I’m not sure it’s altogether good to be the person whose name pops up when the question is asked: “Who can we get to burble on for 20 minutes about the history of beer glasses?”, but at least it got me drinking at someone else’s expense in the Met Bar in Old Park Lane, where the manager boasts that every top celebrity worth naming has parked their A-list posterior on his surprisingly shabby red leather banquettes. (And drinking at someone else’s expense is definitely what you want to be doing at the Met, when a small bottle of Meantime pale ale, £1.50 or so in Waitrose, is £8 – that’s not quite £14 a pint.)
My invitation to the Met Bar was to add a little history to a tasting organised by Spiegelau, the Austrian glassware company, to promote their new range of beer glasses.
Each of the glasses has been designed so that, in theory, it brings out the best in a particular beer style, or range of styles. The 500ml, slightly waisted, wide-mouthed glass is best, according to Georg Riedel, president of Spiegelau, for strong English ales and helles-style lagers. The tall wheat beer glass is made for – well, you can work that out. A stemmed tulip-shaped glass has been designed for Pilsner-style lagers, and is also good for Belgian ales, Spiegelau says.
But does the shape of the glass really make a difference? Yes, I was surprised to find it most definitely does, and not just to the aroma. Of the four beers at the tasting, the biggest change from glass to glass was with the Innis & Gunn, the oak-aged beer from Scotland. The “wheat” glass accentuated the vanilla/oaky elements in the beer, the “pilsner” glass in contrast brought the toffee/caramel notes right up front, but the “ale” glass, while delivering a distinctly thinner mouthfeel, allowed much more of the complexity in the beer to come through.