Why Drinking from a Snifter Will Better Your Beer
I once arranged an impromptu "these are my favorites" craft beer tasting for a group of friends and acquaintances in one of our tiny kitchens. Nothing fancy, just wanted to share. Looking down into the red plastic cups we had on hand with the range hood light flooding them so I could pour fairly - I figured, "this'll be fine right?" I mean, good beer is good beer, so I imagined that these beers would be impressive regardless of the vessel we drank them from.
Now, in a lot of cases, that was true. What it wasn't true for were the beers' aromas, and one of my favorites in the lineup really lost its character when sipped from plastic – it was barrel-aged Xocoveza Extra Aáejo from Stone. Don't get me wrong, it was still good, but I found myself missing some of its boldness.
During his blindfolded taste test with different glassware over on the Serious Eats blog, writer Mike Reis made a valid point about my preferred tasting glassware - snifters concentrate aroma. All of those beers I had chosen after I had tasted them before from our little Mr. Beer tasting glasses, which are snifter-style glasses.
Unfortunately, discussing color differences or haziness in the beers really wasn't going to happen either. I had chosen some beers with that gratifying haziness that reminds you of a pour of freshly made juice - but nobody could really tell from peering down into their party cup. Having tasting glasses stowed somewhere would've really been nice.
Tasting snifters are ideal for that friend who might desert a good beer, letting it get hot and flat, because they realized two sips deep that they weren't psyched. Save your precious suds by having that traitor taste test.
I'm not the only one who feels that disposable plastic cups don't cut it, Beeradvocate said of using glassware – "Hidden nuances become more pronounced, colors shimmer, and the enjoyment of the beer simply becomes a better, more complete, experience." I personally feel that's true, but then I also accept that not everyone cares to create a "complete experience" every time they crack open a beer. Allow me to state the facts and give serving suggestions so you can see for yourself.
Snifter Glasses vs. Snifter-style Beer Tasting Glasses
- Snifters can typically run up to 34 oz. while beer tasting glasses will hold about 5 oz.
- The Snifter was designed for enjoying brandy, cognac, & whiskey, though they are also used to serve strong ales. Beer tasting glass are for tasting all sorts of beer.
Shape & Benefits
- wide-bowled – giving room to swirl and agitate volatiles (the stuff that creates aroma)
- tapered lip – to capture aromas
- short-stemmed – so that the contact of your palm can slightly warm the beverage, which is said to activate aromas
Don't confuse a snifter with a goblet glass or a pokal.
Beers that Would Taste Great in a Snifter Glass
If you head to your favorite local brewery or brewpub, you're likely to find that the beers being poured into Snifter glasses are strong ales and bold Belgian ales. They benefit the most from the Snifter's aroma-trapping shape.
To our homebrewers, I'd suggest pouring one of the following into your snifter glass to see the difference drinking from glassware really makes:
American Burleywine, because it's a Barleywine
Leggy Blond Belgian, because it's a Belgian Pale Ale
Chewbeerca Belgian IPA, because it's a specialty Belgian IPA
Amberosia Tripel, because it's a Belgian Tripel
Gigantor Quad, because it's a Belgian Quad
and Heavy McWee because it's a Scottish Heavy.
All Beer Styles to Serve in a Snifter Glass
According to Beeradvocate:
American Barleywine American Double / Imperial IPA American Double / Imperial Stout American Strong Ale Belgian Dark Ale Belgian Pale Ale Belgian Strong Dark Ale Belgian Strong Pale Ale Braggot Eisbock English Barleywine Flanders Oud Bruin Flanders Red Ale Foreign / Export Stout Gueuze Lambic – Fruit Old Ale Quadrupel (Quad) Russian Imperial Stout Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy Tripel Wheatwine