If you are a beer lover, you likely have a favorite glass from which to enjoy your beer. If you are a true connoisseur, you probably tailor your choice of glassware to the type of beer you are drinking. How did the variety of beer glasses we see today come about? The team at Cheers All offers a brief history of beer glasses.
Before Beer Glasses Were Glass
Humans have been imbibing in some form of beer for thousands of years. In fact, our ancestors likely drank beer from animal skins over 10,000 years ago. By 9,000 BCE, terracotta pots, bowls, and jugs were well established as the beer drinking vessels of choice. The invention of the potter's wheel made clay vessels easier to make and, therefore, more accessible to the average person. The spark that would eventually lead to the beer glass, however, would not occur until the Phoenicians mastered the art of glassblowing around 50 BCE. For the next couple of centuries, the art of glassblowing spread throughout the Mediterranean and Europe.
Tankards and Steins
While the art of glass blowing continued to evolve and improve for centuries, glassware meant for drinking beer would not appear yet. Around the 14th century, tankards and steins were the vessel of choice for beer drinkers. These were the first vessels specifically associated with beer drinking. Tankards were originally used to carry water and were made of wood and bound with iron or leather. Following the bubonic plague, however, the tankard became a tall, one-handled, lidded mug made from pewter that came to be known as a “stein.” The purpose of the lid was to keep the contents from becoming contaminated. Unfortunately, the pewter itself posed a risk of lead poisoning.
The Birth of the Beer Glass
It wasn’t until the 19th century that the true beer glass begins to become popular. Around the turn of the 20th century, glassware for beer drinkers started to become a true art form. The 10-sided, or “fluted,” handled pint mug was one of the first beer glasses and allowed drinkers to keep their hands off the glass itself, thereby keeping the beer cooler for a longer period of time. Next came the dimpled glass in the 1940s, spurred by the increased popularity of amber beers which looked better in the dimpled glass. A straight glass with a slight bulge at the top, known as the “Nonik” (no nick), glass followed, designed to minimize the chipping that occurred when glassware rubbed together. A variation of the standard Nonik, the “waisted” thin-walled pint glass, was developed shortly thereafter. This pint glass pulls the rim in slightly to avoid the possibility of “nicks” and has remained a favorite of stout brewers. The thin waisted pint glass still serves as the classic Irish/Guinness pint glass and continues to be used in the North of England for serving Yorkshire-style “big head” pints.
Today, your choice of glassware can be as important as your choice of beer. Each variation of the beer glass is designed to have a specific effect on the beverage contained within and most beer drinkers will insist that certain types of beer should only be consumed out of certain types of glassware. So the next time you purchase beer glassware, choose wisely!
If you are a craft beer drinker, visit the Cheers All website to purchase glassware and other merchandise geared toward beer lovers.