS, TRIPELS, AND QUADRUPLES): Bowl-shaped glasses with a stemmed base, these glasses are sometimes thin and graceful and sometimes thick and chunky. The large mouth allows for deep whiffs and full sips. Chimay's version, like the Sam Adams glass, is scored on the bottom to produce a nucleation point for carbonation release, greatly improving head retention.

WINE GLASSES: If you don't want to lay out a bunch of cash for new glassware, your existing wine glasses can be used for a number of styles of beer. Oversized red wine glasses are perfect for Belgian ales, saisons, old ales and barleywines, as well as American double IPAs and imperial stouts. Champagne flutes are appropriate for German lagers, Flemish sour ales and bière bruts (Champagne-style beer).

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