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]