Dogfish Head And Sierra Nevada Help Design A Beer Glass Just For IPAs

Made in collaboration with Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada, the glass features wave-like ridges that help bring out the beer’s pungent, fruity aroma.

Iconic drinks come in signature glasses, like the sombrero-shaped margarita glass, the balloon-esque brandy snifter, and the flared martini glass. But until recently, beer of all stripes was typically relegated to thick-walled pint glasses that warm it up too fast and kill off all the fizz. That’s starting to change however, as the rise of artisanal craft beers has given Americans a new appreciation for what was long written off as a working-class indulgence.

In April, the Bavarian glassmaker Spiegelau will release the world’s first glass designed specifically for India Pale Ales, whose hops-heavy brewing process gives them an especially pungent, fruity aroma. Designed in collaboration with Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada—two craft brewers known for their IPAs—the unusual glass features wave-like ridges toward the bottom that help bring out the beer’s flavor. "As you’re tilting your glass against your face, it creates more resistance to the liquid, which pushes more carbon dioxide gas and hop aromatics out of the liquid and into the balloon-shaped chamber of the upper glass," explains Dogfish founder and CEO Sam Calagione.

That might sound like a bunch of beer-geek mumbo jumbo, but it’s backed by two years of research and product development. "This whole thing was my idea," says Spiegelau Vice President Matt Rutkowski, a former sommelier who began developing the IPA glass in July 2011. Inspired in part by the shape of the Riedel O series champagne glass (Riedel bought Spiegelau in 2007), which features more subtle ridges and a narrower glass bowl, the company tested over 100 prototypes and created eight original, hand-blown designs before settling on the final 19-ounce vessel made of two-millimeter-thick, dishwasher-safe glass.

To settle on the final design, Spiegelau recruited Dogfish and Sierra Nevada to test out the 12 semifinalists and eight finalists, which varied in width, height, and diameter of the mouth opening. Each glass was filled with an IPA from Stone Brewery, Sierra Nevada, or Dogfish in order to make sure it performed equally well with different recipes. Both teams picked the same winning design, which will be machine-produced at Spiegelau’s factory in Amberg, Germany, starting this spring. (Logoed versions from Dogfish and Sierra Nevada are available now.)

Although the new glass is marketed for IPAs, it can do double-duty with other brews, too. Karl Ockert, technical director of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, says Spiegelau’s new IPA glass "would maximize the flavor of any kind of beer that has good aromatics, like a Belgian ale, a pale ale, or a stout." That’s because the ridges at the bottom work to bring out flavor in general by creating more foam.

A signature glass isn’t all about taste, of course. It also helps brands distinguish themselves from rivals. "Historically around the globe, there have been glasses more focused on marketing than the drinking experience," says Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman. Stella Artois, for example, is practically synonymous with the ubiquitous "chalice" that it is typically served in at bars. Special glasses for wheat beers and pilsners are catching on as well.

With IPAs emerging as the crown jewel of the U.S.’s fast-growing craft beer scene, it makes sense for them to have a glass of their own. American-style IPAs have been the most popular style of beer at the craft-beer-a-palooza better known as the Great American Beer Festival since 2001, with more than 200 American-style IPAs competing for a gold medal at the festival in 2012. By helping to develop the world’s first IPA glass, Dogfish and Sierra Nevada aren’t just promoting their own brands, they’re anointing the entire category as a new American classic.

[Image: Beer via Shutterstock]

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  • Matt

     : I do appreciate the fact that certain styles of beer deserve to be served in different glasses - I said it in my original post ("I appreciate other breweries expanding into custom glassware and the German ideal of 'A glass for every beer.") I also thought that my mention of 'Jim Koch' instead of Sam Adams and 'Perfect Pint' instead of Sam Adams beer glass would help illustrate that I am not a 'beer chugger' as you say, and that I enjoy beer for the craft, style, and history.  Speaking of history, craft beer has enjoyed a renaissance since Anchor Steam Brewery resurrected itself in 1971.  Craft beer is agreeably mainstream now, but to throw out the forty-one years of history and proclaim that this new age is the only part that matters in pretty superficial.

    As I said before, if this was specifically designed for IPAs then awesome, but the article quotes one of the developers as saying it “would maximize the flavor of any kind of beer that has good aromatics, like a Belgian ale, a pale ale, or a stout." and that cheapens the integrity of the idea.  No longer is it a specially crafted glass for one style, now it is just another beer glass.

    I commend Sam Calagione for branching out into glassware to expand Dogfish Head and improve the beer-drinking experience, and I appreciate everything Dogfish Head beer and liquor have done for the craft beer and artisan spirits world, but I think this endeavor missed the mark.  It's definitely a start, but not a finished product.

  • Mario M.

    so 2 yrs of research, over a hundred prototypes, loads of $$ invested, and you dont feel complete? boo-hoo. drink your IPA out of a plastic cup then if its all the same. me, imma drink it out this damn new design side by side and decide for myself.
    -Portland, OR

  • LewBryson

     Cheers, Matt. I think you make good points, and you clearly know what you're talking about. That said, I don't agree with them. I believe that the cleanliness and temperature of the glass have MUCH more to do with how the beer's going to benefit from it than does the shape. I found drinking IPA from the Spiegelau IPA glass (I got one of the Dogfish-branded ones on the 10th) to be a very similar experience to drinking IPA from a sleeve pint -- you know, those "thick-walled pint glasses that warm it up too fast and kill off all the fizz" -- or a half-liter willibecker.

    I think Karl Ockert puts his finger on it when he says the glass will work for multiple styles of beer (and he should know; his work at BridgePort Brewing gave the Pacific Northwest an excellent IPA, but his other beers tasted great, too!). Of course it will: it's glass, it holds beer, and fits in a human hand.

    But I have an earthenware mug that works well, too. It fits my hand superbly. It doesn't leak. If the mug is cool when I pour the beer into it, it keeps the beer cool for a long time, and I don't have to worry about my hand warming the beer. The natural slight roughness of the material provides plenty of "micronucleation" sites to form bubbles.

    There is more than one way to skin an IPA.

  • Anita Hamilton

     Hi Matt, I just wanted to point out that the person who said the glass would work for other styles of beer is from the Master Brewers Association of the Ameicas. He had no involvement in the development of the glass. I sought out an outside opinion in order to present a more balanced perspective on the glass's significance and overall usefulness. Thanks for your interest in the story!  --Anita Hamilton

  • Matt

    Jim Koch did this already a while back with Riedal.  I appreciate other breweries expanding into custom glassware and the German ideal of 'A glass for every beer,' but this is nothing new.  If it was specifically for IPAs then superb, but the mention (inevitably) of using it for other styles makes it just another 'Perfect Pint' knock off.

  • KentE

    Matt, the perfect pint is made by Rastal, another German glass maker. When the glass was first announced, a magazine mistakenly said it was Riedel.  I have several German branded Rastal glasses that have some of the same characteristics;  tapered inward at the top at almost the same angle with the opening the same diameter and very thin like the IPA.  The Sam Adams Utopias glass, however, is made by Riedel.  As for using the IPA for other styles, what's wrong with that?  I use a Sierra Nevada brandy glass or a DFH Signature glass for high gravety beers.  Many of my branded Belgian glasses work well for many styles.  My dog has a ceramic doggy dish that would work, but it is only slightly better than a shaker pint or a German liter Octoberfest stein. 

  • Brittany

    Can't appreciate the fact that certain styles deserve to be served in different glasses? It elevates the beer and gives the consumer a better experience. Take time to enjoy the product that someone crafted for you to enjoy, not just chug. Regardless of if they've done it before, this is a new age in the craft beer world, think of how big it is now, clearly it wasn't big then, so it didn't reach a big audience. Thus, a (according to you) "re-release." Prior to this I had never heard of it, so I am psyched to own one. Lighten up, appreciate the design in the context of what's going on NOW, there's an obvious reason to try again.