Greatness in a Glass
Controversy aside, there is a variety of different styles and sizes of beer glassware on the market and having the proper glass can add dramatically to your drinking experience. The 1-litre mug that revelers hoist at Munich’s annual Oktoberfest is called a masskrug. That is an apt sounding name for a drinking vessel that holds nearly the equivalent of half a six pack of beer. So popular and iconic are these drinking vessels that 130,000 were stolen from last year’s Oktoberfest. Beer boots and yards of ale pop up in some places as marketing gimmicks, but many better quality beer bars and brewpubs invest heavily in making sure customers get the right beer in the right glass.
“When we opened in June 1995, we were adamant that we would have the proper glassware for each beer from each brewery that supplied them,” says Keith Schlabs with the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, a 14-location chain of beer bars. “Then customers started taking them.”
The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium “Brewery Night” glassware promotion was immediately born. Now for nearly 850 consecutive Wednesdays Flying Saucer patrons have been able to buy glassware from breweries big and small at cost, thus reducing the need for barroom larceny.
“Presentation is important, especially with delicate beers. Whether it’s Orval, Westmalle, Lindeman’s or Duvel, we like to present the beer in the way the brewer intended,” Schlabs says. “Served in its proper glass a beer’s flavor and aromatics are more pronounced.”
While some like to collect modern glassware, others focus on brewery antiques. Barb Bauer is a Mount Pleasant, MI, brewery glassware collector and antiques dealer. Her late husband Gary brought her into the hobby, because both enjoyed going to flea markets and started homebrewing about 13 years ago.
“I love the history of Michigan breweries. Sometimes a glass, a sheet of letterhead or an opener might be the only thing left from these breweries,” Bauer says.
Bauer focuses on glassware from before 1960 and says it can sometimes be “a little frustrating” trying to find pieces in good condition. Finding reasonably priced older brewery glassware at antique shops is “pretty rare,” but you can sometimes stumble across a piece at a garage sale or on eBay.
Her favorite glass in her collection is a circa 1893 acid-etched glass from the East Side Brewing Company in Detroit. The 4-inch tall glass has a gold rim and advertises East Side Select Beer, with an eagle flying with a hop cone in its beak.
“Glasses and drinkware is more sought after by collectors because they break,” Bauer says. “Trays didn’t break. Metal signs didn’t break. Openers didn’t break. Mugs and steins broke. They are just harder to find in good condition.”