Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sam Adams Beer Glass

A couple ago a friend of mine was about to drink a beer directly out of the bottle. The beer in question was not Labatt or Coors, but rather a meticulously-selected craft brew. I told this friend he should really pour the beer into a glass to drink it, because when you drink out of the bottle, you miss the aroma, and therefore miss out on all the scents that add to the flavor of the beer.

"[Cough]bullshit[Cough]," replied my ungrateful chum.

And while there are still skeptics, it's apparent to me that aroma is really half the enjoyment of beer, or at least a very high percentage. The way the nose prepares the taste buds for the beer is essential to fully realizing a beer's potential. Ironically, this is why it's probably better to drink macrobrews like Miller or Bud right out of the bottle, because it masks the weak ingredients they use and therefore actually spares the drinker all those aromas that make those beers so mediocre.

But if you thought that simply drinking out of a glass was all that there was to enjoying a beer fully, the folks at Sam Adams did some research to find the perfect beer glass. Sam Adams founder Jim Koch talked to European glassmakers and found out that almost no breweries were interested in function, he decided to come up with a way to design his own. (See a great article about it on RealBeer.com.)

The glass is shown here, and though it doesn't have a name yet, you can see in the picture that it is a hybrid of all the best of different glasses -- pint glasses, brandy snifters, tulip glasses, pilsner glasses, etc. (Click on the image to enlarge it in a new window.)

They say that this glass isn't going to transform any beer into a great beer, but rather make the beer taste more like the beer itself, or at least taste more like its style. As Koch says in the article noted above, "[Pabst Blue Ribbon] is not going to taste like Sam Adams in this glass. It was designed to make Sam Adams taste more like Sam Adams."

The glass performs several specific functions. For example, the thinner lower half of the glass is intended to expose less of the beer's liquid to the temperature of the drinker's hand, thereby keeping the beer at optimum temperature for longer.

The rounded top half of the glass, like a brandy snifter, is intended to capture and retain the strong aromas, mostly in strong ales or stronger beers. The tulip-like lip not only allows a healthy head to form -- and aid in the distribution of aromas -- but also puts the beer on the front of the tongue first to allow the drinker to experience the sweetness of the malt first, before it evolves into the bitterness of the hops. Most glasses don't allow for this progression naturally.

Whether this glass truly does enhance the flavor of beer (and perhaps lead to the evolution of the beer glass as we know it) remains to be seen. Still, it does look cool, and I would love to get my hands on a few of them.

Still, while I am impressed by the diligence and ingenuity with which the Sam Adams people created this glass, I am even more impressed with Koch's statement regarding the need for such advances in beer glasses: "We want to educate people that beer deserves the same respect wine does." Amen to that.

4 comments:

Mark said...

It's a nice bit of PR on Boston Brewing's part, but in the marketing of this glass, Sam Adams is guilty of the same over-generalization charges he levels on European glassmakers.

Which Sam Adams beer is this for? The Boston Lager? The Summer Wheat? The Imperial Stout?

Each beer has different taste and smell characteristics, and this glass purports to serve everything in the exact same way.

Plus, I sincerely doubt European glassmakers are not concerned with function. A quick look at the varieties of glassware for serving Belgian beers will show attention to the importance of the serving vessel in the the presentation and enjoyment of the beer.

Bill said...

Yeah I agree that that's a rather questionable assumption, that the Euros aren't interested in function. I doubt that hundreds of years of brewing expertise have overlooked that key component of beer consumption. And you're right, it cleary is something by which Sam Adams can patent the glass and carve out their own niche -- although I think they really dropped the ball by not naming the glass. Sam Adams isn't exactly the pinnacle of brewing, so I agree that much of this should be taken with a grain of salt, but it's still a neat idea.

Mark said...

Too bad it looks more like a sex toy than a drinking vessel.

Bill said...

Just cancelled my order.