There are two schools of thought on this one: yes and no! We’re somewhere in the middle - you see, it can make a difference but it doesn’t always make a difference. And it depends on what difference you’re trying to make.
There’s a theatricality – an attention-to-detail – in being served a beer in its own branded glass. And so it can matter in that respect. This is, of course, a nightmare if you’re running the pub that’s serving them and, potentially, a path strewn with difficulty if you’re trying to carry more than two pints back to your table. On second thoughts, it does matter – we’ve all been served beer in plastic glasses at various times (be they sporting events, music festivals or simply sitting in a beer garden) and there aren’t many who prefer it that way.
That said, different glasses can make a difference to taste, effervescence, all sorts…
As so much of taste comes from smell (read more about that here) some glasses are designed either to accentuate the smell or for you to get your nose stuck right in. Tulip glasses will hold aroma in the head of the beer and also mean that your nose gets in bowl as you’re drinking. Glasses with a more exaggerated taper at the top are usually used for wheat beers where the head is very important and this shape helps to contain it.
Another reason for a more narrow top to a glass is that it’s harder to take big swigs – this means that the beer is sipped which means the liquid lands on the front and sides of the tongue. Your taste buds for sweetness and acidity are there whereas you register bitterness at the back of the tongue – the area most likely to be stimulated by a big glug.
You’ll also find that those beers with a higher ABV are also often served in goblet-shaped glasses – again this encourages sipping rather than glugging: important to consider when you’re enjoying a stronger variety.
You’ll notice some beer glasses have quite long stems – much like a wine glass – this is so you’ll use the stem to hold the glass thereby keeping the beer as cold as possible. Another trick beer glasses will sometimes borrow from wine – or, more specifically, champagne – glasses is the addition of imperfections on the bottom of the glass so as to encourage the continued formation of bubbles.
There’s the ‘as-long-as-it’s-clean’ contingent – and it’s difficult to argue with them and then there’s the good old-fashioned pint pot. Well, there are two good-old-fashioned pint pots: one with dimples and a handle and the other like the one pictured.
You can buy these in our shop
The dimpled mug was the first mass-produced pint pot in the UK – it became associated with old men and drinking games and then fell out of favour. However, it does seem to be making a resurgence. The straight glass (which now incorporates a bulge just below the top to stop them from clattering together and smashing the washing machine) is the most ubiquitous, but it doesn’t really help in enhancing or focussing the taste of your pint. It does allow for big gulps which can make a difference.
It’s up to you what you drink your beer out of (George Orwell said it tastes best out of china – good luck finding a pub that’ll serve you that way) and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise!