In Defense of the Shaker Pint Glass

Carolina Panthers Pint Glass

Sir Purr & I think the shaker pint has its place.

Julia Herz, publisher of craftbeer.com, has written an article asking “Should the Shaker Pint Glass Go Away?” She makes the point that beer served in stemmed glassware “goes flat less quickly, stays at the preferred temperature longer, and appears to be fuller-flavored and more aromatic.” She also presents some arguments from Dr. Michael Lewis, Ph.D., professor emeritus of brewing science at U.C. Davis. Dr. Lewis disdains the shaker pint so much so that he presented a paper counting the ways at the Master Brewers Association of the Americas.

As someone who almost always drinks out of a snifter or a New Belgium globe, I do understand that glassware makes a difference. Truth be told, the only day in which I pull the shaker pint from my cabinet is Sunday while watching football (maybe it’s fitting that I use an inferior glass while watching an inferior team, but that’s neither here nor there). Despite this, I can’t help but feel that the shaker pint isn’t being given a fair, well, shake.

One of Dr. Lewis’ points is that the shaker pint “cannot contribute in any significant way to enhancing the consumer’s experience.” In comparing a shaker pint with a tulip glass, he notes that the latter preserves a beer’s head and allows for more aromatics, and with that I completely agree.

But I ask you, is a beer’s aroma, head retention and overall presentation all there is to the consumer experience? Isn’t there something to be said for how the glass feels in your hand, or for enjoying beer for beer’s sake, without overly critiquing every little nuance that specialized glassware might provide? Isn’t there something to be said for using a vessel devoid of all pretension?

If I’m on my couch watching football, I’m not going to spend as much time analyzing a beer’s aromatics as I am the game itself, or the company I’m watching with. If I’m in Munich, I’m not going to request that my Marzen is served in a tulip glass or a snifter – I’m going to hoist my beer high in a dimple stein with everyone else, even if a dimple stein adds no more to the consumer’s experience than a shaker pint does. This is true of many other popular glass styles. Stanges, nonics, steins, mugs and goblets, from a technical standpoint, are not all that different from a shaker pint. But like a shaker pint, they often feel right in the hand, seem appropriate for the style or call to mind simpler days when enjoying a beer and analyzing a beer were not the same thing.

There is a time and place for all things, including the shaker pint. And there is more to “the consumer’s experience” than the aromatics or head retention of whatever you may be drinking. For that matter, there is more to the experience than the beer itself. Focus more on the glass in front of you than the place and people around you, and you’re likely to miss that.

Comments

  1. VncentLIFE says:

    like someone said from the twitter conversation earlier, sometimes you dont want the pretentiousness of anything but a pint glass. I use them all the time, and my Hoppy Bunny and Buckeye Beer Engine nonics get more use than of my tulips, snifters, and stemless wine glasses.

    I always pour any stout that isnt Siberian Night (I have a Siberian Night pint glass) into a nice snifter–mainly because I just go my CCB snifter. Usually sours go in that Duvel tulip.

    If Ive already had it or arent overly focused on aroma, it goes straight in a pint or nonic.

  2. Jacob says:

    I saw your comment on CraftBeer.com and couldn’t agree more with everything you posted above. And I like what Vncent above writes above about already having had the beer. But I think one important thing people tend to forget is this…

    It’s just beer and we have to be careful not to let ourselves get a bit too carried away with it all.

    I have a stemless tulip glass that I use the majority of the time, but I have no qualms about pulling out a pint glass once in a while. Great post, and thanks for weighing in!

    • Daniel says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read the post, Jacob. I also often find myself saying “It’s just beer,” which is funny because for the most part I take it more seriously than any sane person ought to.

      I have a stemless snifter — or at least that’s what it looks like — that I really enjoy using. I think it’s meant for whiskey, and I do use it for that purpose, but I also love it for big stouts. Again, it’s just one of those cases where the glass feels good in your hand.

  3. Madison says:

    Both sides of the argument have good points. While I almost always prefer a stem and a tapered glass, there are those football days (read hulu Gossip Girl marathons, no shame) on which a shaker pint does just fine. Sometimes I want to feel a bit common like the glass..not so high falutin… ;) I will agree with others that my number one priority is to banish chilled glassware!

    • Daniel says:

      Exactly, Madison! When it comes to glassware, let’s pick our battles. We should ban chilled glassware and ensure beer is at least served in a glass before worrying about the type of glass it’s served in.

      My wife will occasionally drag me into Gossip Girl marathons, but that’s a snifter and big stout night for me. ;)

  4. For a long time, every beer I drank at home was poured into a 22 oz tankard. It did the job decent enough. But now I dare say that I have gotten a bit uppity in my choice of glassware. I have three different sets of glasses that I use for various beer styles (and just picked up a 4th that I will be using for sours and Bier de Champagnes). I don’t go so far as to critically analyze every drop of every beer but at the same time bringing out the full flavors of the different styles is part of the enjoyment for me.

    • Daniel says:

      No argument there, Jon. And my wife would probably laugh at this post if she were to read it, as I have a whole shelf devoted to glassware with only two or three shakers. I guess I just dislike the idea of banning shaker pints more than I actual like shaker pints themselves — does that make sense?

      Thanks for reading!

      Daniel

  5. Mark Iafrate says:

    Love the article.

    First and foremost:
    “…maybe it’s fitting that I use an inferior glass while watching an inferior team, but that’s neither here nor there.” – Bah-zing.

    Second:
    I understand her argument when comparing to wine, re: “How many $100 bottles of wine would a restaurant sell if the wine was poured into an iced tea glass?” However the last thing I’d want to see is beer become as pretentious as wine is now.

    I think you’re right when you mention there is a time and place for everything. It all boils down to why you’re drinking. Having a casual beer? Throw it in a pint glass and carry on. Want a little more intimate drinking experience, put it in something right.

    Last point – it WOULD be nice to see more craft-centric bars having tulip glasses, etc. available. surprising how many try and serve craft beer in ice-cold, pre-chilled pint glasses.

    • Daniel says:

      I agree completely, Mark. Your comment about comparing beer to wine begs the question: can beer be respected and treated as seriously as wine, and yet without the pretentiousness that many feel accompanies the wine culture? I know not all wine drinkers are snobs by any means, but the “stigma” is there. I don’t want beer going down that road.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Daniel

  6. Truth! I have little tasting glasses that are perfect for sampling new brews at home, but for everything else, I often reach for a shaker pint. Plus… you get more beer. Winner!

    • Daniel says:

      Despite by championing of the shaker pint glass here, I really only have a few: I think I’ve got a Brawley’s one, a Panthers one, and maybe a Yuengling one. I can’t remember them all now. I have a whole shelf full of glassware and, when my wife asked that I get rid of a few, some older shakers were the first ones to go.

      Thanks for reading, Tiff!

      Daniel

  7. Ryan Self says:

    While I’m in favor of anything that removes the air of exclusivity and pretention from the craft beer scene, I do dislike the shaker glass mainly because it is so crassly utilitarian. It has only flourished for its usefulness in bars, whose staff appreciate it’s sturdy non-breakable build and stackable contours. It’s like eating a fine steak on one of those heavier-duty paper plates – sure it does the job, it’s convenient, and it makes you feel like a man of the people, but even if just psychosomatically it can’t help but cheapen the experience.
    I fear the shaker pint glass propagates every myth we craft beer drinkers hate to have repeated – it’s terrible at head retention, so bars fill it to the top. “Value!” proclaims the uninformed consumer. We know better. “It keeps my beer colder!” proclaims the drinker. Sure…but wouldn’t we all agree that any beer worth sipping is worth allowing to warm up and open up a bit?
    I realize we will never get rid of the shaker glass…it has a certain value in bars that frankly don’t care about their beer or their beer drinker, where space behind the bar is more important than the beer experience, or where frankly only swill is served and the customer will be consuming it in large gulps from a frosted glass. But in a craft beer par, knowing what we know, I think we can do better. In fact, glancing up into my cabinets, I have 22 styles of beer glass…and the only shakers are commemorative items from my honeymoon, Brawley’s Black and Blue, and of course two Giants Super Bowl wins.
    May I suggest the traditional English pint glass? Sexy contours, thin walls and a slight tip inwards up top to aid in both head retention and aroma. Despite my collection of fine tulips and snifters, I probably use these the most: http://shop.harpoonbrewery.com/index.cfm?fa=shop.detail&productId=5749 Proper beer enjoyment and no need for an extended pinky!

    • Daniel says:

      Ryan, to me the English pint glass looks better but really offers very little more in the way of head retention and aroma. That’s why I lump them in with steins, stanges, dimple mugs and the like. Sure, they look better and often seem to fit certain styles better (and that’s why I appreciate them), but to me you don’t really see a noticeable difference in head retention and aroma until you get to tulips and snifters.

      I think your “man of the people” comment alludes to why I’m arguing in defense of shaker pints even if I don’t often use them myself. The last thing I want is for beer to go the way of wine, where craft beer drinkers are more well known for what they won’t drink or what glasses they won’t use than they are for truly enjoying beer.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Daniel

      • Ryan Self says:

        Oh I disagree on the aroma…no question the slight inward curve holds the aroma of a hop bomb far better than a shaker. Tulip quality, no, but certainly an improvement as the Founders Harvest I enjoyed in my English pint last night can attest to.

    • Mark Iafrate says:

      “It’s like eating a fine steak on one of those heavier-duty paper plates – sure it does the job, it’s convenient, and it makes you feel like a man of the people, but even if just psychosomatically it can’t help but cheapen the experience.”

      Perfect analogy.

      • D says:

        I believe it can cheapen the experience, literally. By standardizing glassware and using something fairly durable – rather than this glass with protruding pieces – bars can keep the cost of glassware down. Those savings can be passed to the consumer in the form of lower beer prices for high quality beer. A “cheapened experience” indeed!
        At the very least, the pint glass leads to less breakage and replacement and shortens/simplifies the service process. Trying to find the positives here, when I fully realize that I prefer drinking out of something other than a shaker pint!

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