As with wine, the beer itself often gets far more attention than the vessel from which it is drunk. And, as with wine, the shape of the vessel affects the flavour.
Flavour is interpreted in the brain mostly from the signals received via the olfactory nerve in the back of your nose—not your tongue. The tongue has five basic senses, salt, acid, bitter, sweet and umami (savoury protein richness) only three of which may apply to any one beer.
The way the glass traps the aroma of the beer and channels it to the back of your nose therefore affects your perception of the beer. You may find you like a beer in one glass and not so much in another. In general, the best shape of glass for any beer is tulip- or egg-shaped, poured to no more than three-quarters full. Straight-sided glasses, often filed to the brim, do not trap any aroma and so reduce flavour.
Don’t forget to look out for bottle conditioned beer. This has had yeast added at bottling to generate secondary fermentation (to make the bubbles) and I find it takes at least two-to-three days to fully settle to the bottom of an upright bottle. The ideal way to pour beer like this is gently, in one pour, and if possible over a white surface with a ceiling light overhead. Stop as you see the tail of the yeast approaching the neck of the bottle. Enjoy bright beer.
Temperature is another factor that affects flavour. In general, the colder a liquid is, the less it evaporates and so flavour is inhibited. Mass-produced lager is far more palatable ice cold than when it warms up, mostly because at a cool room temperature you can actually taste what little unpleasant flavour it has. Higher-strength craft beer, on the other hand, may not be as quite enjoyable as the beer temperature approaches 20 °C as the alcohol will evaporate faster and mask subtle, complex flavours. Different styles of beer taste best at different cool temperatures.
As with the Japanese tea ceremony, the method and the kit is as important as the drink. If you like kit, gadgets and tools, there is much pleasure to be had from the beer glass as well as the crown cap opener. Why not make a change from popping the cap off with your teeth or a Bic lighter and treat yourself to one of the many carefully thought out, beautifully designed openers on the market? None really works better than any other if you are moderately dextrous, but as with art, the beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.
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