Back when I was in college, I spent part of one summer working in the tasting room of a small vineyard tucked away in the northwestern region of the Wilamette valley. At the time, I wasn’t particularly fond of wine. I was always more of a beer enthusiast than anything else, but this job quickly got me up to speed on all the finer details of drinking and appreciating good wine. Working in the tasting room meant I had to not only know about proper wine and food pairings, but also the appropriate glassware for any varietal in the cellar.
I ended up leaving the job well before I had to go back to school, but one thing I took away was a deep appreciation for well-designed glassware. When my boss first explained to me why each glass was shaped in a certain way, and went into detail on how various shapes deliver certain flavors to the palate, I was extremely skeptical. But the more I drank from them, the more I realized that she was absolutely right – a good glass can in fact improve the flavor of wine.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the same concept applies to beer, but aside from the Samuel Adams Boston Lager glass, there hasn’t been much innovation in beer-specific glassware – until now. Bavarian glassmaker Spiegelau set out over a year ago to design a glass that would accentuate the flavor of American “hop-forward” IPA’s, and this glass is what they came up with.
The company tested over 100 different glass prototypes before they narrowed it down to 8 finalists and 12 semifinalists. Then they brought in the pros to pick the winner. Spiegelau recruited Sam Calagione and Ken Grossman – the respective founders of Dogfish Head Brewery and Sierra Nevada – to perform a series of taste tests and determine a winner. The vessel pictured above is the one they chose.
To see if this glass really does anything for the taste of an IPA, we did an A/B comparison of this glass against your typical pint glass, cleansing our palates between sips like proper scientists. Right after a fresh pour, the taste difference between the two isn’t super pronounced. The nose, however, is vastly better with this glass. The shape pushes the fruity aroma of the hops right into your nostrils as the beer hits your lips, which makes every swallow a fuller, more enoyable sensory experience.
After a few gulps, the subtle differences in taste between the two glasses become increasingly apparent. The thin glass construction helps the beer retain its temperature longer in the IPA glass, and the design keeps the beer tasting fresh until the last drop. It’s got a hop etched on the bottom, but rather than being a merely decorative addition, this serves to help the beer stay bubbly and carbonated long after it’s poured. After you drink it down to around the bottom of the bell, the beer falls back into the glass in a way that curns and reinvigorates your brew. Whereas the last sip tastes flat and warm by this point with a typical pint glass, the last gulp in this IPA glass tastes crisp and cold.
These glasses have been making quite a splash on the web – they’ve popped up on just about every beer and design blog in existence in the past few weeks, and since Spiegelau’s production run was somewhat limited, they’re currently a bit tough to find. Dogfish Head and Spiegelau are sold out at the moment, but Sierra Nevada still has a few in stock. You can pick one up for just $9.00 plus shipping, and we advise ordering sooner than later – they’re selling like hotcakes.