Telegraph 29 Jul 2015
There’s nothing better than a glass of cold beer on a hot day, and with summer in full swing it’s a sure bet that barbecues and beer gardens alike are seeing their fair share of use at the moment.
British men and women have been enjoying chilled bevvies since the advent of the cool box – but the observant summer drinker might have noticed a change in beer culture over the past few years. Whereas once lager came served in a straight pint glass regardless of the exact drink you had ordered, individual tipples now have their own custom made containers.
The boom in these bespoke jars has coincided with the rise in demand for premium and craft lager. And now that we’re taking the yellow fizzy stuff seriously, beer manufacturers want us to know that each beer has its own meticulously designed glass, which has been carefully engineered to coax the best out of the liquid.
Sound like a clever marketing ploy to you? Maybe – but, according to Britain’s first Beer Sommelier of the Year, Jane Peyton, “the shape of a glass can definitely affect the taste and drinking experience of the beer.”
“The rim is especially important,” explains Peyton, who is also the UK ambassador for Friends of Glass. “Its size affects the way a person drinks the beer.”
“Narrow mouthed rims encourage sipping and so the beer reaches the front and sides of the tongue first, where sweetness and acidity register. A wide mouthed rim encourages glugging which directs the beer to the back of the tongue where bitterness registers.”
However, that’s not the only benefit to the drinks company. “The glass is also a chance for the brewing company to market their brand,” Peyton observes, “and they will choose a shape that suits their perceived customer.”
So, what beer goes with what glass – and why, exactly?
The Stella Artois chalice is probably what first springs to mind when the topic of branded glassware is broached. The star of many a glamorous, 1920s-tinged advertising campaign, Stella Artois believe that nothing but the chalice can truly do their beer justice.
As Peyton puts it, the glass’s oval design “allows a big foamy head and complex aromas to develop.” It’s also worth noting the stem at the foot of the glass, which works just like the stem on a white wine glass: it gives you something to hold without grabbing the main bowl, so your warm hands stay away from the cool lager.
The gold-rimmed chalice is intended to deliver a smooth pour, fewer bubbles and a colder beer for longer.
The newly-launched Heineken glass is a refinement of their previous glassware, which was slightly shorter and wider. Designed to facilitate the perfect pour, curved sides ‘catch’ the beer as it flows from can, bottle or tap and guide the liquid gently to the bottom of the glass. It widens at the top, encouraging the formation of a smooth, foamy head.
Heineken say the glass helps to lock in the carbonation and prevent the beer from going flat. For Peyton, the design is also about making the most of Heineken’s distinct taste: “Heineken has a sweet biscuity malt flavour and the rim is fairly narrow mouthed so the drinker can sip the beer and those sweet malt flavours will be the first thing to register,” she says.
An angular departure from the soft curves of Heineken, the ‘secret weapon’ of Budweiser’s branded glassware is a technique called ‘nucleation’. Enamel coats the bottom of the glass in methodically designed patterns that direct the carbonated liquid as it fills the glass, and then continue to channel the bubbles as the beer settles.
A wide rim helps to nurture a strong and smooth head.
As Jean-Claude Van Damme will tell you, Coors Light is optimally served ‘Damme cold’. As a result, the official glassware can withstand sub-zero temperatures (colder even than the ring of mountains that appear to encircle this glass’ base).
Like the Budweiser pint, Coors have nucleated the bottom of their glass, but rather than using enamel, the patterns have been etched onto the glass using a laser-enscriber.
If serving at home, try icing the glass before pouring to ensure an extra cold, ‘Damme good’ pint.
Distinctively shaped, San Miguel have followed Stella Artois’s lead in adopting a chalice design for their branded glassware. Gurdeep Saini, of San Miguel UK, tells us that “The San Miguel chalice glass has been designed so that it not only looks great, but also enhances the taste credentials for the consumer.”
“The chalice’s iconic shape and ‘enamel nucleation’ creates a constant swirl of bubbles, thus creating and retaining a perfect creamy and stable head to your pint of San Miguel,” continues Saini.
Two limited edition chalices are to be released this year.
Grolsch is probably best known for its distinctive, swing-top bottles. However, unlike Corona (who do not manufacture glassware, as they insist drinking from the bottle with a wedge of lime is best) Grolsch produce branded glasses as well. Standing very tall, the Grolsch glass tapers in noticeably at its ‘waist’.
When the beer is poured, it runs smoothly down the side of the glass, but upon passing the ‘kink’ line it splashes into the lower chamber and is nucleated. This frothing carbonation gives a smooth, foamy head to the beer as it fills to the widening rim.
A classic Pilsner glass, Peyton describes this design as being “tall and tapered like an inverted isosceles triangle – narrower at the bottom than the top. It shows off the colour and carbonation of the beer and as the vessel’s mouth is not too wide it maintains a good head.”
Another new addition to the world of branded glassware, Fosters’ latest design is sleeker and thinner than their previous offerings. The silver decoration around the glass and debossed rays around the brand logo are said to “give the glass a distinctive, premium feel”.
And the sides of the glass, which are somewhere between straight and bowed, allow for the best of both worlds when pouring. The curves cultivate a smooth and even body, whilst the straight edges crash the beer into a dense and protective head.
The ‘Gastro Glass’ is a new creation from Estrella Damm. With a narrower tip and slightly wider bottom, this pear-shaped glass prevents the rapid release of carbon and retains the beer’s head for longer. The glass has been dubbed ‘Gastro’ due to Estrella’s belief that a specific level of carbon is needed to cleanse the palate – by dragging any remains of food from the mouth.
According to Peyton, Estrella know what they’re talking about, as the design of a glass can drastically affect the level of carbonation. “On the tongue carbonation adds acidity, a spiky texture, and also bitterness. Depending on the shape of the glass these characteristics from carbonation can be enhanced, or dulled.”
Budvar is the only mainstream premium lager to be served in a tankard. Narrow, tall and straight-sided, Budvar’s branded glassware both improves the drinking experience whilst simultaneously paying homage to the legacy of Czech lager. The light foam caused by nucleation acts as a virtual net to catch aromas from the beer, and as 80pc of taste comes from scents, Budvar believe that this amplifies the overall taste of their product.
The design also evokes the classic stein – the handle keeping the beer colder for longer, but also letting you and your friends replicate the age-old tradition of chinking glasses and saying cheers – or Na zdraví!