Craft beer is no longer just for hipsters or the beer savvy. The microbrew scene has exploded. Offering a diverse beer menu is a great way to give guests what they want and increase profits in the process. However, the glass you opt to serve different styles of beer goes a long way towards the presentation and enhancing flavors and aromas. Beer glasses differ in design and capacity, each intended for use with a specific style of beer.
Gleaning a broad understanding of the general types of beer glasses is a great starting point. However, with the plethora of craft beer styles available these days, a deeper dive into the best type of glass for each beer style is essential to ensuring guests a premium experience.
As with food and wine pairings, offering a beer recommendation with certain dishes is one easy step to take to enhance a guest’s experience. As with all suggestions, it ultimately comes down to personal preference, but there are some widely accepted nuances to embolden a hard-earned night out. So, with each type of beer, we offer some common food pairings to experiment with and boost the overall dining experience.
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The list, though extensive, isn’t comprehensive. That would be nearly impossible given how beer varieties continue to trend and expand year over year. However, a breakdown of the most popular styles of craft beer will go a long way into understanding the best craft beer glass for each style. They are organized into three major categories based on the type of yeast used and the fermentation process: ales, lagers, and specialty beers.
Note: Your beer glasses should always be clean and clear, free of soap or chemical residue that can destroy the head, flavor, and aroma of your beer.
Ale is an overarching category of beer, generally characterized by a heavier tasting experience than their sister beer, the pilsner (see below), but with a light fruitiness that makes for easy drinking. Though not a hard and fast rule, many connoisseurs insist on serving between 50 – 60°F.
American Wheat Ales
American wheat ales are characterized by a hazy, opaque golden color, a result of the ale yeast used during fermentation. The creamy texture is adored by guests, especially in the warmer months, because they are crisp and refreshing, especially when served at the recommended 40-45°F temperature range. Alcohol by volume usually ranges between 3.5 and 5.5%.
Wheat ales are traditionally served in a good pilsner or weizenbier glass. Try with light salads and vegetable dishes, chicken, and sushi. Not recommended for heavy desserts but can be refreshing with fresh berries.
White Ales (Witbier)
A close cousin of the American Wheat Ale is the White Ale, sometimes also referred to as Witbier, a soft, hazy golden pale ale originating from the farmhouse breweries of Belgium. Main characteristics dry and crisp flavors of fruits and spices, making them a bit tarter and more medium-bodied, but not any less refreshing than American Wheat Ales, especially when served in the same temperature range of 40-45°F. Average alcohol by volume is 4.5-8.1%.
Again, a good pilsner or weizenbier glass would be a good serving solution here, especially for Blue Moon, perhaps the most famous White Ale in North America. However, another famous White Ale is Hoegaarden, and they, like Stella and Guinness, have their own specially designed glass for serving.
Experiment with lighter seafood dishes like steamed mussels.
Amber, Brown, and Red Ales
A slightly darker variation of the ale style, red and amber ales are noted by their deeper, often red color. Medium-bodied and slightly sweeter, often featuring flavors of burnt sugar and caramel malts.
Brown ales hale from England, and are darker, though more transparent than the darkness of stouts and porters, mostly noted by a light, nutty maltiness and roasted flavors – great for fall months!
Best when served between 50 and 55°F in imperial or nonic style pub glasses that bring out the color and unique characteristics of this style. Alcohol by volume traditionally ranges between 4 and 6%, and great with a wide range of foods, including grilled chicken, burgers, and spicier cuisines.
Pale and India Pale Ales (IPAs)
Pale ales and IPAs have skyrocketed in popularity through the years, thanks almost exclusively to the explosion of craft breweries. They prominently feature more pronounced hops compared to the other styles of craft brews featured here.
Pale ales range from golden to copper in color. Medium-bodied with a dry, hoppy taste on the palate. Some fruitiness on top of the malt often creates a bready or nutty tasting experience. Alcohol by volume ranges from 3.8 to 6.2%.
India Pale Ales (IPA) and Imperial IPAs were initially conceived as an export beer, exporting from England to India, hence the name. They are strong and dry with more bitterness due to the excess hops. Balanced maltiness rounds out the dry, clean finish. Generally, the alcohol by volume ranges from 4.5 to 7.5%.
Imperial IPAs, sometimes referred to as Double IPAs, are even stronger, and were originally developed as a luxury beer reserved for special occasions. Alcohol by volume ranges from 7.5 to 10.5%.
Serve between 50 and 55°F with strong, hearty, or spicy meals, like curry and lamb in pint, pilsner, or stemmed beer glasses.
Dubbels and Tripels
Both dubbels and tripels have their origins rooted in Belgium, many made exclusively by Belgian monks. They are stronger and sweeter than traditional ales, with higher alcohol by volume. Dubbels traditionally range between 6 and 7.8% while Tripels range from 7.5 to 9.5%. Unique characteristics include spicy, bold flavors with hoppy aromas, smooth texture, and added sugar for drinkability.
Due to the greater intensity and higher alcohol by volume, these pours are usually smaller, hovering around the 10-ounce mark. We recommend serving in a stemmed goblet or chalice. An all-purpose wine glass will also do the trick.
Consider pairing with heartier fare, like meat stews, roasts, and grilled steaks.
Stouts and Porters
Stouts and porters live on the darker end of the spectrum than other beers in the ale category, and both make for great wintertime libations. Porters are the original black beer of England, often characterized by their dark shade and light body. Many porters give off aromas of soft roasted coffee and chocolate. Alcohol by volume ranges between 4.5 and 6.5%.
Stouts are a bit more complex, given the variety of substyles, such as dry Irish stouts, sweet London stouts, imperial stouts, and creamy oatmeal stouts. Like porters, they’re exceptionally dark with many ranging between brown and black. Most are also opaque and predominantly characterized by bitter aromas of roasted malt. Flavors often include medium roasted coffee and burnt chocolate flowing through a creamy texture. Alcohol by volume ranges between 3 and 12%.
The key difference between a stout and a porter comes in the shade. Porters are slightly paler than stouts. Recommended serving temperatures for both are 50 to 55°F in imperial pint glasses or rounded, tulip stemmed glassware. They pair well with rich fare and smoked foods, like barbecue, roasted red meat, and chocolate desserts.
Lagers differentiate from ales because they are made from yeasts that ferment at the bottom of liquids at colder temperatures and for a longer period. Traditional characteristics include a clearer, crisper, and cleaner taste compared to most ales, and best served colder at temperatures between 39 and 46°F.
American Lagers and Oktoberfest
The American Lager family encompasses a range of popular beers, including the American Amber Lager, Oktoberfest, Marzen, and Vienna Lager. The primary characteristic is an emphasis on malt, with many offering a caramel taste and sweet roasted malt flavors.
The biggest distinguisher between the beers in this category is where they’re brewed. Oktoberfest lagers are brewed in Munich, Germany, Vienna Lagers in Austria, and Marzen Lagers in Bavaria.
Alcohol by volume ranges between 3.5 and 6%, and best served between 45 and 50°F. Because of the low hop presence, beer glassware varies. Many establishments opt for glass mugs. A krug or stein offers a premiere presentation for these styles of beers, as well as stemmed chalices and standard pilsner glasses.
Try pairing with hearty, spicy foods like Mexican dishes.
Pilsners are the most popular lager in North America with origins dating back 1842 in Pilsen, Bohemia where the original pilsner was first brewed. Light, dry, hoppy with pleasant aromas, the flavors nicely balanced by fresh malt. Large American breweries have been trying to duplicate this style for years.
Alcohol by volume ranges between 4 and 6%, and they’re best served between 40 and 45°F in, you guessed it, pilsner glasses. However, you can mix it up by serving in a stemmed chalice for a unique tabletop setting.
Consider drinking with lighter foods like chicken, salads, or salmon.
Cream and Blonde Ales
Cream and Blonde Ales are a favorite in North America, sharing characteristics of ales, lagers, and pilsners. They have mass-market appeal, especially in summer months, so it’s ideal to have at least one cream ale option on your menu.
They are traditionally lighter in color and body, with a hint of sweetness and hops, and are refreshing when served between the 40-45°F range. Pint glasses work well with this type, as do pilsner glassware.
Ideal with lighter foods like salads and salmon.
A casual, everyday beer much in the vein of cream ales, Kolsch beer is crisp and highly drinkable, characterized by a light, slightly transparent golden color with balanced, clean and rounded flavors. Alcohol volume traditionally ranges from 4.3-5.3% and ideal for serving in a basic mixing glass, or a pilsner glass for those 20-ounce pours. Like cream ale, lighter foods are the preferred pairing, including salads and light seafood.
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Chase joined Central Restaurant Products in February 2016 as a Content Specialist, bringing to the role years of various foodservice experience, including front-of-house service (slingin’ chicken wings and libations with a smile on his face) and back-of-house food prep using heavy-duty commercial cooking equipment to prepare for peak dining hours at his university’s dining hall.
He puts this experience to use writing for Central’s Resource Center, website, and print catalog. ServSafe certified, he enjoys educating on food safety in the commercial setting, researching new dining room and tabletop trends, and sharing innovative solutions to enhance operational efficiencies. He also enjoys (in no specific order) long hikes with his dog, bingeing 90s sitcoms, red wine, and live music.