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Beer 101: Which beer glass is right for my brew?

You’ve found your perfect pilsner, stout, red ale or other beer of choice. Now pour it into the stein, mug, chalice or pint glass that’ll make it shine

Ever stared at the lineup of silverware on the table at a wedding reception and wondered if it really mattered which fork you used for the salad? Us, too. (Answer: It really doesn’t.)

But before you say the same for all those interesting beer glasses out there, hear us out. The idea of choosing the “correct” glasses for your favourite types of brew isn’t quite like the fork situation: It isn’t just a fussy set of rules for the sake of having rules. There are practical reasons to pour your beer into the recommended vessel.

Of course, it isn’t absolutely necessary to match the glass to the beer every time — most of us don’t have space for the full range of options at home, after all. But stocking up on the glass shapes that optimize the aromas and flavours of your preferred brews can make drinking them even more enjoyable. Here’s our guide to glassware matchmaking.

Straight Stein

Brought to you by the beer halls of Bavaria (and Japan, where the glass is also popular), this all-around glass style works especially well for lighter-bodied beers. There’s a handle to keep your hands from warming the contents and usually a nice bit of room at the top for a frothy head.

Did you know? Sometimes choosing the right glass is all about presentation. It just looks more enticing when a beer comes in its traditional serving vessel — imagine a frosty lager in a Bavarian-style glass mug or a British-style ale in a classic pub glass, and your mouth will start to water.

Best for: German- and Austrian-style lagers, radlers, kolsches

Stemmed Lager

Here’s another versatile option for lagers and other pale brews. It typically has a modest capacity, so it’s great for smaller servings; use it when you want to show off especially flavourful or unusual beers. The narrow shape preserves fizz and concentrates the aromas right at your nose.

Did you know? When temperature is of particular concern — think ice-cold lager — a footed glass or stein is a smart choice. Hold it by the stem to keep your warm mitts away from that chilly beer so it’ll stay cool longer.

Best for: Pale lagers, fruit beers, any unusual brews that are hard to classify as a single style

Footed pilsner

Tall, narrow glasses let you watch the bubbles rise, which is perfect for effervescent pale beers like pilsners. The straightish sides also concentrate flavours, so these glasses will bring out the best in any lighter-tasting, subtle beer — whether or not it’s a pilsner.

Best for: Pilsners; light-bodied lagers and ales, including classic Canadian ales

Flared pilsner

If you have a strongly flavoured pilsner — or a big, hoppy lager — on your hands, this tall glass is a smart choice. Its narrow body will highlight the bubbles, while the flared rim will diffuse that bold aroma.

Best for: Strong or flavourful lagers, including pilsners (hence the name)

Snifter

Some malty ales are quite powerful and flavourful. For these, you’ll want to (a) drink slowly, (b) savour every drop and (c) swirl all that deep amber goodness around and show it off. (Well, la-di-da!)

Did you know? A snifter’s narrow top helps direct aromas right to your sniffer — and might just make the beer taste better. (Some scientists believe they’ve actually proven this connection exists.) But, true or not, the smaller opening definitely concentrates all those delicious smells, even if you’re not drinking a powerhouse stout or ale.

Best for: Strong ales (especially British-style); imperial, Russian and Baltic stouts

Tulip

The flared top of this curvy stemmed beauty opens up intense, muscular hop aromas rather than concentrating them. You can hold the glass by the stem if you’re happy with the brew’s temperature and taste, or put your hands around the bowl (the flared part above the stem) to warm up the ale and release new scents and flavours.

Best for: India pale ales, strong Belgian-style ales

Pub glass

You can almost smell the fish and chips, can’t you? The British-style pub glass comes in a few different shapes — not all of them are the typical 20-ounce pint you get at a bar. Many have straight sides, which can enhance the taste of light- and medium-bodied ales. Hint: Get the stackable kind to save cupboard space.

Best for: Pale and red ales, including British, German, American and Irish styles

Dimpled Mug

Born in the pubs of Britain (but, sadly, no longer common there), the dimpled mug has two features that help keep beer cool: lots of glass (they’re thick-walled and heavy) and a handle to prevent your hands from warming the liquid within. The large opening at the top spreads those hop aromas around so they hit your nose more like a gentle breeze than a strong gust.

Did you know? Whether you’re hosting at home or grabbing a beer at your favourite pub, serving suds in the right glass shows attention to detail, which can enhance enjoyment.

Best for: British-style ales, stouts, porters

Hourglass

Here’s a versatile glass shape that suits a wide variety of beers, from pilsner to dark ale. Goldilocks would approve: It’s not too slender and not too wide, and the mouth is a neutral shape that flatters all sorts of suds. If you only have space for one kind of beer glass at home, this one’s a good investment.

Best for: Medium-bodied beers, such as amber lagers, red ales and honey lagers

Chalice

Like the snifter, this is a suitably dramatic glass for powerful special-occasion beers. With its flared top, it flatters intensely hoppy ales and looks good doing it.

Did you know? A beer glass with a wide mouth is ideal for diffusing strong aromas. Beers and ales with bold, hoppy notes are at their best in glasses that are funnel- or flute-shaped at the top.

Best for: Strong ales, especially hoppy ones

Weissbier/Bavarian wheat

This shapely columnar style is designed to accentuate the flavours of most wheat beers (especially German-style Weissbier). The wide fluted mouth shows off their complex aromas. With these types of brews, you do want a foamy head, so go ahead and pour them straight down into the glass as the liquid nears the rim.

Best for: Wheat beers, especially pale ones

Footed IPA

This relatively new glass style emerged in the 2010s, thanks to the meteoric rise in popularity of India pale ales (IPAs). It’s designed to enhance the malty mouth feel of these assertive beers while concentrating the complex, enticing hop aromas they’re famous for.

Best for:IPAs, other powerful ales