The Best Beer Glasses

four beer glasses being held over a table.

Your tastebuds don’t get all the fun to themselves.

Drinking beer (or any beverage, alcoholic or not) is a multi-sensory experience, and the glass you’re sipping from can have quite a significant effect on your overall perception of your drink. With so many options out there, actually choosing the best beer glassware can be a daunting task. So I wrote this guide to help you enjoy your favorite brew even more, and make your beer glass choices…clearer.

Who is This For?

This guide is for anyone that wants to enjoy their beer even more — whether that’s full-strength or non-alcoholic beer. There are a few extra considerations to take into account if we’re using these glasses for non-alcoholic beer (noted below), but largely the principles are the same as with regular beer. I’m also a big believer in enjoying beer with what you have. If you want a different experience, we can help you find a glass that will best showcase the qualities of any beer you’re tasting. But at the end of the day, the best beer is the one you have right now — it’s not absolutely necessary to be tasting beer out of any particular glassware. Do what makes you happy.

Why Should You Buy Specialty Beer Glasses?

Beer, just like wine, can smell and taste different depending on the shape and materials of the glass it’s in — even the in-hand feel of the glass can affect your overall sipping experience. With each product below, I’ve highlighted the features that contribute to these differences, and what you can expect from each type of glass. At the end, I also discuss the situations where the best glass can sometimes be no glass at all! But first, here are a few of the senses we’re targeting with a good beer glass, and how different designs will impact your perception of the beverage.

Smell

The shape of a beer glass will affect the way the beer’s aromas either leave, or stay and percolate. Since smell is such a large part of the tasting experience, this directly affects how we end up tasting the beer when we go to take a sip.

In this regard, you’ll want to look for glassware with vertical or inwards-tapering walls at the top, and a wider section below. The standard pint glass (a “shaker pint,” so named from its original function as half of a cocktail shaker) fails in this regard, as the glass is widest at the top and narrows consistently on its way down. It may be the stereotypical “beer glass,” but it’s actually not great at serving a good brew because of its outward-tapering walls.

shaker pint glass with beer.
A Shaker Pint glass — actually not that great for beer

Touch

The feel of your glass in hand and on your lips will also affect the way you perceive your beer. This factor is a bit more psychological, but we have some evidence that it’s at least a consistent effect. A Brazillian study found that the texture of a coffee mug had an impact on the perceived sweetness of coffee — the same exact coffee tasted sweeter when sipped from a smooth mug as compared to a rough mug, suggesting that “haptic cues influence the judgment of basic tastes as well as mouth-feel attributes in specialty coffee.” Another study by the same researcher had previously found that the shape of the coffee cup “had a profound impact…on both flavour and hedonic judgments in both amateur and expert specialty coffee consumers.”

An academic review similarly found that in various studies, people perceived their drinks differently based on the shape and materials of the glasses they were served in. A lot of this seems to be based on cultural associations of how we expect certain drinks to be served, and makes sense instinctively — wine poured into a Solo cup is going to “feel” cheaper than the same wine poured into a crystal glass, even though we know the two vessels aren’t changing the wine at all chemically.

Craft beer glassware follows the same pattern. Thinner lips allow the glass to be less obtrusive to the tasting experience, and a stemmed glass feels differently in the hand than a stein or a shaker pint. Stems also help you avoid warming the beer with your hand, since we’re usually trying to keep our beer as cool as possible (though not always, as we’ll see below). Pouring beer into a good glass also brings a sense of occasion and intention to the experience, allowing us to be more thoughtful about what we’re drinking.

Non-Alcoholic Considerations

As I discuss in our article comparing Guinness Draught to Guinness Zero, alcohol has a lot of effect on the taste of a drink, even in the relatively low ABV range of beer (mostly 4-9% ABV). When we’re discussing glassware, this is going to be noticed most in how a glass deals with aroma. The volatility of alcohol means that as it naturally evaporates, it carries scent compounds from the glass to your nose. In fact, perfume and cologne use a high percentage of alcohol (typically ethanol — the same kind found in alcoholic beverages) to transport their scents because alcohol is such an effective vehicle for spreading aromas.

Since alcohol-free beer notably lacks…alcohol, the aromas aren’t as easily detectable as they are with full-strength beer — I’ve even thought I had COVID once or twice because I couldn’t smell an NA that my nose was hovering right over. This means that craft beer-specific glassware is even more important for non-alcoholic beer, as it will focus the more subtle aromas that you might miss otherwise. 

Glassware is also the great equalizer for non-alcoholic beer. We ideally would live in a world where alcohol-free drinks aren’t stigmatized at all, and we’re definitely heading in that direction. However, there are still some people that would prefer to hide the “<0.5%” on their beer’s label, and the easiest way to do that is using a glass that makes your drink look like anyone else’s. Worried about picking up the wrong beer? Reusable drink markers/charms can be an effective way to label your glass as your own without indicating what’s inside.

Great for All Beer Styles

If you just want to buy one glass for all beer styles and cut this process short, buy the Spiegelau Tulip glass. The tulip is my favorite for basically all beer styles, and Spiegelau makes a fine version that will accentuate the aromas of your favorite beer. It checks all the boxes we outlined above: a wide, round bowl; inward taper towards the top; and thin lips. It also has a small stem on the bottom, providing for a few grip choices. You’ll probably hold the bulb of the glass most of the time, and I personally prefer the feeling of that compared to holding a long stem. A glass like the Teku (below) may be a bit better for beer tasting if you’re trying to avoid warming the beer even for a second here and there, but I simply like the feel of the tulip in hand a bit more for day to day drinking.

Since stouts and other dark beers can react favorably to a bit of additional warmth, the tulip design can come in handy if you want to intentionally warm the beer a bit with the heat from your hand on the glass. You don’t have to warm your stouts at all, but it’s another way you can explore your beers and see if it unlocks flavors and aromas that you enjoy even more.

Even Better for In-Depth Beer Tasting

A favorite of craft beer brewers and connoisseurs, the Teku glass is structurally similar to the tulip glass above, but with a long stem between the bowl and the base. It has a striking look that leans into the movement of treating beer more like wine, and the stem gives you a gripping point that won’t transfer any body heat to the beer. If you want an iconic glass that is basically the industry standard for craft beer tasting, this is a great option.

Another Option for Tastings

I put these glasses in this place on the page on purpose — take a look at the Teku above, and then scroll down and take a look at the wine glasses here. Notice anything? They’re not really that different. Indeed, you can use a wine glass for tasting and drinking beer, for basically all the same reasons as the Teku above. This is a nice option if you already have some good wine glasses, and/or you’re looking to be as efficient as possible with your glassware collection.

If you want a single wine glass for all styles of wine (and beer, in this case), the Gabriel-Glas StandArt is the one. These glasses feel great in the hand, look sharp, and will complement any style of beer or wine. Plus, the lips are insanely thin, so they almost disappear when you go to take a sip. They’re a bit more expensive than some other wine glasses, but I personally own two because they provide such an exquisite drinking experience. 

Gabriel-Glas also produces a hand-blown version of this glass that is somehow even thinner and lighter, but the price point is quite steep, and the marginal returns are probably not worth it for most people. The one we’ve linked is the machine-blown version that is still phenomenal, but much easier on the wallet.

Libbey is a classic brand known for centuries of good glassware, and their wine glasses are a great choice for all styles of wine if you’re looking to spend less than you would on a Gabriel-Glas.

Specialty Glasses

This is a class of glasses that aren’t really necessary for a great tasting experience, but can be fun to use anyway. Most of the beer styles these glasses are designed for will do just as well (if not better) in one of the top three choices on this page, but style-specific glasses can be a fun choice if you enjoy a lot of a particular style. As I said in the intro, a lot of the psychology of tasting comes down to cultural associations, i.e. we like drinking a hefeweizen from a hefeweizen glass, or a kölsch from a kölsch glass (a stange glass, for your daily trivia) moreso because we’re taking part in hundreds of years of tradition, rather than any actual dramatic tasting/smelling improvements over something like a Tulip or Teku. 

English Dimple Mug

If you’re a fan of British beers, you might want to complete the experience with a dimple mug. Though not as popular nowadays, this is the traditional serving vessel for a number of British styles of beer. Perfect for all your English Milds and Bitters.

Hefeweizen

One of the more notable beer-specific glasses, the hefeweizen glass is nice for everything from hefeweizen to witbier, from Allagash White to WellBeing Heavenly Body. You’ll notice that the design isn’t terrible from a functional standpoint, with inwards-sloping walls at the top and similar thin lips to Spiegelau’s tulip glass. These are nice for all of your summer beers.

Guinness

Guinness makes a solid beer (with a lovely non-alcoholic version!), but the company is probably even better at marketing. Their Gravity Glass is almost as iconic as the stout it’s designed for, and it’s not an awful choice from a performance standpoint. It’s great if you enjoy the continuity of drinking your Guinness from the official Guinness glass, but it’s also a good option if you’re looking for something similar to a shaker pint that presents any beer more favorably. 

Beer Can (Glass)

This is one of my favorite glasses to use for drinks in general, and it’s not actually the worst for beer tasting and drinking. There’s a bit of amusement to be found in the idea of pouring a can into a can-shaped glass, and the shape at the top does a decent job of capturing the aromas of the drink. You can pour a whole pint of beer in one of these, or use it for a beer cocktail (like a michelada) with a 12 oz beer.

No Glass At All

The last glass on this list is not a glass at all, but rather a point to be made about drinking from a glass vs. a can or bottle. It’s true that drinking from a glass will allow you to experience more of the nuances of a beer, but that doesn’t mean that drinking from a “proper” glass is the only “correct” way to enjoy a beer. As I wrote earlier, the best beer is the one you have in hand. With craft beverages, we sometimes get caught up in the pursuit of the best, whether that’s the best glass, IPA, stout, brewery, distillery, winery, cocktail bar, etc., that we can start to turn our nose up at things that are plenty enjoyable, but not the absolute best. A good glass is a helpful tool to enhance your beer, but a good beer is still delicious straight from a can or bottle if that’s all you have on hand.

The “Special” Case of Alchemist

Alchemist, the brewery behind some of the most widely renowned hazy IPAs in the industry like Heady Topper and Focal Banger, even insists that their beers are best enjoyed straight from the can to “prevent oxidation.” This advice conveniently keeps the branding of the can in full view of everyone around you (just like Guinness’s 119 second “Perfect Pour”), and it adds a layer of individuality and mystique to the brand. 

Is any significant oxidation of the beer and degradation of flavor/aroma happening by pouring into a glass? Let’s put it this way: Alchemist was a pioneer in heavily-hopped New England IPAs, but since then thousands of breweries have entered the market with their own IPAs stuffed with truckloads of hops. To my knowledge, not a single brewery other than Alchemist actively recommends drinking out of a can over a glass to avoid oxidation. So if the can is the best option for you, then stick to the can. But just know that you can pour into a glass as well without really any risk of degrading the beer. We’ve provided some tools you can use; it’s on you to enjoy your beer the way you want to enjoy it.

Beer Serving Tips

Another note — beer is not usually best served as cold as possible. Flavors become muted the colder the beer (or any drink) gets, so the ideal serving temperature for most beer styles is in the 45-55°F (7-13°C) range, rather than down all the way at 33°F. If you want to taste your beer as much as possible, you should skip any kind of glass chilling, and just pour your refrigerated beer into a glass at room temperature. Depending on your fridge temperature, this is usually good enough to land the beer at a perfect serving temperature. 

tulip beer glass.
A tulip glass: perfectly filled; not chilled

Of course, if you’re drinking something like an American Macro Lager and you’d prefer to not taste it as much, instead focusing on the light, crisp, refreshing qualities (particularly on a hot day), then chill away! You can hopefully now see why a certain beer brand would encourage you to drink their beer “as cold as the [particular mountain range in the Western US]”…

For more on ideal beer serving temperatures (and a ton of other beer information broken down by style), check out Craft Beer. You’ll notice they recommend a lot of style-specific glassware, though we maintain that a tulip or a Teku will handle all styles admirably. 

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