Beer Slobbery chronicles one man’s journey to 1,000 beers by way of Duckworth’s new HopMan Beer Club. Devon Heffer is fairly new to the craft beer scene, so he’ll undoubtedly be discovering some new beers on his journey. Find all of his past posts here.
I usually drink beer out of an old sneaker.
So imagine my surprise when I came in contact with one of Sam Adams’ pint glasses last week. The glass was developed in concert with a Cambridge laboratory to ensure full enjoyment of the product. I was skeptical.
But after drinking 3 or 4 at a clip, I have to say I see the appeal. Drinking beer out of glassware specifically designed for maximum enjoyment adds a new layer to the experience. Plus I get to look fancy. But does the beer taste better? Hard to say.
Your sense of smell and your sense of taste are inextricably linked. Smell is governed by gas. In beer, that gas is CO2. So if your beer has a healthy head on it, that’s trapped CO2 in a beer-matrix capping all the rest of the CO2 trapped in the beer. It’s a flavor-saver. So the conventional wisdom is: if you’re served a beer without a head, you should spit it directly in the face of your server. Or just send it back. Within minutes much of the CO2 trapped within will dissipate and your beer will start to oxidize. Not good for all the flavors.
So, glassware that helps to preserve that head is always desirable. And the Boston Brewing Co. state propaganda supports the notion. And they’re not alone. Dogfish Head has their signature glass with a tapered mouth. Sierra Nevada has several including a Spiegelau glass for their IPA ($9! Gimme a break).
Or you could just go with a standard shaker pint glass, heralded in story and song. It stacks well, it’s easy to clean, and it’s nigh on indestructible. The ironic thing, though… chances are it’s not really a pint. Most top off at around 14 oz. Plus it flares outward toward the top. That’s great if you have an especially pungent beer and the aroma needs to take center stage. But in most cases it just allows the head to dissipate faster.
So if good beer glassware really is just about tapering the mouth to preserve the head, and you don’t fear roving hordes of beer geeks, you could go for a traditional white wine glass.
Which brings me to a very tough question: is beer in danger of becoming a refuge for snobs? Wine fell for that trap decades ago. The beer glassware discussion certainly opens the door. And I would suggest we may already be there.
I’m not going back to the sneaker. But I might be able to find something that splits the difference.
Let’s drink some beer:
Highland Razor Wit (Asheville, NC) Witbier, 4.5% ABV: It’s a nice, hazy straw color with a thin, but persistent head. Intricate lacing. Extremely fizzy like most wits I’ve tried, but this is a bit much. It’s almost like I’m drinking a soda. However, it is crisp and spicy. Clean aftertaste.
Beer Advocate: B My Grade: B
Stone Odd Year Old Guardian Oak Smoked (San Diego, CA) American Barleywine, 11.4% ABV: This will be my very first barleywine. The alcohol content is a little intimidating, but no glory for the weak! It’s a clear reddish-brown with an ample head. The booze hits like a 9 lb sledge. Hard. But underneath that it’s fruity and pleasant. It’s medium body and somewhat low on the carbonation, so it goes down nice and smooth. Which makes this an extremely dangerous drink for me.
Beer Advocate: A My Grade: A
Triple C Road to Nowhere (Charlotte, NC) American Porter, 5.7% ABV: “… we know what we’re knowing, but we can’t say what we’ve seeeeeeeeen…” As long as we’re naming beers after great songs with desert-themed videos, I hope Triple C gives Tribe a shot on their next outing. Anyway… good beer! I had it out of a cask and it poured black with a thick off-white head. Very complex for a porter. Normally I just taste toast straight off, but this is hoppy and rich. Lots of great cocoa and coffee notes. Heavy body with easy carbonation.
Beer Advocate: ?? My Grade: A
Orkney Skull Splitter (Orkney, Scotland UK) Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy, 8.5% ABV: The name scares me. A Scottish beer that promises to split my skull. But like my grandfather said, “Beer drinking is a dangerous game. Now go clean the toilet”. I can smell the caramel wafting off the glass. It’s red like a dead foe’s coagulating blood. Much sweeter than I was expecting, even with the caramel aroma, but not cloying. Enough alcohol content to give it some nice warmth going down, almost like brandy. But not so much that it burns. Catching citrus and grapes. This is a great sipping beer, I’ve decided. Very fun to just sit back and take your time with.
Beer Advocate: A My Grade: A+