Respect in a Tall Glass

If you’ve ever been to a Belgian beer bar you know that those Belgians have a different glass for every type of beer, bless their souls. It seems gimmicky, but they take their beer seriously.

I was in Brussels during the Brussels Beer Weekend in the balmy month of September a few years ago.

The ‘Grand Place’ city square was cordoned off with metal gates strung with hop vines. In many ways, it looked like your typical beerfest, packed elbow to elbow with happy people.

But one oddity was the frequent cocktail tables balancing heaps of empty glassware. Every so often there would be crash of glass as the crowd ebbed and swayed in its small space.

Those Belgians just couldn’t bring themselves to disrespect the beer by pouring it into plastic cups.

Beer snobbery dictates that beer should be poured into a glass to be properly appreciated. Those grimy bottles have likely been handled by any number of the unwashed masses.

Besides, pouring the beer in a glass allows the beer to breathe and present itself in all its glory.

Sure, sometimes we want to be philistines and drink directly from the bottle. Sometimes we order ‘street meat’ from the weenie wagon. Sometimes we watch bad reality television.

It’s all part of the human experience. But when you have a date with a 10-year-old gueuze, you have to show it some respect.

The greatest affront to beer has to be when it is dispensed at an outdoor event in plastic cups. Ugh.

It’s probably some crappy pusillanimous beer made with a bunch of corn and additives. It probably has no backbone and they are serving it to you in a flimsy industrial vessel that is still off-gassing. Eeeewww.

Sometimes it is unavoidable… weddings, beerfests, high school reunions.

Sometimes it verges on being almost acceptable… say, at 3 a.m. after the bar closes in Montana, when they ask you if you want to “cup it”, i.e., get your beer to go in a plastic cup (but at 3 a.m. a lot of things seem acceptable).

Glass is the best serving vessel. It shouldn’t be frosted. It shouldn’t stink like industrial bar sanitizer. Glass is neutral and shouldn’t be stinking up your beer.

As a bonus, it is transparent, so you can actually appreciate the head, the colour and general appearance of your beer as you drink it.

It has been suggested that the introduction of glass beer vessels prompted brewers to clean up their act by using fining agents to clarify their murky beers and embracing filtering methods to get rid of those nasty floaters.

Sure, during the long history of beer, all manner of vessels have been used: earthenware vessels, wooden tankards, ceramic steins, animal horns, animal skin, stone mugs and my all time favourite, wooden “drinking bowls”.

These could serve dual purpose as breakfast bowl and conveyer of beer.

Then sexy, seductive glass hit the scene sometime in the mid 19th century and pewter tankards went the way of sock garters.

Not all glasses are created equal. When you order a pint of beer in a bar, you will get a glass of beer of some size—most of us aren’t whizzes at judging distances, never mind volume.

Your typical pint in a Canadian bar might be anywhere from 14 to 20 ounces of beer… it’s a crapshoot.

But, apparently, there is an old law on the books in Canada that says a pint of beer served in this country must be 20 imperial ounces, not the wimpy American 16-ounce pint.

If you feel strongly about this matter, you can support the Vancouver chapter of the Campaign for Real Ale`s (CAMRA) quest for clarity on the issue.

I think the ultimate beer glass has to be the one that holds a yard of ale.

I have only heard stories about this monster.

A yard of ale can be found in a very tall beer glass that holds 1.4 litres of beer, or four standard 12-ounce beers. The glass is about a yard long and is a sure-fire way to a hernia if you try “cheers-ing” with it.

It is the ultimate beer chug—the Guinness Book of World Records clocked the fastest drinking of a yard of ale as five seconds. Respect.

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