Serve Better Beer

The way you serve and present your brews can make a difference to how much customers enjoy them. Anyone who’s ever sipped on a beer out of a plastic cup at a picnic knows that it just doesn’t taste that great. What beer’s served in makes a huge difference to the enjoyment of the person drinking it and bars are wising up to this fact and being particular about their glassware.

Beer in correct glasses

Greg Engert is the beer director and managing partner of ChurchKey and Birch & Barley, a bar and restaurant respectively, in Washington, D.C. He uses 22 different beer glasses for the 555 brews they pour.

“Different shapes of the glassware make a difference in how the beer expresses itself aromatically and on your palate—where it hits your palate,” Engert says (see below for details).

Glassware can also create a good impression, say Rick Lippman, Storz Trophy Room Grill and Brewery in Omaha, Neb., “so when someone walks through the bar, it’s visually appealing.” And, he adds, serving a beer in the correct glass also shows the bar cares about its products and its customers.

Engert steers clear of logo-ed glasses because he has too many beers to keep track of them, but Lippman uses the brewery’s own glasses.

“It’s part of our branding,” he says, “and when we set the beer in front of the customer, we try to put the Storz brand right in front of them.” Similarly, he’s thinking of introducing coasters, to enhance that brand and its traditions even further. These will likely feature a logo of each beer on one side and the history of Storz on the other.

But it’s not just about what a brew’s served in, but how it’s served that can also make a difference.

Like wine service, beer service should follow the rules: Present and then pour the beverage into the glass, without picking it up.

“A lot of people pick it up to tilt it to decrease the head,” Engert says. “We pour it directly into the center of the glass, one-third or one-half full to leave some headspace for the aromas to gather, and this way we create lots of head.”

The head is important, Engert says, because it’s where the aromas gather. “So if you pour beer flat it’s not going to pop. We let some natural foam come and people can get their nose right in there.”

Engert also serves beer warmer than many other establishments. Lighter beers he serves at around 42ºF; richer and more complex beers at 48ºF; and the strongest beers at 54ºF. The warmer the beer, he says, the less likely it is to numb your palate and the more likely it is to have escaping aromas.


Greg Engert’s Glass Guide

Tall slender glasses like pilsner flutes or stanges
Use these for crisp, refreshing beers because they maintain their chilled temperature and carbonation. For styles such as Kölsch, Vienna lager and pilsner.

Wide rimmed glasses like bechers, pokals or standard pint glasses
These are for stronger, more aromatically complex beers. The glasses have “wider mouths so you can better aromatically investigate them,” Engert says. For styles such as IPAs, porters and stouts.

Tulip glasses
These vessels’ curved bodies and tapered rims focus the aromas of typically more complex Belgian-style brews. The stemmed base encourages swirling.

These are used for the most intense, complex, richest beers that are typically higher ABV and served in smaller amounts. Customers can swirl the glasses, and since they’re rounded with a taper at the top, the complex aromas are all trapped inside and ready to be sniffed. Use for barleywines and imperial stouts.

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