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A clean, perfect glass for your beer.

A clean, perfect glass for your beer.

There are certain things I really appreciate when it comes to drinking beer at my favorite local watering holes. In addition to the beer’s quality (a given), I relish a beer served in a clean, appropriate glass.

How do I know my glass is really clean, you ask? Well, several things. First of all, “beer clean” is actually an industry term used for a glass that has been cleaned in a very specific way. There are certain techniques and cleansers that must be used. The Brewer’s Association’s Draught Quality Manual goes into great detail on this subject (see page 46). If manually washing glasses, better beer bars should have a three tub sink, if not, they should use an automatic machine with the appropriate cleanser at the right temperatures. I won’t bore you with every detail, BUT the good news is, there are ways to tell if your glass is really clean.

First, when you look at the glass, there should be no noticeable marks, such as lipstick on the edge. As you can imagine, this would not be a beer clean glass.

Second, look at the side of the glass, are there bubbles clinging in patches? If so, this is not a beer clean glass. Bubbles mean there is residual beer/dirt that remains inside your glass.

Third, as you drink your beer, layers of lacing should form in lovely rings around the inside of your glass. If there is no lacing, or it looks all random-like, your glass is probably not beer clean.

Lastly, and this is especially a pet peeve of mine, which I have not quite figured how to deal with because seemingly everyone does this: Your beer should never touch the faucet from which it is poured. NEVER. This technique is used all the time to serve beer that might be on the foamy side. It is WRONG. The Draught Quality manual says, and I quote,

“In no instance should a faucet nozzle touch the inside of the glass. Nozzles can cause glassware breakage; nozzles can transfer contamination from dried beer to glassware. In no instance should the faucet nozzle become immersed in the consumer’s beer. Nozzles dipped in beer become a breeding ground for microorganisms.”


There are other ways to tell whether a glass is beer clean, the salt test and water sheeting test, but these aren’t things you would be able to easily test outside of your home.

Next, glassware.

Oude Tilquin Gueuze

I won’t go into crazy depth on this topic, but there are some basic premises on glassware that you should know about. (Over at Craftbeer.com, they have this great app which will tell you exactly what beer glass you should use for each style of beer if you’re interested.)

Most likely, if you order a beer, it’s going to show up in the classic shaker pint. This glass, while hardy and stackable, does nothing for your beer. It doesn’t hurt it, per se, but it also doesn’t help it. Don’t believe me? Here is a great article and video. It isn’t exactly evil like some people think, I have plenty in my kitchen, but if I had my choice, I would always choose something else, perhaps the nonic pint glass or a tulip.

In fact, the oft mocked tulip pint is my go to glass, and not because I have a vagina.

tulip glass

Bare with me while I rant for a sec. I have heard many complaints about the tulip glass that make me crazy: from the innocent “why did my beer get served in this glass,” to “next time can I please get my beer in a man’s glass?”

: : Shudder : :

I’m sorry. That imperial IPA you just ordered, SHOULD come in a tulip glass. In fact, knowing that your imperial IPA should come in a tulip glass is hot, and if you are too worried about outward appearances to care, then you are not worthy of that beer. Plain and simple.

The shape of a tulip pint glass actually traps the aroma, providing you with a full and lovely tasting experience. Much of what we experience in the sensation of taste is actually from the aroma, so you want to maximize this is as much as possible. Tulip pints are especially great for stronger, more aromatic beers.

Beers that are really big in alcohol, like an 11% Russian Imperial Stout, should be drank out of a snifter style glass. One, because higher alcohol beers should be served in smaller glasses for obvious reasons, and two, the aroma is, again, enhanced in these lovely brandy glasses. Why do you think they call ’em snifters?

Two Brothers' Sidekick Extra Pale Ale

Of course, there are some glasses specifically suited to styles, like the weizen vase for your hefeweizens and dunkelweizens or bock’s best friend, the pokal glass. Of late, breweries have started creating their own proprietary glassware, for example the Boston Lager glass by Sam Adams and the IPA glass (above) a collaboration by Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head. Each is designed to enhance the flavor or their respective beer styles. This might sound like a novel idea, but breweries in Belgium have been doing their own glassware for ages. It is a trend (I hope) that will continue into the future of American craft beer.

Moral of the story is, find a bar or brewery that cleans your glasses well, and pours them the right way into an appropriate glass.

And stop hating on the tulip pint, for god’s sake.


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