I’m always looking for better beer. I’m not content with run of the mill breweries and with the continued growth of craft beer and new breweries popping up daily, there’s really no excuse for drinking bad beer. But getting the beer from source (brewery) to destination (mouth) isn’t as straightforward as one might think.
Luckily, designers and brewmasters are working together to improve vessel technology. Here are three design innovations to optimize the beer drinking experience.
As canned beer continues to grow in popularity it was only a matter of time before the traditional can got a makeover. The vessel has many strengths, but it also mutes one of the many pleasures of drinking good beer – the aroma. The small pull-tab opening prevents the beer from “breathing” and thus, masks the aroma of the beer, which, studies have shown, affects the way we taste something. Get close for a whiff of a beer in a normal can and you risk cutting your nose on the small opening.
Pennsylvania's Sly Fox has a fix for this (mostly beer geek) problem: a "topless" 360 Lid that comes off completely. They are the first U.S. brewery to put the can into market. And for those worried about cutting their mouth on the new 360 Lid, Crown Beverage Packaging, manufacturers of the new lid, says it won’t be an issue. Crown’s Brian Thiel told today.com, “Once the lid is removed, consumers do not come into contact with any rough edges as they drink from the can.”
My only real concern with this new “topless can” is that it somewhat defeats one of the many reasons for drinking beer out of a can. Namely, spillage. I’m wondering what playing a game of cornhole in a park, a round of disc golf or riding in a boat looks like with this new can. These are situations where only a canned beer makes sense and I can only imagine lots of beer sloshing out of a topless can.
Residents of Pennsylvania, New York or New Jersey, can judge for themselves as the new cans are debuted on Sly Fox’s Helles Lager, a Great American Beer Festival award winning beer that should satisfy Bud, Miller and Coors drinkers and beer aficionados, alike.
Like cans, growlers continue to be a growing trend in the world of craft beer. A typical growler is a 64-ounce glass jug used to take home fresh beer from the tap at a brewery, beer store, or bar. They have, however, have been problematic for enjoying beer at the pool, camping, on the beach or any other place glass is prohibited or prone to breaking. No more, say the folks behind The Bräuler, a stainless steel beer growler that is virtually indestructible. The Bräuler's inventors also claim that it keeps beer colder and holds CO2 much better than standard glass vessels - essential when getting beer from a tap and saving it to enjoy later.
The only downside to The Bräuler is the cost. Many beer drinkers own several glass growlers and even collect some that have brewery logos on them. This is an affordable hobby because most growlers only cost about $5. The Bräuler retails for around $50. This would make a great gift for a beer lover, but probably won’t have the same mass appeal or popularity as the traditional glass version.
Glassware is a part of the beer drinking experience that should not be overlooked. Much like smell, our sense of sight plays a role in how we perceive or taste something, and the proper glass can take a boring-looking beer and turn it into a thing of beauty. Each beer style has a specific type of glass designed to showcase the particular nuances of the beer. Pour the same beer into the pint glass and into a snifter, and you’ll notice the differences.
The pint glass has long been the standard for IPAs, but German glassware company, Spiegelau, wondered if it could be improved upon. After countless research sessions and prototypes, designers developed what they believe to be the end-all-be-all glass designed specifically for IPAs. To further add credibility, Spiegelau called on two craft beer pioneers – Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada – to assist in picking the final design. The result is the brand new IPA glass (pictured above).
The walls are thinner than those of traditional glasses, which helps the liquid maintain a consistent temperature. A hop leaf is etched onto the bottom of the glass, causing tiny bubbles to rise and accentuate the beer's carbonation as it is poured. The top half is bulb-shaped to accentuate an IPA's distinctive aroma. The bottom half of the glass is rippled, causing beer to cascade as it's drunk, maintaining the foamy head that brewers and drinkers desire. Or so Spiegelau claims.
I wasn’t convinced, though, so I did my own testing of the glass at home. I poured the same beer, Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA, from the same bottle, and poured the same amount into a standard pint glass and into my new Sierra Nevada-branded IPA glass. Here is what I found:
But there are a few factors that might prevent this new glass from becoming the standard. The glass is so thin, I can’t imagine it working in a bar setting and the price, compared to pint glasses, is pretty steep. The IPA glass retails for $10-12, but it's currently out of stock at the Spiegelau and Dogfish Head websites, so maybe the price isn’t deterring many customers after all. (As of this writing, Sierra Nevada still has some available).
Lastly, the glass might be a little too “out there” in its design to attract a big enough audience. A friend commented on an Instagram photo I took of the glass and remarked that it looked similar to an object designed for another kind of adult activity. You be the judge on that one.
What do you think? Are these new beer vessels worthy or just a gimmick? Let me know in the comments below. And regardless of the vehicle used to get the beer into your mouth, as long as it’s good craft beer, you can’t go wrong.
Previously - Why I drink good beer