The (Beer) Glass Menagerie

Does it matter what glass you drink a beer with? A recent piece in the San Francisco Chronicle serves as a thumbnail guide to the theory and history of drinking beer out of different kinds of glasses. Is there a gastronomic method to the madness? Apparently so:

[Beer historian Gregg] Smith points out that a Pilsner, with its high carbonation, requires a wide top and thin bottom of a tall funnel shape: Bubbles will dissipate quickly at the top, releasing aroma. ‘For a less-carbonated beer,’ he says, citing older Belgians, ‘you would want a glass with a fairly large surface area on the bottom to encourage the release of carbon dioxide, and then a large surface area at the top to also allow the consumer to enjoy the aroma.’

For those who don’t want to go out and accumulate (another) elaborate collection of glasses, the article posits a no-nonsense solution to the problem:

Garrett Oliver, author of ‘The Brewmaster’s Table’ (Ecco, 2003), offers a surprising suggestion for the beer drinker who lacks pantry space for all the different glass types. ‘Wineglasses are designed to help you get the best out of your wine,” he says. ‘Almost any stemmed wineglass will do the same for beer.’

If you trudge through cyberspace to the Chronicle writer’s blog, An Obsession with Food & Wine, you’ll also uncover a little nugget from 2006 directed at the pricey glassware of Riedel:

Last Friday, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a big ad for Riedel stemware, disguised as an article about the way that the shape of a glass affects the taste of the wine. I love my Riedel glasses, but author Richard Hacker forgot to ask some interesting questions.

What of the research that Daniel Zwerding described in Gourmet two years ago, when a clinical, scientific trial found the Riedel claims to be bunk?

What of the superbly untested and unquestioned Riedel claim of a tongue’s ‘flavor map?’

It’s true; there’s no lack of debunkery on the “taste map” front. A post over on the Zinquisition blog is among the finest and most detailed.