Spiegelau IPA Glass

When you drink, how many senses do you think you use?  One, just taste? Two, taste and smell (remember that “taste” is limited to sweet, salty, sour and bitter, descriptions like “hoppy”, “caramel”, “herbal” etc are actually aromas)?  Do you think you use all five senses?

I would challenge you, and say at the very least, you drink with four — taste, smell, vision and touch (mouthfeel) — and many people do in fact use all five senses.

Do you think you prejudge what you are drinking based on its looks?  You probably do.  There are some interesting studies in the wine world, about “faking” pros out.  Either serving them wine in opaque glasses, so they can’t visually judge them, or else serving them white wines that have been dyed red, or (probably my favourite) plonk decanted into very expensive bottles, and served with the label in view.  In most cases, people fall for the trick.  They describe the white that has been dyed red, as if it were a red; they have trouble identifying whether the opaque glass holds a red or a white (assuming they’re both the same temperature); they give high praises to the mediocre wine in fine clothes.

This is one element of drinking with your eyes, and while it does lead to some good chances to poke fun at people who take their wines very seriously (and make no mistake, we could probably replicate many of the same outcomes with beer and beer snobs), the other side of this has much more to do with simple enjoyment.  Part of the rise in popularity in pilsners is attributed to the availability of glass drinking vessels, where the brilliantly clear golden liquid looked much more attractive than the murky dark ales most people consumed up until then.  There is a hazy light orange shade of beer I often associate to the colour of honey, that makes me giddy with anticipation of my first sip.  Make an APA or IPA that colour, and you’re already half-way there on impressing me. I would like to pretend I’m totally objective, but I know better.  I’m as suggestible as the next guy.  Similarly, a beautiful black stout with a thick mocha brown head in a curvy tulip snifter makes me think about finding a comfortable chair and a good book.  As cliched as it has become, I still love watching a pint of Guinness “cascade” as the nitrogen-produced head settles out of suspension.  These are all big parts of the experience drinking beer.

So while I do read news releases with some level of skepticism when a product makes a variety of claims that tend to sound far-fetched, I take the aesthetic and functional design of beer (and wine and spirit) glassware fairly seriously.

As such, when news from the states came out that Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada had partnered with Spiegelau to make an IPA-specific glass, I was excited.  When I read the claims on aesthetics and functionality I was intrigued and curious to try one out myself.  And when I was invited to speak at a Royal Selangor dinner, announcing (among other things) that they were bringing the IPA glass to the Canadian market, I jumped at the chance.

Spiegelau IPA Glass

Spiegelau IPA Glass

The first thing you need to know, is that there is a long tradition of beer-specific glassware.  Indeed, in Belgium, most brewers have glasses designed for them, and are often beer-specific (so their triple goes in a different glass than their wit, for example).  The glass has depth/width ratios to improve aroma, conical/dished bottoms to allow sediment to settle, fluted or tuliped tops for optimum taste, and aesthetic design elements to increase the drinker’s experience.

Even outside of that, most people will realize, on consideration, they already observe some level of glass heuristics.  Weissebeir glasses, with their distinctive tall curvy designs adorn patios through the summer; higher-alcohol Belgian-style beers go into “snifter” type glasses; Oktoberfest marzens go in 1 litre steins.  Even in the world of pint glasses there are factions, like the people who hate the “shaker” style. So given the popularity of IPAs, it seems sensible that somebody designed a glass specific to the style.

So, what are the “features” of the IPA glass? Working from the top down, the rim is laser-cut, and very thin for comfortable sipping that creates minimal agitation. The glass, designed to hold a standard bottle has plenty of head-space, and also focuses the aromas, by having the surface area of the beer wider than the opening.  Below the wine-glass shaped top is a ridged bottom.  While it provides a comfortable spot to hold the glass on the outside, on the inside it provides agitation during the last half of the glass of beer, releasing more carbonation and supporting the head. Further down, on the bottom, there is an etched nucleation point, providing a spot for the carbon dioxide to come out of suspension, which also supports the head and creates surface movement to release aromas.  Overall, the glass is made out of very thin glass, which minimizes temperature changes when you first pour the beer.  While quite thin, Spiegelau is known for making incredibly durable glassware, and the IPA glass is no different.  It’s quite lightweight and comfortable to hold, and the glass makes a very pleasing ringing chime when clinked with another glass for a toast, or when set on a solid surface (like a granite counter, etc).

I know, some of this sounds a bit far fetched (I was convinced the ridged bottom was hype until I watched somebody else drinking out of one, and released it did exactly what the claim said it did), and perhaps others seem insignificant (the sound of a glass is not something most people think of), but I can assure you, the cumulative effect is to provide a glass that truly is a joy to use, engages all five senses, and does highlight the best elements of a great IPA.

Of course, you can use the glass for other styles; IIPAs, APAs and more benefit from the focused aroma and improved head retention.  And honestly, orange juice would probably taste just fine, and you would still have the benefits of the aesthetics of the glass.

If you, like me, mainly drink out of glasses you got at festivals or branded pint glasses given away as swag, and you have some amount of expendable income, I can’t recommend enough the joys of a truly great glass.  Depending on your general preferences, you might do better to start with a pair of great 330ml tulips, or else beautiful lager-style pint glasses (Spiegelau makes all these and more).  But if you already have a set of good glasses, or else find you drink big hoppy beers more than anything else, these lovely glasses are a great investment.  The suggested retail price in Canada is $20/pair, which is already a reasonable value, and gets even better if you’re familiar with the quality of Spiegelau glasses, which means you know these glasses will last years, maybe decades.

They are rolling out to stores as you read. I know iQ Living on the Danforth (542 Danforth Ave, Toronto) has the glasses. Vince and his crew are great people who sell an array of excellent housewares, including the IPA glasses and a wide variety of glassware for beer and beyond.  The glasses will also be at the usual suspects: The Bay/Home Outfitters, Sears, etc.


Note: In the interests of disclosure, no, I have not been paid anything to write this; I realized upon editing it that I’m pretty enthusiastic about the glasses.  I was provided with a set of IPA glasses, as well as the Spiegelau “Beer Tasting” kit, which is a tulip, weissebeir glass and lager pint.  And they’re all excellent.  To be fair, they were given to me for speaking at the event, not for writing a post. Nobody from Spiegelau, Royal Selangor, iQ Living, The Bay etc asked me to write this.


  1. Chuck
    Posted December 11, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I own a couple of these glasses. Yeah, they’re that good. I did a review for them on an FB group I’ve set up for beer, and what was intended to be a critical, no bullshit review became a glowing endorsement. This really improves IPA that much.

  2. chris
    Posted December 11, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    I know, right? I wasn’t going to be a hard-ass, but I was amazed at just how good they are. I still use mine nearly every day. And I rarely drink a beer out of a non-Spiegelau glass these days. Drinking out of nice glassware is just, well, nicer.

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