If you’re into craft beer, then you know using the proper glassware is essential to bringing out the best in each style of beer. Pilsners shine in tall and narrow glasses, pales ales do well in pint glasses, and a tulip glass will bring out the best in boozy treats like Belgian strong ales and imperial stouts.
If you’re a bona fide beer geek, then you know that’s just the beginning – the exact shape of a particular glass and the materials used in its construction can also have a major impact on what you see, smell, feel, and taste when you enjoy your favorite beer.
No one knows this better than the folks at Spiegelau. The company has been crafting adult beverage vessels for centuries, and has recently turned their attention to maximizing the pleasures of American craft beers.
Last year Spiegelau teamed with Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada to create a glass that highlights the hoppy goodness of IPAs. This year, the German glassmaker has teamed up with Left Hand Brewing Company and Rogue Ales to create the world’s first glass specifically engineered to bring out the best in my favorite style of beer – the dark and rich stout.
The brewers tested various shapes from Spiegelau’s massive glassware archive, picking the basic form that had the biggest impact on the aroma and flavor of a stout. Then they were presented with six prototypes based on the selected shape, each with slight variations in bowl width, height, capacity, and wall angles. A consensus winner emerged, and “Prototype C” was put into production.
The stem of the glass is hollow, increasing its capacity and allowing for a hearty pour that creates a generous aromatic head. Its massive bowl allows you to really get your nose in there and enjoy the subtle fragrant graces of a stout.
But the real magic happens when you take a sip.
The glass was designed to enhance the mid-palate flavor of the beer it holds, and that’s good news for stout lovers, because that’s where all the sweet and earthy wonders are found– tastes of chocolate and coffee, licorice, wood and vanilla.
I tested out the stout glass with a 22-ounce bomber of Stone Russian Imperial Stout, pouring half of its contents into a standard Spiegelau tulip glass and half into the new stout glass. The result was rather remarkable – the beer in the stout glass clearly had more depth to its flavor, like the important components of its taste were somehow enhanced, zoomed into. It was like watching a movie in 3D – it’s the same content, but somehow more immersive.
The real test was when my wife took a taste from each glass. She’s not a beer geek like me, so I wasn’t sure if she’d appreciate the difference between the vessels.
First, she sipped from the standard tulip glass and nodded – Stone RIS is a lovely and balanced brew – and then she took a sip from the stout glass.
“Are these the same beers?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied, “from the same bottle.”
She took another sip of each with a suspicious and quizzical look on her face, like someone who knows they’re being fooled by a magic trick, but can’t puzzle out exactly how it was done. Simply put, you don’t need to be a beer geek to appreciate what these cleverly crafted glasses can do.
The design of the glass holds a couple of other benefits for fidgety stout lovers like me. It’s a tactile pleasure to hold, as the outer base of its bowl has notches that are wonderful to run your fingers over as you’re chatting with friends or catching up on “Fargo.”
Because its stem holds beer, the glass has more surface area than a standard tulip glass, allowing the beer in it to warm up faster. This would be a disaster for a Coors Light that relies on being bone-chillingly cold so you can’t really taste its watery depths, but works wonderfully for stouts, which blossom with flavor as they warm.
All told, Spiegelau has done it again, creating a glass that really does enhance the flavor of this wonderful style of beer. At under $20 for a pair, these glasses are a worthwhile investment if you’re a fan of dark, rich and roasty beers.