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Can the glass better the beer?

One of the many signs of the vitality of American craft beer is the growing concern for quality. Beyond ingredients and brewing techniques, there’s a greater emphasis on proper storage and serving, and even the importance of glassware.

Matt with IPA glass @ BSP

Matt with IPA glass @ BSP

Of course, Belgian and German breweries are famous for creating elegant glasses for their beers. More recently, American breweries, including the Boston Beer Co., have created special designs, such as the Samuel Adams Boston Lager Glass, that aim to enhance sensory perception.

In the past few weeks, the big news has been a glass touted to be so well designed it makes craft beer lovers’ favorite style even more of a sniffing and sipping pleasure.

American craft brewers Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada teamed with the German glassware maker Spiegelau to create a new IPA glass they say will change the way you experience hop goodness.

It features thin, round walls to maintain proper temperature longer; a slender, bowed shape to amplify hop aromas; wavelike ridges to aerate beer on its way in and out of the glass; a wide mouth, allowing drinkers to nose the beer; and a laser-etched logo on the bottom of the bowl to sustain carbonation and head.

Local Sierra rep Lance Deen brought one of the still rare vessels by Brick Store Pub, where publican Dave Blanchard put it to the test with Sierra’s spicy Ruthless Rye IPA and Bell’s rare, honeyed Hopslam double IPA.

Blanchard’s verdict was similar to what’s advertised: “Great shape. Very thin on the rim. Holds head very well with just enough bell to really concentrate the aromas.”

But he also said it reminded him a little bit of a bong, and he worried that the lovely thin glass might be a too breakable for everyday pub use.

My own experience with Spiegelau glassware turned me from skeptic to believer. In 2011, after some sensory training from a Spiegelau rep, I used the company’s beer glasses for a seminar at Taste of Atlanta.

Compared side by side with a generic shaker pint, everyone was amazed by the quality of the ultra-thin glass and the way it revealed the true color, aroma and flavor of the beer while helping retain the temperature and carbonation.

I tried out the Dogfish/Sierra/Spiegelau IPA glass for myself with a draft pour of Ruthless Rye. Eyeballing, nosing and savoring, I was impressed. An elegant American beer glass worthy of some of the great Belgian and German glassware, I concluded.

In the back of my mind, though, I was thinking about the naysayer who posted this in answer to a recent post on the AJC Food and More blog: “More BS from beer snobs … only a fool would think a ‘special’ glass would make beer taste better than any other glass.”

My reaction is to butcher Shakespeare and reply: “If music be the foolishness of beer snobbery, play on; give me crazy excess over mindless mediocrity, any day.”

If you want to experience more, there are YouTube videos of Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione and Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman demonstrating the new IPA glass. And Dogfish Head is selling it online for $9.

Have you tried the IPA glass? What do YOU think?

— Bob Townsend, AJC Drink blog.

2 comments Add your comment

Billy

February 28th, 2013
12:36 pm

Beer recommendation?

Beerdude1960

February 28th, 2013
10:02 pm

I definitely think a glass makes a difference. The problem is I don’t always know which glass style will enhance a particular beer. At Brick Store, if you order a Belgian, you get the glass custom made for that beer. I’m assuming wheat beers are enhanced by the long fluted glass. My favorite is an IPA and I generally drink it out of the standard pint glass. Good to know that there may be a new glass out there I’ll want to check out.