Berrong on Beer - Building a better drinking vessel
April 17th, 2013
11:30 AM ET
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Nathan Berrong works at CNN's satellite desk and writes Eatocracy's beer column, "Berrong on Beer." He Tweets at @nathanberrong and logs beers at Untappd.

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.

The "Topless" Can

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.

The Bräuler

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.

IPA Glass

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:

Temperature
I took the temperature of the beers in both glasses at the beginning, then 20 minutes later and then 20 minutes after that. The beer started at 50 degrees, but by the next reading, the IPA glass was at 51 degrees and the pint glass was at 55 degrees. The final temperature reading: IPA glass – 53 degrees, pint glass – 59 degrees.

Head
The foamy head on both beers was relatively the same from the beginning - about one inch. But, as I continued to drink both, the head faded on the pint glass and was nonexistent by the end of the beer. The head on the IPA glass, however, only slightly decreased and maintained a head of around 3/4 to 1/2 inch throughout.

Aroma
The most distinct difference I noticed with the glasses was the aroma. It wasn’t even close. The IPA glass really stood out and smells of maple syrup, floral hops and alcohol were much more detectable over the pint glass.

Appearance
The IPA glass also won on appearance. The beer in the IPA glass looked, strangely enough, beautiful. The color subtly progressed from light to darker as I looked at the glass from the bottom up. This is due to the odd shape which illuminates the light differently at various parts of the glass. The same beer in the pint glass looked one dimensional.

Effervescence
And then there are the bubbles. The etching at the bottom of the IPA glass definitely serves a purpose. Tiny, beautiful bubbles shot from the bottom and lasted from beginning to end. The beer in the pint glass was calm and still and, compared to the IPA glass, looked boring.

Taste
Now the most important part: the taste. Frankly, there wasn't much of a noticeable difference in the initial sips. It’s a great beer to start with and it still tastes great out of both glasses. However, as I continued to drink the beer, it finished better in the IPA glass, mostly due to the cooler temperature in the IPA glass which the pint glass could not maintain.

Verdict
My overall verdict is that the IPA glass delivers and is definitely superior to the traditional pint glass. The IPA glass, or any beer-specific glass for that matter, isn’t necessarily out to improve upon the taste of the beer; rather, it’s intended to maintain the taste the brewer had in mind from the first sip until the very last. The IPA glass absolutely accomplishes that.

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

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Filed under: Beer • Berrong on Beer • Sip


soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Private personal training

    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. This is so true, it's not just isolated to just beer.

    January 28, 2014 at 9:14 pm |
  2. wine lover gifts

    · Get creative. There's no rule that says gourmet gifts have to actually be placed in "baskets". They can be placed in boxes, on platters, etc. There are also gift towers to consider, which include multiple boxes placed on top of one another.

    August 9, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  3. wine lover gifts

    Get creative. There's no rule that says gourmet gifts have to actually be placed in "baskets". They can be placed in boxes, on platters, etc. There are also gift towers to consider, which include multiple boxes placed on top of one another.

    April 26, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
  4. Sommelier

    "...a game of cornhole in a park"?

    April 22, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  5. A rose is a rose

    A Bräuler? You mean Bro-ler? What ever. Where I come from they are called a thermos.

    April 22, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  6. Smokey

    There are only two ways to drink beer. With a beer bong. Or with the glass boot. Anything else, and you might as well hold your pinkie finger out while sipping it.

    April 22, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  7. Brew-na-tics in Captain Cook

    Look at the SS Growler Swing top stainless growler...pretty Cool!!

    cheers,,
    Lono

    April 21, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
  8. Brian

    Butt Plug, for sure.

    April 20, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  9. Bob1god

    Nothing like a ice-cold good beer on a hot day! But at home it's scotch rocks.

    April 20, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  10. tom horbett

    Nice article and good beerology

    April 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  11. cryptobrewology

    I'm looking forward to doing the IPA test to corroborate... :)

    April 18, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  12. Jason

    NEW Sam Adams glass? that design has been out for years...

    April 18, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  13. VTBeerLover

    I haven't had a chance to try the new IPA glass, but I discovered the only way I like to drink IPAs about a year ago... out of a nice big wine glass. Wine glasses are already designed to allow aromas to escape. As far as bubbles and temp go I can't say. Straight out of the bottle I was never a fan of an IPA, but once I put it in a red wine glass I was able to enjoy all of the delicious aromas that go along with the bitter brew. It works to enhance any style of beer really (although I'm not sure I'd encourage generic beer drinkers to try this, there's not much in a Bud Light I'd want to enhance).

    April 18, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  14. SamCameFirst

    Looks like the Germans copied the Americans on the beer glass – Sam Adams developed one with the same features in 2007 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TIAX#Samuel_Adams_Beer_Glass

    April 18, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  15. Tim

    I've seen many references from beer manufacturers referencing metal cans keeping beer cold longer or colder like the brauler claim above and in fact there are can industry websites claiming the same, but this makes no sense to me. I can understand the claims that beer in cans will chill quicker, but keeping it cold longer is contradictory. [Warning geekiness ahead] The specific heat of aluminum and glass is similar but glass bottles have much more mass than aluminum cans and therefore, once cold, should retain that temperature proportionately longer, and the heat capacity of steel is barely half of glass and aluminum so it should loose heat even faster. Does anyone have a plausible explanation for this claim? or is it just marketing hooey.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • VTBeerLover

      The metal growlers are double walled which is what provides the insulation necessary to keep the beer cold. These growlers can also be used for hot beverages if desired. One of my friends has one and it does indeed keep the beer cold all day long.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  16. Nomad

    The apparent change in color from bottom to top is because you are looking through that much less beer at the bottom.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  17. DrinkingForTheTaste

    I don't see why people get off their tits in anger just because some people want to enjoy good beer. Beer can be just like anything else in the world. Once you get into it, you want to try various things and also try the best. I'd hate to know that I had to drink Natural Light my entire life when practically every other beer in this world is better.

    Personally, I'm looking forward to checking out all the things mentioned in this article. Especially the IPA glass!

    April 18, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • PubRat13

      The IPA glass is definitely worth the purchase. I absolutely love mine, it's a great looking glass and it really does enhance the nose and enjoyment of the beer. I love craft beer for the artistry and dedication these brewers have to their offerings, well Sam and Ken have done the same thing with this drink ware. They worked on this project for months and months to offer a product that they truly felt enhanced the appearance, nose, and taste of their beers.

      May 3, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  18. Homer

    "Only pussies get drunk off beer" -old Irish adage

    April 18, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  19. Seamus

    Beer snobbery now rivals wine snobbery, if not worse.

    April 18, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • Chris

      Not in the least. Beer drinkers just like beer. It's not snobbery. The reason it seems that way is because this country is going through a beer renaissance. We've been stuck with very little choice over the last 50 years and because of that people are now taking up craft beer as a hobby. My GF looks at my funny for enjoying the smell of my beer. My father thinks I drink weird beer. Point being, most people have no clue how good, good beer can be.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:34 am |
      • Seamus

        "most people have no clue how good, good beer can be."

        point.

        April 18, 2013 at 9:43 am |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        Chris couldn't be any more correct. Rep

        April 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
      • PubRat13

        Beautifully said Chris!

        May 3, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
  20. Jerv

    Pabst Blue Ribbon. Nuf said.

    April 18, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • Bill d.

      Ewwwww! Are you trying to be humorous? Ewwwwwww!!!!!

      April 18, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Chris

      A beer that last won a ribbon in the 1800's? A beer that has an after taste akin to Budweiser? I'm not saying I haven't enjoyed one, but it's a hipster beer.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:35 am |
      • J'Sun

        Hipster adult beverage. I wouldn't really consider those tasteless drinks beer. Craft beer, is beer.

        April 18, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • Flagwaver

      Dang Spanky. What's more' Merican than a Red White and Blue.

      April 24, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
  21. Hue Jastle

    you drink beer to get drunk... all this other crap is frivolous... I know someone who thinks they are a connoisseur will argue but please... cmon... you are just trying to fancy up your drinking problem haha

    April 18, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • drewthinks

      Could not disagree more. I would go so far as to say that if Hue Jastle is not an admitted alcoholic himself, he may be a closet alcoholic.

      April 18, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • AGeek

      As a guy who sits down to enjoy a single beer; you're full of crap. I don't drink to get drunk. I drink a single, amazing beer for the flavor and to enjoy the fruits of the craftsman who has spent years mastering their craft. Heathen.

      April 18, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • MACT

      Apparently YOU only drink to get drunk, but most don't.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • pmmarion

      I drink beer for the taste. To get drunk I drink 100 proof Mr. Boston Vodka. It does the trick nicely.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:20 am |
      • Artieess

        In the Baltimore area we have or had Pride of Baltimore vodka. A college buddy used to mix it with yoohoo chocolate drink to make a Baltimore Black Russian.

        April 20, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • Bill d.

      I drink beer cause I love the taste. Nothing beats a cold beer on a hot summer day.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Lana

      What are you, 15?

      April 18, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • Chris

      It really is an acquired taste. The more styles and brands you drink the more you develop your pallet. The more the subtle notes jump out at you. Drinking isn't just about getting drunk. People think because I enjoy Scotch that I just like getting wasted. No, it's absolutely delicious.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  22. Gemma Seymour-Amper

    Too bad they didn't thinkto consult a German speaker before they produced the product and all the marketingf materiel. "The Broiler" is an embarrassing name, unless you're filling it with puréed Hühnerfleisch...

    April 18, 2013 at 2:35 am |
  23. Josh

    HA, your friend is correct, upon a second glance it does indeed look like a butt plug. None the less, I still want a glass.

    April 18, 2013 at 2:09 am |
  24. stephen48739

    I use a Mason jar to hold my beer. It works great!

    April 18, 2013 at 12:16 am |
  25. john

    Well, does it hold more than a pint?

    April 17, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
  26. Traditional

    How manly I'll look in the pubs! Really... I appreciate your taste experiences with the IPA glass. However I'm one who won't be taking the temperature or sniffing too deeply into my Delaware Dogfish Head. IPA's are just good... and I'll drink them with the glass I'm given, or the glasses that I like at home. Do we like that new Sam Adams glass (not an IPA)? It looks good in airports and bars, but it seems to subtract from a good ole Sam and just feels weird in my hand. This looks like another marketing opportunity to me...

    April 17, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
  27. German Beer Fan

    edit, should be "Bräuler"

    April 17, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
  28. German Beer Fan

    "Bräuer"??? Really??? Did they ever stop to think that it's pronounced "BROILER"?
    The German word Brauer sounds like "brower" but Bräu sounds like "broy". Those two dots (umlaut) make a big difference!

    April 17, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
  29. Thezel

    Sam Adams also has a new can design to help with aromas. Their new glass design works wonders on beer.

    April 17, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
  30. BeerAndLoathing

    Time to bust out the tickertape! It's always awesome to bring craft beer in the States to the next level.

    I'm especially excited about the topless can. Although you're right Nathan, spillage might be an issue. This could be a great alternative for glass-free areas; you know like parks, the beach, etc. and is a lighter weight alternative when you have to carry your beer in and out (e.g. camping/hiking). Now there is a good alternative for beer snots, such as myself, that like a good craft brew outside.

    April 17, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
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