Have you ever wondered why there’s just so many different shapes of beer glasses on the back shelf of your favorite bar nowadays? In my day it was just your standard fare of straight pint glasses and frosted beer mugs in the bars.
Today my favorite beer watering hole seems more like a trendy wine bar with it’s selection of fancy stemmed glasses and stylish slim-jim style or pilsner glasses.
From the gold rimmed chalice or goblet style of the Stella Artois glass to the wine glass-like receptacles of some Belgian beers, it seems every beer now has its own glass. Brewers are keen for you to enjoy your beer in the best possible glass for the style, but can a beer glass really make that much difference?
The standard pint glass which was used by most bars in the past had very little to do with improving the flavor or aroma of beer, but was rather more about easy storage for the bar owner and, of course, the cost.
Many of the larger commercial brewers have recently latched on to the advantage of specialised branded glasses (think the Stella Artois “Chalice” glass which is now standard in most bars) which aim to improve the customer experience while also showing off their choice of beer.
Even some of the craft breweries are getting in on the act with logo-emblazoned specialty beer glasses now provided for different beers.
Two popular types of glasses for beer are the snifter glass and the tulip glass. While they may look similar, these glasses have different shapes and are designed to enhance different aspects of the beer-drinking experience.
Does the Glassware Make a Difference to the Way Beer Is Served?
Yes! From how the glass can aerate and bring forward aromas, to how its thickness can keep your beer colder longer, the many types of glassware are intended to improve your experience of flavour, aroma, and generally just make your beer that much better.
The Snifter Glass
Often seen as a diminutive version of a tulip glass, the snifter is traditionally associated with serving spirits such as Brandy or Cognac, but is also popular for serving beer nowadays.
The glass is a mix between a goblet/chalice and a wine glass. This shape is designed to capture the volatiles but allow room for swirling (as you would wine) to release a more potent aroma. The only caveat is not to over fill the glass with beer so that you avoid a sudsy eruption.
Sitting at the top of the short stem is a wide bowl with a tapered mouth ideal for allowing you to swirl the beer, releasing its aroma and enhancing its flavor. The tapered mouth concentrates the aroma and directs it towards your nose, allowing you to fully appreciate the beer’s aroma.
A beer’s aroma can greatly affect its taste, and the snifter glass allows you to fully experience the aroma before taking a sip. This is especially important for beers with a complex aroma, such as barrel-aged beers, sour beers, or IPAs. A snifter glass is ideal for aromatic beers like Belgian Ales, barleywines, and double or Imperial IPAs.
The snifter glass is particularly well suited to those higher ABV beers as it encourages the drinker to sip the beer rather than gulp it.
Another benefit of using a snifter glass for beer is that it allows you to appreciate the beer’s color and carbonation.
The wide bowl of the snifter glass allows you to see the beer’s color, which can range from pale yellow to dark brown, and its carbonation, which can vary from fine bubbles to a frothy head. This visual aspect of beer drinking can add to the overall experience of enjoying a beer.
Finally, the shape of the snifter glass can also enhance the beer’s flavor. The tapered mouth concentrates the beer’s aroma, which can affect the way you perceive its flavor. Additionally, the wide bowl of the snifter glass allows the beer to breathe, releasing its flavors and enhancing its taste.
Why not treat yourself to a set of beer tasting snifter glasses like this impressive set found on Amazon. They also make a great gift for any beer lover in your life and can even be used for those after dinner Cognacs or fine malt whiskies.
- Rustic beer or whiskey tasting octagonal serving caddy with whitewashed wood holding tray, industrial matte black metal pipe carrying handle and 4 sampler glasses, a stylish and fun way to enjoy and serve several different types and styles of beer or liquor at once
- Includes 4 sample sized snifter style glasses for sample pours of beer, such as stouts, IPAs, and Belgian dark ales, or liquor, such as brandy, cognac, and whiskey
- Industrial black metal pipe handle makes carrying this octagonal wooden tray around easy while the side slots keep each sample size glass safe and secure while being transported
The Tulip Glass
Named for their resemblance to the flowers, tulip glasses are similar to the snifter but normally with a slightly longer stem. Like the snifter, the tulip’s bulbous body allows for swirling to release intense aromas; however, the lip of a tulip glass contains a delicately flared rim designed to trap the foamy head of a freshly poured beer.
You will find most of the beer’s aroma is in the foam head, and trapping it at the top of the glass offers your senses a special preview before you even take your first sip. The flared lip will also help retain the head as you drink the beer.
Like the snifter glass, the tulip glass allows you to swirl the beer to fully experience the beer’s aroma before taking a sip. Additionally, the shape of the tulip glass can enhance the beer’s flavor by directing it towards the front of your tongue, where you can fully appreciate its sweetness, bitterness, and acidity.
The stem of the glass helps prevent your beer from warming up in your hand, much like a stemmed wine glass protects your Chardonnay’s chill.
The aroma-enhancing design will amplify the flavor of your beer with more intense aromas of hops or malt. Double IPAs and other beers that use plenty of hops are well suited to a tulip glass, while malty beers with a toasted or smoky flavor, like a barley wine, stout or porter, can also benefit from the design.
Malty Scottish beers are often served in a tulip style glass, although there is also the Thistle glass, which is a take on the tulip design and is a slightly slimmer but more curvy glass. It contains the same bulb-like shape and stemmed base, but the thistle tulip flares open at the mouth.
You will even find that some pint glasses which taper outwards towards the top are also called a tulip glass, even though they have much less curvature and lack the bulbous bowl at the bottom.
Belgian beers from a saison to a Flemish red are traditionally served in a tulip glass, which is often also referred to as a Belgian glass.
Just like the snifter glass, the bulbous bowl of a tulip glass allows you to see the beer’s color and its carbonation, which can add to the overall experience of enjoying a beer.
if you want to experience the difference a tulip glass will make to your next batch of IPA, you could always order a set of tulip beer tasting glasses online like this quality set from renowned beer glassware manufacturer Spiegelau.
- PREMIUM BEER TULIP GLASSES - Sleek curves give this beer tulip glass a distinctive look. Designed to highlight the rich profile of Belgian ales, the versatile tulip magnifies the intensity of wild ales, Sours, and barrel-aged beers.
- GERMAN-MADE LEAD-FREE CRYSTAL BARWARE - Sparkling lead-free crystal construction and elegant modern design enhance your beer-drinking experience. Pour your favorite Saison or gueuze and take your beer connoisseurship to the next level.
- DISHWASHER SAFE – Spiegelau’s Platinum Glass process ensures your glassware’s brilliance. Even when run through 1,500 dishwasher cycles, these glasses remained flawless, without scratching or fogging. Rinse thoroughly and polish for best results.
Snifter Glass vs Tulip Glass for Beer
So which glass is better for beer, the snifter glass or the tulip glass? The answer depends on the type of beer?
As mentioned earlier, both the snifter glass and the tulip glass have their own unique benefits for beer drinking. However, the type of beer you are drinking can determine which glass is better suited for the task.
For example, the snifter glass is ideal for strong, aromatic beers that require some breathing space to fully release their flavors and aromas. These beers include barrel-aged beers, imperial stouts, barley wines, and sour beers.
The wide bowl and tapered mouth of the snifter glass allows you to swirl the beer and release its aroma, while the wide bowl allows the beer to breathe and release its flavors.
The tapered mouth concentrates the beer’s aroma, allowing you to fully appreciate its complexity. Additionally, the snifter glass is ideal for beers with a high alcohol content, as the short stem allows you to hold the glass without warming up the beer.
On the other hand, the tulip glass is ideal for beers with a complex flavor profile that requires a combination of aroma, flavor, and texture to be fully appreciated. These beers include Belgian-style beers, saisons, lambics, and sour ales.
The bulbous bowl of the tulip glass allows you to swirl the beer and release its aroma, while the flared rim directs the beer towards the front of your tongue, where you can fully appreciate its sweetness, bitterness, and acidity.
The flared rim also allows the beer to form a thick, frothy head, which can add to the overall drinking experience.
It’s worth noting that the snifter glass and the tulip glass are not the only glasses available for beer drinking. Other glasses, such as the pint glass, the weizen glass, and the pilsner glass, are also designed to enhance specific aspects of the beer-drinking experience.
For example, the weizen glass is designed for wheat beers and has a long, tapered shape that allows the beer to release its aroma and enhance its flavor, while the pilsner glass is designed for light, crisp beers and has a tall, narrow shape that allows the beer to maintain its carbonation and showcase its clarity.
Snifter vs Tulip – Final Thoughts
In conclusion, the snifter glass and the tulip glass are both excellent choices for beer drinking, depending on the type of beer you are enjoying.
The snifter glass is ideal for strong, aromatic beers that require some breathing space to release their flavors and aromas, while the tulip glass is ideal for beers with a complex flavor profile that requires a combination of aroma, flavor, and texture to be fully appreciated.
Ultimately, the glass you choose for your beer should enhance your drinking experience and allow you to fully appreciate the flavors, aromas, and textures of your favorite brews.