I have a problem, a serious addiction. Beer glasses. At current count I have 65 beer glasses in my house. Which may not sound like a lot, but I am the only beer drinker in my household. Giving a beer glass to human ratio of 65:1. In this article, I will be looking at what beer should not be served in a pint glass.
Most beers do not suit being served in a pint glass as they can reduce foam retention and increase the temperature of your beer. IPAs, wheat beers, lagers, and speciality beers are not suited to the traditional pint glass. Pale ales, bitters, regular ales, and stouts can be served in a pint glass without being negatively affected.
It’s not enough to tell you that you should not drink certain beers from a pint glass, I also need to give you an idea of what type of glass you should be using. I’ll also try and explain why traditional pint glasses are not the best choice.
When I started going to the pub (2004/5) there were only a couple of glass types available in most pubs. The unmarked pint glass, or a glass for Fosters, Carling, or Guinness. These were all basically the same, but with different branding.
Then a few years later, Stella Artois brought out the “Chalice” and basically changed the game. This was in the UK at least, in Belgium, they had been pairing the right glass to the right beer for years!
The pint glass has a lot going for it. The shape is iconic, it can hold a lot of beer inside it, and they are cheap to make. They are also difficult to grip, making them much harder to smash over someone’s head than a bottle (just kidding).
They are well suited to many forms of English beer, and I am not for one second going to pretend that the pint glass is badly designed. It isn’t. It is well designed for certain beers, in the same way that a wheat beer glass is designed for wheat beer, and a wine glass is designed for wine.
There are however a few drawbacks to the pint glass design that can really affect certain beers. For starters, they have a very large surface area around the rim of the glass. This means that the foam head of certain beers will evaporate quicker.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many beer glasses with wider surface areas (Belgian beer glasses for example). But this makes pint glasses unsuitable for beers that rely on a strong head (IPAs, lagers, wheat beers, stouts).
They are also very large in size, which is great for English ales that are low in alcohol volume and are not particularly affected by head retention. But you couldn’t drink a pint of Duvel (8.5% abv) nor would you get much out of a pint of most craft beers. Which I have found to my cost after making this very mistake!
Perhaps the biggest issue is that pint glasses do not have a handle or a stem for you to hold. You have to grip them by the glass. This means that your hand will be in contact with the glass for a long time. Which can warm the beer up. Again, not a problem for English ales or stouts, but a big issue for lager.
It was almost certainly for this reason that Stella brought the chalice to the UK.
I rarely use pint glasses any more, but if I do it is usually for English ales such as Speckled Hen, Hobgoblin, London Pride, Bombardier. You get the idea. Beers that are not affected by poor head retention (which incidentally can be improved by cleaning your glasses properly), or by being room temperature.
You can also drink most stouts from a pint glass (though there are better options out there). Guinness has not suffered from being served in pint glasses! I also think that you could get away with drinking most wheat beers from a pint glass – though again, there are better options out there.
Should lager be served in a pint glass? I’d say no. Unless you’re drinking it quickly, lager would suffer from becoming warm in your hand and would lose its head pretty fast. But lager is a tricky one. While there are a couple of dedicated lager/pilsner glasses out there, I haven’t actually tried one yet. So I can’t say how much they improve it. The Stella Chalice definitely improved Stella though.
Anyway, here is my list of beers that should (or at least can) be served in a pint glass
Pretty much any other form of beer. But particularly strong tasting beers with a lot of aromas such as Belgian Trappist ales or Craft IPAs. I’d also say that lager should not be served in a pint glass. Sour beers, fruit beers, and the like would also benefit from differently shaped glasses. While I said that stouts and porters can be served in a pint glass, there are other glasses that suit them better.
In the next section, I will talk about the different types of glasses that suit some of the major beer types. I’ll even add in specific beers such as Kolsch, which would fall under the umbrella of lager/pilsner but has its own drinking glass tradition.
If you’re an obsessive like me, you can, of course, spend a small fortune on purchasing the exact glass for each of your beers. Drinking your Hobgoblin beer out of your Hobgoblin glass, drinking your Duvel beer out of your Duvel glass, etc …
But most people are not like me, they are more sensible, make smarter financial decisions, and don’t get all itchy when drinking a Carlsberg out of a Carling glass. Ugh, that last sentence made my skin crawl. The following guide is designed to help you match a style of glass to a style of beer. Sometimes there may be more than one type of glass that suits a beer style. Often, one glass will suit multiple beers.
This means that you only need to buy four or five different glasses and you will always have the right vessel for whatever beer you are presented with.
For some reason, I’ve started off with the most difficult beer to talk about! There are two types of beer that fall into this category: lager and pilsner.
Technically, pilsner is a type of lager and in my personal opinion, there isn’t much difference between the two. But I would lose all cool beer guy points if I failed to mention this.
The main difference is that pilsners are always pale in colour while lagers can be pale, dark, or anything in between. Almost all the lager you drink is pilsner, as it is the most commonly mass-produced beer style.
You can buy a pilsner glass, which is similar to a pint glass, but narrower in the middle and with a wider top. These glasses are very popular, but personally, I feel that they suffer from the exact same issues that normal pint glasses suffer from.
I really like the Veltins pilsner glass (a traditional German pilsner glass called a Pilstulpe), it is narrow with a wide head for excellent head retention, but also has a stem for you to hold. Allowing you to keep the glass cold throughout. This is very similar to a tulip glass, which is also a great call.
You can also use a beer mug (which have handles) or stein which have been traditionally used for lagers and pilsners in Germany for centuries.
Stouts can be drunk in a pint glass and have been for decades. The traditional Guinness pint glass is a pint glass with a narrow base and a wider top. But you can also drink stout out of a beer mug (I have a nice Guinness beer mug which I occasionally use) or from a tulip glass.
I recently bought a stout glass off Amazon, which was invented by Spiegelau, a German beer glass manufacturer. The glass has been designed to improve the aroma of the beer (vitally important for any beer) and make it easier to maintain the head.
I absolutely love the glass, but that is partly because it looks so cool! I can’t say that I’ve done a blind taste test or any other form of comparison, but I certainly enjoy drinking stout from this glass a lot.
Like lager and pilsner, porter and stout are pretty much interchangeable. Stout was originally used as a term for higher strength porter, but these days you can get high strength porters and low strength stouts. For what it is worth, the brewer can decide whether to call their beer a stout or a porter and nobody is going to argue with them.
When it comes to glasses, the choices are identical as you would expect.
Beer terminology can be very confusing for the casual observer. It can be confusing for the experts, and the people in between (me). The difference between pale ales, English India Pale Ales, American Pale Ales, and the many other forms (NEIPA, DIPA, West Coast IPA, XPA) is not particularly obvious.
A pale ale is usually what people think of when they think of English beer (even though stouts, porters, and IPAs are also English). It is a bit of a catch-all term for many different beers. But the predominant features are that it is top-fermented and uses pale malts to produce a pale colour. They were first invented in England during the Industrial revolution.
But they are not always that pale! In England, pale ale is usually referred to as bitter. So a pint of bitter would be a pint of pale ale. It is really bloody confusing if I’m honest.
Anyway, pale ale is perfectly suited for the pint glass. You can also drink it out of a beer mug, and there is an increasing trend for pale ales to be served in tulip/goblet glasses. Doombar, in particular, have gone down this route.
This is another difficult category because it actually encompasses many other beers. Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, and even most Belgian Beers. But in this section, we are only focusing on English ales (Belgian ales are in their own category). Ales can include pale ales and darker ales. They are perfect for pint glasses, but would also suit beer mugs.
You could also enjoy most real ales out of a tulip glass, or even a goblet. This is a very versatile beer when it comes to drinking vessels.
An English IPA is nothing like the IPAs that most people think of, it’s actually much closer to pale ale. English IPAs are hoppier than regular pale ales, but not as hoppy as most craft or American IPAs. They also tend to be a little stronger than most English ales but again, weaker than most American IPAs.
This is another confusing category, because there are English IPAs such as Meantime Brewery’s London IPA, or Proper Job by St Austell which are made with English hops following the traditional style. But there are American style IPAs made in England, such as Jaipur by Thornbridge brewery. Confusing!
Anyway, English IPA beers would work best in a tulip glass, but can also be served in a pint glass or beer mug. The tulip glass may help to accentuate the hoppy flavours, but because English IPA is similar to pale ales it can survive in a regular pint glass well.
English IPAs are served at room temperature, don’t need to worry about head retention so much, and have been served in pint glasses for over a century.
American IPAs are the most popular form of craft beer around, and this entire style has become massively popular over the last 10-15 years. With good cause, they combine the refreshment of lager, with powerful flavours. They take advantage of the amazing hops that grow in America (Citra, Cascade, Simcoe) and they have taken brewing to new levels.
So, how should you get the most out of these amazing beers? With the correct glass of course.
If you read the section on stouts, you will already know that I have a deep respect for Spiegelau glasses. The German glass company has also brought out an IPA glass. I don’t know how it works. I can’t say for certain whether it is better than a tulip glass, but it’s great for breathing in the aroma of the beer, and it looks very cool.
A tulip glass is another great choice and one that I use frequently when drinking IPAs.
Many websites recommend using a pint glass for American IPAs, and I can understand why. Personally, I’m not a fan. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to turn my nose up at it. Nor do I think it will ruin the beer. But given the choice, I’d go for the Spiegelau or tulip for the reasons specified at the beginning of the article (won’t affect temperature, good head retention, easier to smell the aromas).
The first beer glass I ever remember buying was a Wheat beer glass from Ikea. I still have it. I was in Ikea shopping for items to adorn my first flat (a two-bedroom above a Persian restaurant in Harrow if you must know). The glass was beautiful, very narrow at the bottom and for most of the glass, then widening to a bulb at the top.
Buying that glass (£1 I think) made me feel more adult than anything else I did that year. Wheat beer glasses got me into beer glasses, so I have a lot of interest in them.
That being said, wheat beers can be drunk out of pretty much any glass. No problem!
The most well-known countries for wheat beers are Germany, Belgium, and to a lesser extent the US. In Germany you’ve got Erdinger (plus about a thousand more), in Belgium you’ve got Hoegaarden, and in the US you have got Blue Moon (which is a Belgian-style wheat beer).
American wheat beers have their own Spiegelau glass (which I own but haven’t used yet). It is sort of similar in style to a chalice or goblet.
German wheat beers are often served in the long narrow glasses (called Weizen) that I mentioned buying from Ikea.
Belgian wheat beer is mostly represented by Hoegaarden. Interestingly, Hoegaarden beers are traditionally served in a hexagonal glass
Blue Moon (the American wheat beer) is usually served in a Weizen glass, which seems to work well for it. Though it also works in the Hoegaarden glass, which is unsurprising as Blue Moon is very similar in style and taste to Hoegaarden.
In a way, I regret lumping all sours beers together, because they are incredibly varied. Each one having its own signature glass. Berliner Weisse beer is served in a specific glass that is very similar to a chalice or American wheat beer glass.
Belgian sour beers such as Lambics and Krieks (sour beer made with cherries) are often served in glasses similar to a wine glass or champagne flute. But they can also be served in chalices.
One of my absolute favourite beers, Kölsch is kind of confusing. It looks exactly like a lager, tastes similar to a lager, and is often described as a lager. But it is technically closer to an ale than a lager. Ales are brewed with top-fermenting yeast while lagers/pilsners are brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast.
Kölsch uses top-fermenting yeast. But, it is stored in cold temperatures like a lager (and not at all like an ale). Really, Kölsch beer is a hybrid of the two. I first tried Kölsch while in a Christmas market in Cologne (where Kölsch is exclusively brewed). I just assumed it was lager to be honest. If it looks like a duck etc …
My girlfriend and I went into a nearby restaurant (turned out to be one of the oldest pubs in the world) and I ordered a beer. The beer came in these long narrow glasses, known as Stange. They were transported by a serving women in a sort of ring, and they basically refilled my glass non-stop over the course of two hours.
It was only after finding some wifi (pre-roaming days) that I learned to put a coaster over my glass to stop the beer being poured. Which is all part of the tradition. Not going to lie, I had another two refills before letting my girlfriend know what I was supposed to do.
This was a really cool tradition and I have loved the beer ever since. I bought myself a Stange at the Christmas market and brought it home with me. It really is the only way to drink this beer.
Kölsch is a protected product in the EU, meaning that nowhere in Europe except for Cologne can call their beer Kölsch. This does not extend to America however, and I have tried a couple of craft Kölsch beers. They are fine, however, it’s really not the same thing.
I thought that I would finish off this article with Belgian beer. If you remember, the first real brewery to offer a non-pint glass for their beer was Stellar Artois, a Belgian brewery. This is not so surprising when you consider how seriously Belgian breweries take their glasses!
Every Belgian beer has its own glass, and usually the glass is pretty unique. That being said, there tend to be two main varieties. The chalice and the goblet. There isn’t actually much difference between the two. A chalice tends to use a thinner glass while goblets use thick glass.
You could easily get away with owning one chalice glass and using it for most Belgian ales.
But that would completely miss the point. The glasses are a work of art. Belgian beer glasses make up the bulk of my collection, and the idea of drinking a Duvel out of an Orval glass is horrifying to me. If you want to get serious about your beer glasses then this is the area of the world to start!
I went to Waterloo in 2015 for the 200th anniversary of the Battle. My dad and I sat at an outdoor cafe just next to the battlefield. We ordered a couple of Waterloo beers (seemed appropriate) and they came in these gorgeous ceramic goblets. The most beautiful goblets you’ve ever seen. In the UK they would cost a fortune, and you would never see them in a regular bar!
In Brussels, I picked up a set of two for FREE in a supermarket.
But Belgian beers have so many other beer glasses out there. If you have ever had a Kwak beer, you will remember it thanks to the insane shape of the glass. Or the beautiful Orval chalice, or the Affligem glass with its small yeast collection glass beside it.
I could genuinely talk about Belgian beers and their glasses for hours. But you’re here for practical advice. If you don’t want to buy a specific glass for each beer (and I admit that reading that sentence out loud makes me sound insane for promoting it) then you will want to get yourself a chalice or a goblet. It will really enhance the aromas from the beer, and help to showcase the unique taste of Belgian ales.
You don’t need 65 different beer glasses, but you should have at least five. Here are my five picks:
Hopefully, this article has inspired you to build a bigger beer glass collection. It really does make a difference! The glasses are beautiful, look amazing in photos, often have a great story behind them, and actually do improve the taste and experience of drinking beer.
Sure, there will be people who will say that it doesn’t matter. But even if the right glass didn’t actually improve the taste. There really is something to be said for the experience. If I had walked into that 500-year-old German restaurant in Cologne and had drunk my Kölsch out of a dirty Fosters glass do you think I would still remember it?
If my dad and I had sat outside a 200-year old battlefield in Waterloo and drunk our Belgian beer out of a chipped plastic tumbler do you think I’d have a photo of the experience? No. Because the glasses added to the experience.
You don’t drink £400 champagne out of a teacup, and you shouldn’t drink beer out of bad glasses. Once you have got yourself some decent glasses, don’t forget to check out my article on how to clean them properly (trust me, it is ridiculously easy to do).
Matt Smith is the owner of Beer N Biceps. He has a degree in Sports Science, 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry, and has written for hundreds of fitness websites. He is a lover of good quality beer and believes that drinking in moderation can form part of a healthy lifestyle.