I will be the first to admit that when I attended the Spiegelau glassware demonstration held at the KegWorks Store on November 5th, I had absolutely no idea the affect that glassware could have on the aroma, taste, mouthfeel, temperature, and overall psychological impression of a beer. I am convinced that high quality glassware makes a world of difference in beer delivery.
Sure, I had heard about “proper glassware” in the past. But most breweries and bars and restaurants in the Buffalo area are woefully inept at providing proper glassware to match the beers they serve. When is the last time you can recall ever drinking an IPA in any glass other than a pint glass? Ask yourself this: when is the last time you recall drinking a stout in any glass other than a pint glass? Sure, some places actually use a nonic glass, a modified pint glass with a wider bulge near the top rim. And yeah, some bars and breweries will employ the weizen glass for wheat beers, a thin taller drinking vessel. Some bars and breweries use the snifter glass. But that’s about it.
Drinking beer from a Spiegelau glass will change your impression of beer glassware forever. You will not be the same “one glass fits all” beer drinker, and you will consciously pay attention to proper glassware used to serve beer. Ask any brewer: don’t you want people to get the most enjoyment out of your beer? The answer will be an overwhelming “yes”! If you ask any beer drinker if they want their beer to taste better, won’t every person say “yes”? Customers pay hard-earned money to drink a beer that a brewer spent time, dedication, and passion creating.
So when you have this intimate exchange between a brewer, a beer, and a customer, why wouldn’t you demand the best delivery glass possible?
Let me rephrase that: you should demand that your beer be served in the proper glassware.
The instant I entered KegWorks, I noticed how impressively the retail store was converted into a presentation room. In the middle of the room, there were about fifty seats with tables aligned in rows. Each seat had a set of four glasses presented on a labeled placemat. The four glasses were: (1) American Wheat Beer / Witbier, (2) India Pale Ale, (3) Stout, and (4) Joker. The first three were all Spiegelau glasses, and the fourth was a standard KegWorks pint glass.
The beers that would fill the Spiegelau glasses were all provided by TJ Sheehan representative Dan Vater and Bell’s Brewery. Vater brought centennial-laden hop bomb Two-Hearted for the IPA glass, coffee bean and chocolate flavored Kalamazoo Stout for the stout glass, and subtle yeast flavored Bell’s Winter White Ale for the American wheat / Witbier glass.
Assistant Retail Manager of KegWorks Tim Shisler introduced the speaker for the evening, Matt Rutkowski, Vice President of Spiegelau USA. Rutkoswki was an engaging speaker, and captivated the audience. He dove right into a slide presentation about the science of the glass. He explained the craftsmanship and type of superior quartz used to create the Spiegelau glasses. After a few slides about the quality of the glass surface as recorded by electron microscopy, the crowd was ready for the first beer.
We opened a bottle of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale and poured half into the Spiegelau “IPA glass” and half into the joker glass, a standard KegWorks pint glass. After a few minutes, Rutkowski instructed us to feel the temperature of the glass. Many people, including myself, might guess that the thicker glass would retain the beer temperature more effectively than the thinner glass. This was not true. The Spiegelau glass was colder to the touch. The thicker pint glass actually absorbed the heat from the beer, whereas the thinner Spiegelau glass did not. The thermal mass of the glass was lower in the Spiegelau glass. The IPA aroma was disjointed and dissipated in the pint glass, whereas in the Spiegelau IPA glass the aroma had room to recirculate and balance the taste of the IPA. Furthermore, the curious washboard base, or “refresher”, in the IPA glass acts to mix the liquid after each sip, thereby enhancing the aroma and taste of the IPA.
The Spiegelau “olfactory cannon” mobilizes aromas and flavors into the nose and mouth.
The next glass to be tested was the stout glass. We poured 80% of the Kalamazoo Stout into the stout glass, and the rest into (the rinsed) IPA glass. This is probably the result that surprised me the most. Looking at the two glasses you wouldn’t expect the stout glass to be all that different from the IPA glass. But the difference in aroma and taste was noticeable. As the stout warmed the depth of aroma just funneled into the nostrils in the stout glass, whereas in the IPA glass the aroma and flavors were more subdued.
The aromatics and depth of aroma and flavor in a stout beer require different glassware.
The third and final beer was the Winter White Ale, fermented with a Belgian ale yeast. And of course the Spiegelau glass vented the aromas and enhanced the spices and subtleties of the beer far more than the joker glass. Another noticeable difference was the color of the beer in two different glasses. In the American Wheat glass, the color of the beer was nearly glowing compared to the joker pint glass. Rutkowski described the beer as “pond water” colored in the joker glass, and vibrant in the Spiegelau glass.
The more delicate and subtle the beer, the wider the glass required to “open up” the aromas.
So what Spiegelau has done is capitalize on a growing craft beer market. They have done so not only through their own research, but also through collaboration with some of the top breweries in the country. Prototypes are analyzed and discussed at meetings, including Dogfish Head, Bell’s, Rogue, Left Hand, Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, and other high-profile clients.
If this glassware provides a superior beer delivery experience, why aren’t more bars and breweries using it? The simple answer is price. Spiegelau glassware is more expensive than shaker pints. When will Buffalo beer sellers “bite the bullet”? Customers will subconsciously adhere to an improved product delivery: the glassware improves beer aesthetics. How long will it be before a bar or brewery recognizes that the customer experience will be enhanced by this superior glassware, thereby potentially increasing sales?
Based on my Spiegelau experience, this glassware could and should be implemented soon. YES, it does make that much of a difference.
Spiegelau glassware is available at KegWorks and the three-pack including the IPA, stout, and wheat glass run $29.99, and can be ordered here. The three pack is the best gift choice for a craft beer drinker on your list. You can also buy two packs of the IPA glass, stout glass, and a lager glass. Classic wheat glasses are also available. A Spiegelau set designed for Sam Adams costs $49.99 for four glasses.
If you are looking for the next Spiegelau event, you’ll have to wait. There isn’t another one planned (yet). Historically, KegWorks does one Spiegelau event per year. Maybe they will plan another one based on the attendance and success of this recent event. KegWorks can be found at:
1460 Military Road
Buffalo, NY 14217