Back in 2012 I posted what I would call a controversial opinion when I asserted that glass shape doesn’t really influence the flavor of beer.
I put forth several points where I discussed the more overlying reasons bars serve your favorite beers in different styles of glasses (mostly cost), why uni-tasker stemware is mostly a marketing ploy used by glass manufacturers, and most importantly, how the proximity of your nose to the beer when you take a sip overrides any real need for the glass to do anything other than just keep the beer from running through your fingers.
Chris, over at I Think About Beer, responded with a post of very well reasoned arguments as to why, on this particular topic, I was bat-shit crazy. OK, those weren’t his words exactly (and to be fair, I am bat-shit crazy on quite a few topics), but he did write a thorough rebuttal, some of which I can’t counter-argue.
Based on his evidence I was forced to change my beliefs a bit. First, for the AVERAGE craft beer drinker, the shape of the glass won’t make a difference. And second, the pint shaker or Libby “sleeve” is absolutely the worst glass for critical beer evaluation. Except for maybe a Disney Princess mug. Although in my defense I wasn’t exactly drinking craft beer out of it.
To the first point – note I said ‘average’. Craft beer enthusiasts who write blogs, attend events, trade beers, travel, and enjoy all the other activities that we (meaning people who take this more seriously than the average Joe) do, sometimes make the short-sighted mistake in believing that everyone who “enjoys craft beer” drinks at the same bar as we do (so to speak).
But having had many run ins with craft beer lovers in many different situations, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s simply not the case. There are vast (*whispers*VAST) numbers of people out there who enjoy craft beer who just don’t even know this side of the brewverse exists. And those people are blissfully enjoying good beer in all their ignorant glory in whatever glass they happen to have.
The second point tilts itself back towards those aforementioned craft beer enthusiasts. To the more analytical quaffer out there glassware may not matter much, depending on the glasses being compared, as long as they have some of the same functionality – a sloped shape to aid head formation and retention, and to help concentrate aromas, nucleation sites for bubbles to form, etc. Is a tulip glass really that much better than my favorite Zeiss Amsterdam? Maybe not. But they are both infinitely better than the commonly used “Libby” shaker as Chris suggests, although the proof he puts forth to demonstrate his point is a little – well, shaky.
No, beers poured into shaker glasses can also be things of beauty, enticing a road weary beer traveler to sample the malt and hop elixir that they contain. But showcase all the subtle nuances of their precious contents? Probably not. Because let’s be honest, that’s not the number one function that many manufactures consider when designing their glassware, or indeed bars consider when selecting glassware (the pint shaker is easy to clean and stackable – ’nuff said). Sometimes, other considerations are more important.
Take Govino for example. The company produces a series of wine and beer glasses that might not be high on a sommelier’s or cicerone’s list of must have glasses, but they do have one useful feature – they’re shatterproof.
Govino markets their glassware as “The Ultimate Go Anywhere Glass”, and one can certainly understand why. The glasses are made of a BPA free polymer, and therefore won’t break if dropped or knocked over by an over enthusiastic dog’s tail.
Govino account executive Blair Grant sent me a couple beer glasses to try out and after using them for several months (and I was surprised on how much I DID use them) here are my thoughts.
The first thing that struck me is that the glass is small and light, and although there is a certain amount of flex at the very top, the glass is quite solid and firm where you would grip it. Of course the first thing I did was hold it over my head a drop it. The glass did hit the ground with quite a bit of force, but simply bounced a few times before coming to a stop. For all intensive purposes, the glass did seem to be pretty durable.
I mean, I’m sure if you run over one with a truck you’d end up with something that looked like a crushed water bottle, but if you think about all the ways you’ve every reduced one of your favorite glasses to a dust pan of tear inducing shards (and how little effort it took to sometimes do that), than this glass would have saved you the heart break. And if you do manage to run one over with your truck, Govino glasses are 100% recyclable.
Govino claims their beer glass holds 16oz, and to be honest I was pretty sure there was no way I was going to get a pint of liquid into one, but indeed the glass does hold 16oz – but much in the same way a shaker pint holds 16oz – to the brim, no room for head.
But that means the glass has plenty of room for a standard 12oz beer, plus head and even full my brain immediately noticed the glass’ lightness every time I picked it up during my first handful of uses. I usually like glasses with some weight to them, so this took awhile to get accustomed to.
Another interesting feature is that the glass has a thumb-notch or divot in the side that Govino incorporates (and has patented) into all their glassware designs, an obvious understanding that in some places these glasses may be used, added grip could be important.
One sensation while drinking from the Govino beer glass is the mouth feel. No, different mouth feel. The the wall of the glass is thin, and due to the small opening the lip of the glass is very obvious against the sides of your upper lip when you take a sip. I was able to get used to it after a while, but some people might find it off putting.
An aspect of the glass that I was initially disappointed in is the fact that I thought the production seam across the bottom of the glass would be an awesome feature to help nuclidation and thus assist in that steady stream of CO2 bubbles that just looks so fantastic rushing up from the bottom of a nice beer glass.
This didn’t seem to be the case at first, as all the beers I poured into the glass looked pretty lifeless. But as I continued to use the glasses, I could see a gradual increase in the carbonation emanating from the bottom of the glass. Perhaps there’s a layer of something on the new glasses that I didn’t completely get off with the initial wash, but what ever the reason, the last couple of beers I poured into them looked pretty good.
Oh, and speaking of the small opening and cleaning – you’re going to need a thin brush. Your old fatty ain’t going to fit here, and Govino recommends that you hand wash their glasses. My suspicion is that the hot steam cycle might run the risk of turning your dishwasher rack into a craft beer version of The Persistence of Memory. Or that the glasses don’t have enough weight to keep them from bouncing around like ping pong ball in a lottery machine.
Are you going to be bowled over by this glass’ ability to showcase the subtle nuances of your favorite double IPA? Is it going to make you pack away your favorite tulip glasses? Probably not.
I know the Govino people would love to sell these as a serious “beer glasses”, but to the crowd where serious “beer glasses” matter, I’m not sure it quite fits the bill. But in the realm of the pint sleeve, its “go anywhere” functionality makes it a perfect substitute for a poolside dinner party (or just poolside for that matter), boating trips, or picnics; anywhere you find yourself where glass isn’t allowed, or practical; and you still want a level of savoir-faire. And unlike many other options in these cases, the Govino glassware is reusable.
Another suggestion I would make is that it’s a perfect glass for your little, budding “craft beer enthusiasts” when they start believing that they’re big enough to start drinking from “big boy glasses” – especially with the assistance of the divot to aid little fingers.
If I had a Govino back then, I’d probably still have some of my not so functional pint glasses in my cabinet.
A glass for serious beer contemplation? No. An excellent glass free substitute for casual beer drinking situations? Most definitely.
I’d like to thank Blair Grant for sending my a couple of glass to try out, and apologize for the delay in my review.