Glass Shape and Beer Taste: Does It Really Matter?

Posted by Barley Beaver on

Most of us have that one friend who will experience utter shock and scream “blasphemy!” if you ever dare to pour a wheat beer into a tall Pilsner glass. Who knows, maybe you are that one friend, and feel deeply offended when served a particular beer in the “wrong” glass at the local brewery’s taproom. Fact is, there are at least as many beer glass shapes and types as there are beer styles out there, while some beer brands even having glasses of their own. And there is an ongoing discussion whether they all have an impact on the flavour and aroma of the beer.

The core idea behind beer glass diversity is that each beer style tends to exhibit its flavour and aroma to the max when an appropriate glass shape is employed. Wine drinkers have been at this holy war for decades, and beer enthusiasts are now going through even more mayhem as there are actually more beer styles and beer glass shapes than there are wine glass types. But in the end, does it really matter?

After numerous trials, tests, and blind tasting sessions, the general conclusion is that the shape of the glass has almost negligible impact on the beer’s taste and aroma. The only sensible difference can be felt between the glasses with a wide opening, such as a chalice, weizen, or nonic pint, and a narrow opening such as a snifter. Snifter glasses naturally tend to preserve more aromatic compounds due to the narrow opening through which the compounds evaporate from the beer. Yet the difference is not that dramatic to make you throw away all your shaker pints, tulips, tumblers and teku glasses.

Where beer glass shape really makes a difference, however, is the appearance of the beer. After all, each glass type was designed with the visual aspect in mind and it’s not that surprising to see a Pilsner looking as clean and delicate as possible in a tall Pilsner glass, or a Hefeweizen retaining its hazy body and effervescent character in a Weizen glass. Not to mention the traditional Belgian beer glasses, which are styled to make you look like a nobleman sipping the finest beverage from a goblet. And when you are actually enjoying the way the beer looks in your glassware, the good disposition can make a huge impact on your experience drinking that beer.

This is called human psychology, and it definitely plays a more important part in the way we perceive taste and smell compared to the shape of the glass we drink from. So it’s definitely better to be in a good mood to be able to appreciate a beer to its fullest. And this is, of course, achieved by drinking some beer beforehand!

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