Beer glasses have changed.
Now they’ve got stems and bowls and lips serene. They’re tall and short and everything in between.
The simple old pint glass — larger at the top than at the bottom, easy to wash and easy to stack — isn’t good enough any more.
Today, brewers from MillerCoors nationally to Salt Marsh Brewing in the heart of Bluffton say glassware matters.
The World of Beer tavern in Shelter Cove Towne Center on Hilton Head Island has a dozen different types of glasses to pair with its 51 beers on tap and 527 different bottled beers. The glassware recommendation comes along with the beer description in writing, and from a wait staff that has a degree from the chain’s “Beer School.”
Beer is no longer a cold one. It is an experience.
And apparently, while the sturdy old “shaker” pint glass still works in many cases, it falls flat in a lot of others.
Norm and Cliff didn’t know what they were missing on “Cheers.”
They could grab a mug and chug and swill the “king of beers,” “the champagne of bottled beers” or “the beer that made Milwaukee famous.”
Today, the “vessel” delivers precious cargo that is to be seen and savored.
Dead Eric Brewing Co. in Ridgeland describes a honey amber dry hopped ale as, “Generous mouth feel with a very quick finish. Hints of crisp Citrus Air and a hidden note of maple candy, but not too malty.”
Salt Marsh Brewing at Fat Patties on Bluffton Road says of its Slo-Country Session IPA: “This easy drinking IPA has a light malt bill with an ever changing hop presence. Creating a big in your face hop nose.”
Pouring it into the wrong glass would be like plowing with a Clydesdale.
I learned about the urgency of glassware from Peter Frost, a former reporter at The Island Packet who now writes for the “Behind the Beer” blog as communications manager-editorial at MillerCoors.
“Underline it. Hashtag it and put it on a sign,” he writes. “The vessel in which a beer is served makes a difference, both in the way a beer smells and tastes, as well as in how well it sells.”
More than 70 percent of millennial consumers prefer their beer poured in appropriate glassware, Peter writes.
And they are driving the craft beer revolution that now makes up 13 to 14 percent of all beer volume in the U.S.
“Bottom line,” Peter told me, “as craft beer enters the mainstream more and more, people are getting more educated about beer and how to drink it. If they can buy a fancy beer glass at Bed Bath & Beyond, they expect to get one at their local sports bar.”
And executives said proper glassware sends a subtle message to the consumer that the retailer stands for quality.
Company research in New York showed that the MillerCoors Italian import Peroni served in its custom, branded and appropriate glass sells at a 41 percent higher rate than the same beer sold in bars using generic vessels.
In 2018, MillerCoors will spend millions in “making glassware a central tenet in its on-premise sales strategy,” Peter reported in his company blog.
Snobs and geeks
At World of Beer on Hilton Head, assistant general manager Caitlin Norris and bartender Marianne Zeiser say more customers now tend to know exactly what they like and what they don’t like.
Going for the gusto often means choosing the path less traveled.
“Millennials like things unique,” Norris said. “They like the experience and they don’t want it to be generic.”
That includes the right glassware. And they want the back story on their beer, like the farm-to-table beer from Benford Brewing in Lancaster, S.C. They are interested in local brewers, including Hilton Head Brewing Co. and Southern Barrel in Bluffton, and regional brewers from the Charleston area.
Glassware is chosen to enhance the experiences of aroma, appearance, head size and even alcohol content (high alcohol-content beer comes in a snifter to, among other things, slow you down).
“Anything Belgian goes in a tulip glass,” Zeiser said, “unless it is a Trappist beer, which has its own glass.”
They get “beer geeks” and “beer snobs.” The geeks know what they’re talking about, really enjoy it and get excited about the beers. But if they get the wrong glass, they can deal with. A beer snob, on the other hand, would get mad about the glassware and turn it into a big deal.
I ran all this by millennials I work with and our “champagne of quick research” showed this:
Never in the history of millennials has a millennial turned down a beer because of the glass it was served in.