The most common glass used in American bars is the 16-ounce shaker pint, also called the sleeve pint glass. It’s inexpensive, sturdy and easy to stack. It’s also, according to many brewers and importers of special beers, a terrible glass for beer.
“The shaker pint is a glass tongue depressor, the worst glass in the world,” said Don Feinberg of Vanberg & DeWulf, importers of Belgian beers.
One problem with the shaker pint glass for Feinberg and others is that the shape does nothing to concentrate the aroma of the beer. The wide top quickly dissipates the aroma, as well as the head.
Each style of beer in the historically great brewing nations has at least one style of preferred glass.
In Bavaria, the hefeweizen (wheat beer) glass is tall (usually 9-10″), footed, slightly wider than the foot at the base and then immediately slims down and gradually widens out towards the top. The height is due to the glass needing to be able to accommodate the normal pour of 500ml of beer plus a huge, foamy head. Albert Höflinger, International Brand Director for Hacker-Pschorr in Munich, said this style of glass for Bavarian hefeweizen was, until 1872, only available for the “royals.” It was in that year, Höflinger said, that the law changed in Germany, allowing non-court brewers finally to be able to produce hefeweizen.
Guinness stout (and other stouts) uses the 20-ounce, imperial pint tulip glass (7″ high). “The curves and shape make the beer look spectacular,” said Fergal Murray, Guinness Master Brewer.
Belgian brewers have many different shapes of beer glasses, most of which are stemmed versions of what is called the “chalice” or “goblet,” usually holding 33cl of beer. The typical chalice (about 8″ tall) has a foot and stem, atop which sits a bowl that widens and then slightly tapers inwards towards the top. A goblet is shorter and is usually a fatter bowl shape that also slightly tapers towards the top. Many stemmed Belgian beer glasses open up above the stem and then tighten up considerably in the middle before flaring out at the rim. These are all often 6-6½” in height.
The typical German pilsner glass is tall (9-11″) and thin at the foot, slowly tapering outwards to the top.
The “nonic” glass is most typically found at an English pub. This 6″-high, imperial pint glass has a bulge about three-quarters towards the top that keeps the glass rims from touching each other and “nicking” as they sit together on a shelf. The dimpled mug is pretty much a thing of the past in most British pubs.