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The case for drinking big beers out of wine glasses

Why you might want to ditch your snifter.
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Ditch the snifter?! It turns out a red wine glass may be a better vehicle for burly beer.

Matt Rutkowski, sommelier and vice president of glassware company Spiegelau, spearheaded the idea of beer-specific glassware that maxes out the aroma and flavor of beer styles. Spiegelau is behind the IPA glass (a collab with Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head), the stout glass (with Rogue and Left Hand), and the new wheat beer glass made together with Bell’s. But he gives three reasons why a wine glass–specifically stemware you’d use to serve Bordeaux or cabernet–is the better choice for your high-octane barleywines and big winter warmers.

1. It has all the right curves. “With higher ABV beers, snifters can really harness and unleash alcohol aroma, and mask some of the more layered, nuanced scents,” Rutkowski says. That’s because the more curved a glass is, the more intense the aroma will be.  This glass’ gentler slope prevents a nose full of stinging alcohol, but has enough bend that you’ll get an imperial stout’s rich chocolate and roast, a barleywine’s leather and fruit or a winter warmer’s seasonal spice.

2. It can never be too thin. “A thinner glass will preserve the temperature of beer longer.” It sounds counterintuitive, but because glass only begins to insulate once it has reached thermodynamic equilibrium, a thicker glass will pull in more heat and warm the beer more quickly. At higher temperatures, CO2 evaporates rapidly, which leaves you stuck with warmer, flatter beer. A thinner glass sustains the temperature it’s served at for a longer period of time; just make sure that big cellared beers and imperial stouts aren’t poured ice-cold.

3. It puts beer front and center. “The curvature of the glass delivers beer to the front of the tongue, and from there it washes evenly across your whole palate.” This creates a complete flavor experience, starting right at the tip of your tongue.

Rutkowski suggests pouring big beers the same way you’d pour a complex, aromatic wine: two fingers high. Of course, it’s a little trickier with beer because of its head, but as long as you aren’t filling it to the top, you’ll get a more complete expression of the beer’s bouquet.

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Erika Rietz is DRAFT’s Editor-in-chief. Reach her at erika.rietz [at] draftmag.com

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