007. Beer glassware

Beer glassware

What do they say about food, presentation is everything? Presentation is also a large part of excellent beer service. Before the customer tastes her beer, before she even smells her beer, she will see her beer in the glass.

This section is all about glassware: selecting glassware, cleaning glassware, preparing glassware for use. And it’s not only about visual appearance. The style and cleanliness of the glass affect the appearance, smell, and taste of the beer.

The reading material for this section was found in Tasting Beer, Are You Draft Savvy?, the Glastender operation manual, and Draught Beer Quality Manual.

Select appropriate glassware

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Many establishments use shaker pints because they’re inexpensive, they stack well, and they’re easy to clean. But this is not the best type of glass to serve beer.

The shaker pint has been used for beer only since the 1980s. It was designed for making cocktails, not for drinking. Let’s be classier than that.

Different kinds of beer are best served in different styles of glassware. The type of beer being served should determine the style of glass to use. Style of glassware can be expressed in: size, shape, or branding.


In general, stronger beers should be served in smaller glasses. You don’t want to serve super high ABV in a full pint glass.

Very carbonated beers, like many Belgian beers, have a very large, fluffy head. These beers may be poured in a very large glass to allow room for the head.


First, the shape of the glass affects how it fits in the hand. An outward taper or ridges and bumps help keep the glass from slipping out of the hand. A handle or stem on a large glass serves as a handle and also prevents heat from transferring from the hand to the glass.

The shape of the glass also affects the appearance, smell, and taste of the beer. Certain styles have withstood the test of time.

A glass that tapers inward near the top will hold aromas in the glass. It also compresses the foam, making a denser head.

A glass that tapers outward near at the top will disperse the liquid more widely across the mouth. It forms a wedge for the head to rest upon itself.


Glasses with branding, such as a logo, should be matched to the beer served.

Some branded glasses are etched with a logo at the bottom. Etched glass provides “nucleation sites” that cause bubbles to be released, which replenishes the head and releases aromas.

Use beer clean glassware

Clean glass is important not only for sanitation, but also presentation of the beer. Glass that has been properly cleaned for the best beer service experience is called “beer clean.”

A dirty glass is not just plain disgusting, it can also affect the beer.

Dirty glass can cause an “off taste” or bad odors.

Glass that hasn’t been properly rinsed can have residues that kill the beer head.

Or the opposite can happen: Dirty glass can cause too many large bubbles, which will result in a large head, but the head will disappear too soon and the beer will get flat.

Glass cleaning procedure

The first step in cleaning glass is to work with clean equipment. Sinks or washing machine should be clean from chemicals, oils, or grease.

Use the proper cleaners and sanitizers, as recommended by your chemical supplier.

Three-sink method:

  1. Empty and rinse – Empty the glass into an open drain and rinse it with clean water.
  2. Wash – Wash the glass with warm water and sudless soap, using a brush. Wash it thoroughly inside and out. (Sudless soap is usually non-petroleum based.)
  3. Rinse in water – Rinse the glass in cold water that flows continuously. To ensure proper rinsing, submerge the glass with heel in first, and remove it with heel out first.
  4. Rinse in sanitizer – Rinse the glass in warm water with sanitizer. Submerge the glass with heel in first, and remove it with heel out first.
  5. Dry on rack – Dry the glass upside down on a rack or positioned in a way so that air circulates inside. Never towel-dry a glass, this can leave lint, germs or odors. Do not leave a glass to dry on a towel or flat surface, this will slow the drying process.
  6. Rinse before use – Immediately before use, rinse the glass with cold water. This removes residue from the sanitizer.

Glass washing machine:

  1. Use a dedicated machine Do not wash food dishes nor utensils in the same machine that you use to wash beer glasses. Food or dairy residue is especially difficult to clean from beer glassware.
  2. Check detergent and sanitizer concentrations daily  Follow the chemical supplier’s recommendations.
  3. Maintain proper water temperature  Temperature should be between 130-140° F (54-60° C). (High temperature machines operate at 180° F (82° C) without chemicals, but your local health department might have regulations about this.)
  4. Maintain proper flow rate  Maintenance is required to achieve proper flow rate through each nozzle and washer arm.
  5. Service intervals  Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for service intervals.

Although the processes above are recommended, your local health code might require a different procedure.

Storage – Store clean glasses positioned in a way that allows maximum air circulation. Store glasses away from odors, smoke, grease, or dust. Chilled glasses should be stored in a separate refrigerator with no food products, which can transfer odors. Never store glasses in a freezer.

Checking glass for “beer clean”

If you followed the procedures above, your glass should be beer clean for the best beer-service experience.

There are three ways to test for a beer-clean glass:

  • Sheeting test – Submerge the glass in water, heel first, then empty the glass. If it’s clean, the water will sheet off evenly and it will dry crystal clear. If it’s dirty, the water will form droplets or webbing on the dirty surfaces.
  • Salt test – Submerge the glass in water, heel first, then empty the glass. Sprinkle salt on the inside of the glass. In a clean glass the salt will cling evenly to the entire inside of the glass. If it’s dirty, the salt will not be evenly distributed and the salt won’t adhere to dirty surfaces that have a greasy film.
  • Lacing test – Fill the glass with beer. If it’s clean, foam will adhere in an even, parallel pattern after each sip. If it’s dirty, the foam will be uneven or will not adhere at all.

With the glass full of beer, also look for these signs of a dirty glass:

  • Head is formed of large bubbles and dissipates quickly
  • Bubbles form on insides of glass
  • Lace does not cling to inside of glass after each sip

Preparation to serve

After properly cleaning the glass, the last two considerations are glass temperature and a pre-rinse.

Temperature – Glass should be at proper temperature for serving beer.

Room temperature glass is preferred for most styles of craft beer. Note that highly-carbonated beers may foam in room-temperature glass.

Chilled glass is good for domestic lager beer. Be sure that glasses are completely dry before putting them into the refrigerator. Proper temperature is 38-40° F (3-4° C).

Do not freeze glasses because ice can form inside the glass, which will cause foaming.

Pre-rinse – You can use a mist device to rinse and chill the inside of the glass before using. Let the water out of the glass before filling.

Finally we know everything we need to know about serving beer. We learned about purchasing and accepting beer; legalities, liabilities and health issues; beer storage; then about draft systems; and clean and proper glassware.

So let’s talk specifically about how to serve bottled beer. Then we’ll talk about serving draft beer.

Flashcards for this section

Based on the reading materials mentioned and my notes above, here are my flashcards for this section.

3 style considerations for choosing glassware

  1. Size
  2. Shape
  3. Branding

In general, what size glass is for stronger beers?

A smaller glass.

When was the shaker pint first used for beer?

What was it designed for?

It was first used in the 1980s.

It was designed for making cocktails.

What glass features are helpful for holding?

Handle, stem, ridges and bumps.

How does an inward taper at the top of a glass affect the beer?

It holds aromas in the glass.

It compresses foam into a denser head.

How does an outward taper at the top of a glass affect the beer?

It disperses the liquid more widely across the mouth.

It forms a wedge for the head to rest upon itself.

When should a branded glass be used?

When the beer matches the branding.

How could a dirty glass affect the beer?

Off taste.

Bad odor.

Residues that kill the beer head.

Disappearing head.

6 steps to cleaning a glass (3-sink method)

  1. Empty and rinse
  2. Wash
  3. Rinse in water
  4. Rinse in sanitizer (heel in, heel out)
  5. Dry on rack (upside down)
  6. Rinse before use

Procedure for using glass washing machine

  1. Use a dedicated machine
  2. Check detergent and sanitizer concentrations daily
  3. Maintain proper water temperature: 130-140° F (54-60° C)
  4. Maintain proper flow rate
  5. Service intervals

3 ways to test for beer clean glassware

  1. Sheeting test
  2. Salt test
  3. Lacing test

3 signs of a dirty glass that is full of beer

  1. Disappearing head.
  2. Bubbles stick to the inside of the glass.
  3. Lace does not cling to inside of glass after each sip.

What is the proper glass temperature for serving beer?

Room temperature for most craft beer.

38-40° F (3-4° C) for domestic lagers.

Never freeze glassware.

What is the purpose of pre-rinsing a glass before using?

Rinse the inside of residue.

Chill the inside.

Why write the flashcards by hand?

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    I'm Nathan Pierce. I drink beer, I quit my job, and I'm planning to start a brewery. I also host a podcast about how to start a brewery. So I’m studying for Cicerone® Certification Program, Certified Beer Server exam.

    Study along with me!

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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