Stealing is Stealing, Even When It’s a Beer Glass

A story in today’s Wall Street Journal, by Ralph Gardner Jr., raises an interesting point. Entitled An Enduring Tradition, the column begins with the following question:

Do beverages such as beer taste better depending on the glassware employed for their enjoyment?

But that’s not the point to which I am referring. What I’d like to get to is Mr. Gardner’s admission in the paragraph following:

I happen to have strong feelings on the subject, strong enough that on my travels abroad I’ve been known to walk out with handsome beer glasses from bars, cafes and restaurants. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I ask politely if they’re for sale, hoping to get them for no charge or to pay very little. I’ll only steal them if I’m getting the vibe that no matter how nicely I ask, the establishment won’t part with them.

Yes, in the august pages of the Journal, we now have a reporter admitting to chronic and compulsive theft. And not just admitting to it, but making light of the fact.

This, to my mind, is unpardonable. I doubt very much that Mr. Gardner would be allowed to joke in the WSJ about his tendency to shoplift electronics from Best Buy stores, or dine-and-dash from three star Michelin restaurants, but because it’s just a beer glass, apparently the Journal can turn a blind eye to theft.

I’ll tell you something, Mr. Gardner, people like you are a pain in the ass to bar and restaurant and cafe and beer hall owners everywhere. I appreciate that you say you try to purchase the glass first, but has it ever occurred to you that the reason owners or managers don’t want to sell it to you is because they don’t want to lose yet another glass? That they might be running short on glassware? That the glass might cost them more than they’re anticipating you’d be willing to pay or that the hassle of finding a replacement is more than your few dollars are worth? And really, do you always try to buy the glass first?

But more than the above, I object to the inference that it’s okay to steal and joke about it because it’s a beer glass, rather than a wine or cocktail glass. I doubt that Mr. Gardner would brag about lifting a Riedel Burgundy glass from a Park Avenue wine bar or boast about compiling a full set of stemmed cocktail glasses from the New York mixology paradise, PDT. But since it’s beer, stealing is somehow okay.

No, Mr. Gardner, it’s not. So please stop.


The Good & Bad of the NEAT Glass

In the current issue of Whisky Advocate magazine, I use my regular column, “The Thinking Drinker,” to rail about inappropriate glassware used in bars for everything from wine to whisky and, of course, beer. It’s an eloquent little rant, if I do say so myself, but one you’ll have to buy the magazine to read. Because what I want to recount to you here is not the column’s contents, but rather its aftermath.

Shortly after the magazine was mailed, I was contacted by a gentleman named Ray Pearson, who bills himself as “The Whiskymeister” and runs a site called Whisky Tastings. Ray wrote to tell me about something called “The NEAT Whisky Glass,” which he seems to represent through his website, but which is also sold at He offered to send me a sample to try out for myself, and I accepted.

My first reaction to the appearance of the glass was that it looks, well, a little silly. Said to have been engineered to convey the aroma of a whisky in the truest possible way,  it resembles to me a sort of miniature chamber pot. Truth be told, when I presented it to a group of friends, to a person they greeted it with loud guffaws.

But as much as I appreciate aesthetics, I am also conscious of practicalities, and so set about testing the NEAT glass against the industry standard whisky glass, the Glencairn.

With an ounce and a half of Auchentoshan Valinch, a cask strength, triple-distilled Lowland malt, in each glass, the first obvious deficiency of the NEAT glass is that it appears to contain significantly less, which could compel a person to fill it higher than absolutely necessary. When swirled and nosed, however, the NEAT seemed to offer a more open and perhaps honest aroma than did the Glencairn, it presenting the advantage of being able to hold both nose and mouth above the opening. At 57.5% alcohol, the Valinch is not a particularly “hot” whisky, but one that definitely appears more so in the Glencairn than it does in the NEAT.

The practicalities of sipping the liquid, something I have not had to worry about since I was but a boy, proved a challenge for the NEAT glass, as the whisky has to surmount the not insignificant ridge of the glass before it careens down the lip, causing me to almost have to slurp my first sip. That said, it presents the spirit quite well and, once the mechanics we mastered, actually offers a fairly comfortable grip and a decent enough feel. (Although getting the last sip means having to strain one’s neck upwards.) It might be my imagination, but I find that the lightly fruity and citrusy freshness of the whisky tastes a little, well, fresher when sipped from the NEAT glass.

In the end, however, I had to conclude that aesthetics and mechanics trumps the minimal increase in performance, and as a result I will continue using the Glencairn glass for my single malts. Which does not mean the NEAT will not again be trotted out — I’m curious to see how it will fare with some bigger whiskies — but simply that it shall not assume status as the go-to glass.