Thursday, April 25, 2013

vessels and containers

The business of beer is also the business of packaging and delivery.  After Budweiser (AB In Bev) announced their latest gimmick can, and Sam Adams introduced their special craft improving can, and Dogfish Head in collaboration with other breweries developed the IPA glass, a friend of mine asked me about containers and glassware.

I seem to recall discussing this in a past post, but after a few years and a few hundred posts now, I can't seem to find where I had discussed it before, and therefore am in high danger of contradicting myself.  I am okay with this, but if you peruse my blog in reverse and find my comments on this topic in 2008 or 09 or10, I would like to revisit my thoughts.

As I recall, at the time, I felt that glassware is a matter of personal preference.  I am not sure what I felt my favorite glass was at the time, but I think I had a couple of German beer (pilsener and alt?)glasses that I got at an after GABF party at Rock Bottom that I liked.  Both being promotional glassware, broke in the dishwasher over time.  I also owned a couple of Sam Adam's lager glasses, and were thoroughly unimpressed...also they broke in the dishwasher.  My favorite "regular" glasses recently were ones I purchased from Great Divide and Wit's End...they were thin walled glasses, and suffered eventual death by dishwasher also.  The Wit's End glass died last week, exactly 1 week after I got to tell Scott Witsoe (owner, Wit's End) that I still had it (from when he opened) and it was my favorite....he also mentioned that he couldn't get that glass (or it was backordered).

The glass that I seem to use the most, and also hate the most, is the standard straight sided "shaker" or American Pint.  You know this glass.  Most bars love using this glass.  It holds exactly 16 ounces of liquid, stacks without breaking, costs less than a dollar a glass to replace, and takes a hell of a beating before it breaks.  It isn't even a beer glass, per se.  It is called a shaker because it is for mixed drinks.  It fits and seals into a mixer (see Tom Cruise in Cocktail...he's still a dick).  But the real reason bar owners love the glass for beer is best exemplified by a couple simple experiments.

Fill the shaker glass to within 1 inch of its top to simulate a decent craft beer with a 1 inch head on it.  Then pour it into a measuring cup.  That 1 inch of foam represents 3-4 ounces of beer because of the shape of the glass.  You buy a pint, but get 12 ounces served.  Over a 1/2 barrel keg (15.5 gallons), you get 41 extra "pints" short serving your patrons.  $41 pints at $5 a pint is over $200 per half barrel keg, or $160 at $4 per "pint".

This doesn't fly in Europe.  You will see European Glasses with the 375 ml line or 0.5 L line for proper beer measure.  This is by law.

Here in America, buyer beware. It isn't that I care so much, as I almost never need to drink more beer, but it is what you end up paying for a beer.

So, does glassware matter.  I used to say no....but I have not done any blind taste tests.  There was a premium glass maker that did a demonstration at one of our local brewing supply shops for $40, you got to sample 3 beers in their different glasses as intended for their styles (compared to shakers) and at the end got to keep their glasses.  I got permission to attend from my wife, but was too late to sign up, so for me, the jury is out.

I know my brother and I like to drink big beers out of fluted goblets, and I have an awesome English pint glass from Sierra Nevada (from the rare beer tasting in 2009), and some nice smaller glassware for tasting, and enjoying lesser amounts.

When it comes to cans.  I can't get on the bus.  I don't like drinking from a can, and when I buy a six pack, it is 90% or more from 12 ounce bottles....only if I need cans or if I can't get a beer that I want to drink in 12 ounce  bottles do I buy cans, bombers, or 375ml or 750ml sized beers.  I can't recall buying craft beer in a can....ever....but, I don't go to picnics, concerts, or elsewhere where a can can be consumed and a bottle can't.  I am more likely to fill my stainless steel growler with something (local or home brewed) before I buy a can.

This is even though cans are better vessels to store beer (think very small kegs) away from light, they are light weight (ecological to ship and carry), and can be 100% recycled.  I am a can bigot.  I do reuse my minus the recycle argument....but still.

So, it is still a personal preference....but I do think it actually matters.  Glassware focuses the attributes of the beer, and makes it look or feel more appealing (like high heels on the fairer sex)....the shaker glass is horrible for everything except the seller, but if it makes you comfortable, it is the right glass for you.

1 comment:

  1. Your post seems a bit incoherent. Lots of contradictory opinions about glassware, then a railing on cans. First cans- Neither cans nor bottles both should not be directly consumed from to fully experience a beer. If you absolutely had to, a can may even be a tiny bit superior, but still awful. If you are buying hoppy beers, a can is orders of magnitude better, unless you are getting it straight from the brewery (and can then store it properly yourself).

    The only beers that can benefit from glass bottling are ones that continue to improve, or at least change beneficially (to some), from slow oxygen ingress- like lambics, wild beers, etc. Although, almost all those beers are better consumed fairly soon after the blender/bottler released them. About the only thing that happens to a well made sour/wild beer with more aging is more acetic (vinegar) character. Personally, I like a bit of vinegar. Some don't, but interestingly, many of those types also 'cellar' their prized lambics for years- go figure.

    On to glassware-
    Your preferences, aside from the hatred of the shaker glass, seem to be more related to joyful memories than superior glassware shape. Any inwardly tapered glass (like a red wine glass shape) will accentuate the aromas. Any glass that doesn't, including your treasured English Nonic pint and German pilsner glasses, does relatively little for the beer, other than reducing aromas. Your brother's preference for fluted (sic)(did you mean faceted) goblets for high ABV beers is purely a non-olfactory enhancing predilection- analogous to strippers looking so good in black lighting and after a few cocktails.

    I do agree about the virtual impossibility of being served a true pint in a shaker glass. They (bar owners) know they are being dishonest, but if every bar served a true pint, the average price for a pint would probably just go up. Just look at how many bars fail, especially beer centric ones, and you can deduce that the profit margins aren't all that high.