The beer is poured into the glass and just the right amount of head forms. Before taking a drink you might waft the beer under your nose and take a sip that may leave behind brussels lace on the glass. But what type of glass did you use? What beer are you drinking? Even novice craft beer drinkers (watch this!) can tell the many differences that exist between beers.

Craft beer is at least one part beer and one part glass. Those that know will tell you the correct glass will enhance your beer drinking experience, or diminish it.

Is it a flute? A pilsner? A tulip? Some tasters swear by specific glasses. As you can see from Tap Trail’s own beer review ninja, Brendon Olson, he often prefers a tulip for his excellent reviews. I follow blogs where tasters say the Samuel Adams Glass is the only way to review or taste a new beer. More traditionally, many use a glass designed for a specific beer.

beer Glass types

But how much does it matter? Does the glassware actually impact the flavor and aroma of the beer? According to a scientific study by a team out of Japan, “Yes.” The team tested three different types of glasses. They used a specific camera and ethanol detecting system to determine concentrations of gases. Then they measured where the ethanol was trapped in them. Not only did the study determine glass shape mattered, it confirmed serving temperatures mattered as well. From Scientific American

Graphical abstract: A sniffer-camera for imaging of ethanol vaporization from wine: the effect of wine glass shapeAt 13°C, the alcohol concentration in the centre of the wine glass was lower than that around the rim. Wine served at a higher temperature, or from the martini or straight glass, did not exhibit a ring-shaped vapour pattern. ‘This ring phenomenon allows us to enjoy the wine aroma without interference of gaseous ethanol. Accordingly, wine glass shape has a very sophisticated functional design for tasting and enjoying wine,’ explains Mitsubayashi.

Wine scientist Régis Gougeon, from the University of Burgundy, France, says the work is really interesting when considering its experimental setup, which allows for a rather straightforward and inexpensive detection of ethanol. ‘Bearing in mind the flavour enhancer properties of ethanol, this work provides an unprecedented image of the claimed impact of glass geometry on the overall complex wine flavour perception, thus validating the search for optimum adequation between a glass and a wine.’

There are lots of smells and flavors in beer though other than the presence of ethanol. I’m curious if another system could validate that glass enhances specific aroma profiles of floral, earthy or fruity elements of hops. Maybe specific glasses bring our the maltiness of stouts better than others. For more information on beer glasses, head to Beer Advocate’s 101 on Glassware.