Consumers might occasionally get wistful about their college days of drinking wine out of pint glasses and cocktails out of canning jars, but nowadays they are getting more demanding about how they want their drinks served. That’s thanks in part to the fact that many beer and spirits producers are promoting the use of specific glasses with each beverage.
“The proper glass really brings out the taste of the drink,” says Frank Caiafa, beverage and bar manager of Peacock Alley restaurant in the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. “And guests are very aware of it. It makes each drink stand out.”
And while spirits and cocktails have long been served in specific glassware—imagine a martini served in anything but a martini glass—it’s a relatively recent trend for beer in the U.S.
Having specific glassware for their products is something brewers should invest in and distributors should be educated in, says Julia Herz, director of the craft beer program for the Brewers Association. “Glassware is not a new concept, but it’s certainly on the rise, to accentuate and highlight different aspects of beer styles,” she says.
ChurchKey and Birch & Barley, a bar and restaurant respectively, in Washington, D.C., use 22 different beer glasses for the 555 brews they pour. Beer director and managing partner Greg Engert is a big proponent of each beer to its own vessel.
“Some glasses will keep certain brews more chilled, ensure head retention, and allow for large swills of the brew (such as the stange, flute and pokal glasses). Others work nicely to allow for better aromatic investigation with wider rim diameter (including bechers and tumblers),” he says. “Still others not only allow for more aromatic investigation with wider rims, these rims taper after widening to focus the aromas, and possess stems that call for swirling of the beer, something that will energize volatile aromatic compounds to rush into the bouquet (tulips, tapered Bordeaux-style wine glasses, snifters).”
Using the correct glassware not only promotes the end user’s enjoyment of the drink, but it’s also an easy way to promote brand equity.
“Any good brand tells a story and has a narrative, and glassware is part of that,” says Ilya Kleyman, strategic brand advisor for VATEX America, a full-service promotional products company in Richmond, Va.
“If you don’t have a rich history you at least want to have something you stand for,” he says. “You should create an emotional connection to your brand.”
Along with glasses of different designs, brewers and distillers are producing logoed glasses, which are an inexpensive way to differentiate themselves.
“Anything that you can use to get your brand out in front of the public, creates awareness,” says Chip Mims, CEO of Raleigh, N.C.-based Mims Distributing, which works with Miller, Newcastle and Dos Equis, and craft brews including Lagunitas and Magic Hat.
Logoed glasses also can be used to denote that a brand has staying power, Kleyman adds. “It’s an easy way to signal they do more than just make beer; that they have items related to it and they stand by their product.”
Engert does not agree with logoed glasses, however. “I believe that glasses exist to market the flavors of the ale or lager by assisting it in reaching its fullest flavor potential. Insignias, logos and such distract from the soul of the beer itself.”
But using these glasses correctly comes down to education—first of the bar and restaurant operators—and that’s where distributors come in. Roger MacKay, VP of sales at Mims Distributing says,“[Education] makes your interaction with your customer base so much better that they want to come back.”