Archive for Monday, December 26, 2011

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Shape shift: Trade thick, clumsy pint for tulip or traditional Belgian beer glass

December 26, 2011

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Back when American beer was largely terrible, which wasn’t so long ago, how it was served didn’t matter. And the pint glass became standard.

But now that domestic beer is a cause for celebration, pint glasses remain the standard — needlessly. Matthew Kaner, general manager of Covell, a Los Angeles beer and wine bar, called such glasses “an elemental shame.”

“I see far too many places pouring 8 percent India pale ales and imperial stouts into pint glasses because they think their customers expect it,” Kaner said. “The reality is that you just need to educate them about why high-octane beer is poured into a tulip or a traditional Belgian glass.”

Covell uses four different glasses for its eight rotating taps, pairing beer and glass by style, alcohol content and rarity. Though most of the best beer bars do the same, many believe it’s time for such practice to become mainstream, all the way down to the sports bars that serve Sierra Nevada pale ale and Anchor Steam.

Beating that drum are people like Matthew Rutkowski, vice president of Spiegelau in the U.S., a high-end glassmaker. Rutkowski has dedicated much of his life to “demonizing” pint glasses because “they work against beer.”

A pint glass’s thickness warms beer too quickly, he said. The glass from which it is made is usually cheap and porous, drawing out effervescence and degrading the way a beer tastes and feels in your mouth. Pint glasses result in “flatter, warmer beer with a more acrid quality,” Rutkowski said.

Among the gripes with pint glasses is how little they do for a beer’s aroma. The best glasses enhance a beer’s smell (and smell is an underrated component of drinking well). The pint glass’s megaphone shape does little to “coalesce aroma,” Rutkowski said.

So what are the alternatives? A well-crafted lager or pilsner works well in a stemless wine glass, which is an unfussy and sturdy vessel that offers a more savory experience than the thick and clumsy pint glass.

For something bolder, say a double IPA or imperial stout, Spiegelau’s beer tulip is a faultless choice. It’s marvelously thin and silky, kind to a beer’s flavor, and it captures the aroma in the belly of the glass — something you’re reminded of each time you sip.

When out and drinking cheaply, stick with the bottle; there’s not much worse than Budweiser in a pint glass.

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