If you’re read my previous post, the one about not stealing beer glasses, then likely you’ll also know that Sam Calagione and Ken Grossman and a few others have come up with a new glass designed, they say, for the drinking of IPA. And certain people, including my good friend Mr. Lew Bryson, have reacted rather badly to it.
“Jesus H. Christ,” Lew railed on his Facebook page, “More prescriptive bullshit about how we’re supposed to drink our beer.” That little post garnered, at last count, 76 “likes” and 83 comments in two days, the majority of which were in agreement. One commenter even went so far as to maintain that “(s)tuff like this is ruining the experience of enjoying the beer itself, I believe.”
Me, I’m of two minds. As anyone who regularly or even occasionally reads these missives will know, I’m a great proponent of glassware, but more on the side of aesthetics than function. I hate the “shaker” pint glass because I think it’s ugly and presents the beer poorly – any beer, from IPA to Trappist ale to mass-produced lager. I like the glasses I keep sequestered in a dedicated cabinet because they look good and thus enhance my beer-drinking – or cocktail sipping or wine supping or spirits enjoying – experience. In my occasional role as hospitality industry consultant, I advise against the shaker because I feel its use is a false economy and ultimately detrimental to beer sales.
Whether the shaker makes the beer inside taste inferior to, say, a chalice or a nonic pint or Lew’s favourite Willi Becher, I do not know. I should probably do some research into it, but how does one objectively analyze flavour out of glassware without at least laying one’s hand upon the glass and so influencing one’s perception in some small fashion?
(For the record, while I have not yet held the glass in question in my hand, my initial impression from the photos I have seen – like this one – is that it does not rate terribly high on the aesthetic scale. Better than the Boston Beer glass, for sure, but way below many other glasses, including pretty much every one currently residing in my cabinet.
However, the point is that its existence is harmless. No one is forcing anyone to drink out of it, and I seriously doubt that either Sam or Ken would refuse you a 60 Minute or Torpedo should you not have one handy. They are part of a trend I’ve been noting for some time, namely the fetishizing of beer drinking, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Does anyone need a fancy, flip-knife-style bottle opener when an ordinary church key or, in a pinch, a lighter or rolled up magazine will do the job? No. Do I need a cabinet filled with glassware, roughly two-thirds of which is devoted to beer? Definitely not. Should you feel bad because you want to serve IPA but only own pilsner and weissbier glasses? In heaven’s name, no!
Wine has been fetishized for years now – hands up everyone who owns a rabbit or rabbit-style corkscrew! – and the cocktail geeks are doing their best with that segment of drinks. And if you’re a whisky drinker, someone is trying to sell you rocks to put in your drink, for crying out loud!
Beer is no different, so enjoy it or not, as you wish. Buy the new IPA glass or ignore it, but don’t get bent so out of shape about it. It’s just a glass, not a massive conspiracy to take the joy out of beer drinking.