How do you drink your beer? Do you swig it straight from the bottle or can? Do you have a favourite glass? Do you observe the somewhat eccentric and detailed minutiae of beer-glass-style heuristics?
As a beer writer, I'm no slouch when it comes to things to put my beer in. I'm buried under branded pint glasses. I have smaller festival-style sample glasses, attractive chalice glasses for higher-proof brews, chunky one litre steins for Oktoberfest parties, and rarities like real kölsch glasses from Köln. I even have a 160 year old pewter mug that I regularly sip out of at home, and a hand-thrown ceramic mug that I keep at my local for cask ale.
So while I adhere to the concept of the right glass for the right beer, I am also skeptical of newfangled ideas in glassware. It's a form of self preservation; my family likes eating off of plates, and I'm running low on cabinet space.
Still, when news came out of the USA that craft-brewing legends Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada had partnered with Spiegelau to develop an IPA-specific glass, I was excited. Both brewers have been key players in the explosion of hops popularity (hopularity?) in North America. Spiegelau is known for making some of the finest glassware in the world, including some truly awesome beer glasses. Beer geeks were giddy to say the least.
A lengthy process that included hundreds of prototype glasses resulted in a panel judging eight different glasses. Funny enough, the final decision was a secret ballot, and model #6 won by a unanimous vote. While the glasses have been available in the States for a while (and by proxy, in Canada via the web), Royal Selangor have finally brought the glasses to Canada for their clients who range from small independent purveyors of excellent housewares, to The Bay.
So what makes an IPA glass? From its laser cut rim, to the etched nucleation point at the bottom, every detail is engineered to improve the beer-drinking experience, engaging all five senses. That rim is ultra-thin, giving comfortable sipping, while minimizing agitation. When holding one standard bottle of IPA, the beer's surface area is at or near the widest part of the glass, so that the narrower top focuses the aromas, both while nosing the beer and sipping. The base has a ribbed/ridged profile, giving a comfortable spot to grip on the outside, and aerating the beer on the inside through the action of tilting the glass to drink. As the beer gets lower in the glass, this becomes more pronounced, which revitalizes the head and releases more aromas. In the bottom of the glass there is an etched nucelation point; simply a rough spot on an otherwise perfectly smooth interior that gives a point for the carbon dioxide to come out of suspension. This supports the head, and creates surface movement to keep releasing aromas. The classic Spiegelau thin (yet highly durable) glass minimizes heat transfer when you first pour the beer, and its design makes for a well-balanced glass. It also makes a wonderfully pleasing chime when clinked against another glass during a toast.
While some of those points might seem insignificant or else sensational, they truly do combine to create a notably improved drinking experience. From the contours of the glass in your hand to the way it feels when you drink from it, just using it proves the effort in design was worth it.
While specialized glassware is definitely a nice-to-have, if you like beer and are in a place to invest some money in the experience, better glassware is a great place to start. With a suggested retail price of $20 for a pair, the IPA glass is a good value, and an investment that will last years, possibly decades if you treat them well (save the heavy-handed toasts for those Oktoberfest steins).
Here in Toronto my friends at iQ Living on the Danforth carry the IPA glass as well as many other beautiful Spiegelau products (542 Danforth Ave, Toronto). In other regions, check out your local independent housewares shop, and if they don't have them, point them to Royal Selangor. If you need to purchase them online, The Bay has you covered (http://www.thebay.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/en/thebay/ipa-beer-glass).