There has been an increase in popularity of craft beer in India over the past few years, but the experience of craft beer is not dependent upon the beer alone. Many craft beer brands use various merchandise such as engraved openers, tent cards, key chains, etc., to not only add to the craft beer experience but also communicate and propagate their brand as well. While all of these aspects leave an impression on the consumer, let’s not overlook glassware as an important component in enhancing the taste, experience and impression of craft beer.
Glassware has a history as rich as the beer being served in it. The earliest reference of glassware was drinking vessels, which were made in different shapes and sizes. However, with the commercialisation of mainstream beer, drinking from the bottle was encouraged, probably to hide the aroma and yellow fizzy stuff inside the bottle. The ideal way to have craft beer is through the appropriate glassware as it truly enhances the taste, aroma, appearance, mouth feel, and most of all, the experience that the brewer wants to create with his beer recipe.
There are two types of beer – ales and lagers. Ales are usually fermented and served at higher temperatures and are usually more complex when compared to lagers. The taste of ales also comes alive as the beer warms up. Lagers, on the other hand, are fermented and served at a lower temperature in comparison to ale. Different styles of craft beer are served in different recommended glassware and it has little to do with the aesthetic impact and more to do with highlighting specific features for that style, thereby enhancing the experience. For example, lagers are always served in mugs with handles, so that body heat from your hand doesn’t heat the beer too quickly. These mugs are also thick walled to insulate the cold beer.
Looking at a few facts from the history of beer, the European mugs and tankards were made from stoneware, wood, leather, silver, pewter and finally glass. For a time they had a lid that could be operated with the thumb, so that it could keep the drinking experience one handed. This was done to prevent insects from falling into the glass and is commonly believed to have gained prevalence in Europe in the 1300s during the infamous Black Plague.
Coming back to ales, these are usually served in glasses without handles. This allows for heat transfer from the hand of the drinker to the beer. As the temperature increases, flavours that are activated at higher temperatures are released, making for an intriguing drinking experience for the patrons. Popular ale in India is wheat beer (Hefeweizen/Bavarian Wheat); these are usually served in taller glasses with thin walls and taper to a wider mouth that directs fruity aromas to the nose and holds a thick froth that the beer is known for. These glasses are also designed to hold more volume of the refreshing style. Belgian ales, with their unique brewing ingredients and intense flavours, capture the best experience in snifter or tulip glasses. These allow for big foamy heads that make the aromas richer, while also letting the patrons take deep sips without getting foam on their face! Even the India Pale Ale (IPA) has its own glass that highlights hop aromas and the higher bitterness in taste.
In India, the craft brewery culture has started becoming more prominent across many cities. Consumers have become more insightful and their point of view towards what they enjoy has become even more extensive and specific. These consumer changes have helped those brands that truly understand the delivery of an impactful beer experience, to gain popularity. There is no question that the taste, process and ingredients of a craft beer style are important, but let’s not take the glass for granted either; without a perfect look and feel of a glass, your favourite craft beer style may not taste the same.