There’s satisfaction to be had in the heft of a pint glass, the definitive knock as it’s set down, empty, on a hard surface. But as craft beer grows more varied and complex, and as palates become more inquisitive and discerning, glassware, too, is evolving. With contours designed to enhance aromas and amplify flavors, American craft breweries and bars are adopting stemware as their all-purpose glass of choice.
Belgian breweries have long touted specific glasses for specific style of beer — flutes and snifters for lambics and gueuzes, chalice-style goblets for dubbels and tripels. Tulips and Willi Becher pints could occasionally be found in the States, but the conical pint has remained the de facto beer glass for decades, due almost exclusively to its durability and stackability. In the last decade, however, tides have shifted. Craft bars and brewers have begun to serve beer in stemware traditionally reserved for wines — often wide-bowled glasses reserved for full-bodied reds, but also the more columnar ISO (International Standards Organization) tasting glass.
“Something with a little bit of bulb, a little bit of extra air and room to let the beers breathe and capture their scent.”
Cory Bonfiglio, owner of Brooklyn’s Beer Street and former bartender and partner at renowned bar Proletariat, recalls Spuyten Duyvil, a beer bar in Williamsburg, using wine glasses more than a decade ago. “There were other places using [footed] Belgian glasses before American craft really took off,” he says. “But that was the first instance of my being, like, ‘Okay, this is interesting. These guys are straight up putting beer in a Cabernet glass. That’s cool.’”
With wide bowls that taper inward toward the lip, wine glasses are designed to funnel aromas toward the nose for improved flavor reception — something equally appropriate for fragrant, hop-heavy and yeast-driven beers. The Teku glass, produced by custom glassware specialists Rastal, has become something of an industry standard — the Zalto of the beer world.
“The Teku glass breathed new life into [the concept of serving beer in stemware], and maybe helped to disseminate it through the States and younger beer-drinking regions,” says Bonfiglio, who stocked Tekus at Proletariat upon its opening in 2012, making it one of the first bars in the states to carry the glassware. “The Belgians have been using stemware for generations … and that’s where the concept of the Teku comes from.”
The Teku glass was developed in collaboration with (and is an amalgamation of the names of) Teo Musso, founder of Italy’s Baladin Brewery, and sensory analyst and beer connoisseur Lorenzo Dabove, also known as Kuaska. The shape of the glass recalls a Belgian-style tulip, but with sharper angles and a vertical lip crafted to funnels aromas directly to the nose and enable a more even delivery to the palate (in addition to retaining the head of a pour).
Bonfiglio believes that the tradition of serving beer in stemware, or, more simply, footed glasses, may have developed because of Belgium’s proximity to renowned winemaking regions. In the case of the Teku, the glass’s elongated stem parallels that of a wine glass. “[Musso and Kuaska] probably had the realization that if they wanted to sell small-batch craft beer to wine people, the presentation would have to be comfortable for them as well.”
Analogous forms aside, beer poured into stemware facilitates a more purposeful, multi-sensory drinking experience. “So much of our beer is based on aromatics. It smells like something; there’s a hop characteristic and a floral fruitiness that we really want people to capture,” says Other Half Brewing co-founder Andrew Burman, whose brewery sells branded and release-specific Teku glasses. “Some of this new glassware really does help with that…. Something with a little bit of bulb, a little bit of extra air and room to let the beers breathe and capture their scent.”
The Teku, being among the first of its kind, remains the most enchanting option, though the Vina Diamond Balloon Glass, with a wide, shallow bowl, offers a similarly heightened sensory experience. Wine tasting glasses, like the Libbey 10.5-ounce taster, are effective in trapping aromas and, according to Bonfiglio, are similar to what Spuyten Duyvil first used a decade ago. More refined stemware, like the Rastal Harmony series (favored by Virginia’s The Veil Brewing Co.) and Zalto’s beer glass, do the same — but are distinguished by angular forms that, if nothing else, simply make a beer look more beautiful.