Gessler’s Glass House: A Collection of 4,200 Beer Glasses

Gessler's Glasses

Gessler Arzani’s home in Charlotte is peppered with decor and mementos from his years spent in Germany. The largest relic of his time spent overseas, however, is upstairs in the house’s largest room. From floor to ceiling, the room abounds with beer glasses.

That’s not an exaggeration. Running from the hardwood floors to the popcorn ceiling, across windows, walls and doors, are shelves filled with beer glasses. Three separate shelving units stand alone in the middle of the room. And above all of this, more glasses are displayed on shelves affixed to the two beams that run across the ceiling.

All told, there are 4,200 beer glasses in this room, making Gessler’s collection one of the largest in the country. Some glasses are as small as shot glasses, others as big as a boot. There are tulips, snifters, goblets and flutes. Chalices, dimple mugs, snifters and stanges.

There’s the tall Warsteiner glass that tapers out like a megaphone, it so absurdly large that Gessler perched it upon its own shelf and affixed both the shelf and the glass with Velcro.

And there’s the one that started it all, a small glass from a brewery in Wiesbaden, Germany that Gessler purchased in 1961. After serving in the Army, Gessler worked for General Electric in Syracuse before transferring to Germany. It wasn’t long after he acquired that first glass that he learned to say “Can I buy a glass?” in German. Like so many in Gessler’s collection, the Wiesbaden brewery no longer exists. Still, it holds the distinction of starting Gessler on a journey he’s been on for more than half a century.

Each glass charts a step in that journey. This room is a map.

Walking through it, you pass by not only Germany but also Italy, Poland, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, England and Ireland. One section houses glasses from the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Iceland is represented, too. There is a section brimming with glasses from India, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries. The Americas are there, with glasses from Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Gessler did not visit all of these countries. His own pursuits were relegated primarily to Germany and central Europe, but he met other collectors over the years who were happy to trade glasses with him. He shipped 500 glasses from Germany back to Syracuse, where most of the glasses were boxed up and kept in a cellar.

Things changed when he moved to Charlotte. You can have one room in the house, his wife said, but that’s the only one you can have. The collection continued to grow throughout the years, as Gessler accumulated more and more glasses. He bought a big collection from a guy in Tuscon, Arizona, and rented a Ford Econoline van to bring them all back.

A collection of this magnitude is not without its troubles. Gessler once spent several days taking down the glasses and shelves so that someone could roof the house (the glass room sits just below the roof on the second floor). Once he had reinstalled everything, his wife decided that the roof looked so good that they should have the siding done, too. Down they came.

Now he hopes to take them down for a final time. Gessler is 82-years-old, and his knees are not those that carried him to and fro so many breweries in search of glasses. He and his wife will look to move into a one-story house soon, and he wants to give away the entire collection.

The catch? The person must take all 4,200 of them, and they must pack them up themselves. Gessler hopes to give away the entire collection to one place that can house them all, with a preference to a local venue where he could visit from time to time.

If you think you can help, please e-mail cltbeer@gmail.com and I will relay the message to Gessler. To see more photos of Gessler’s collection, visit the Charlotte Beer Facebook page.