What sets craft beer apart from any old ale is its multiplicity of flavors. At different moments, your craft beer could have hints of chocolate, lemon, oak, grapefruit or coffee among dozens of other tastes.
But to take those flavors to the next level, you'll need the perfect glass.
Because of the hundreds of different ways that beer can be brewed, aged, stored and poured, the shape of the glass its served in makes a significant difference on the way the beer settles and tastes to its drinker.
Matthew Cummings founded the Pretentious Beer Glass Company in August 2015 after he noticed the scarcity of unique beer glassware in an exploding craft beer industry.
“I just felt like it was a wide open market that no one was approaching or even paying attention to,” Cummings said. “The vast, vast majority of glassware, even in really good craft beer bars, is not designed for beer. They’re designed for other beverages.”
For instance, Cummings explained that many high-end bars will substitute cognac glasses for beer glasses to enhance the flavor and appearance, but those glasses, he said, are really intended for liquors.
“Everyone knows there are certain types of wine glasses, but beer is exponentially more complicated as far as flavor profiles and diversity of styles,” Cummings said. “If you think of how many different wine glasses there are and beer is more complicated than wine, it needs even more different types of glassware for it.”
Cummings was inspired to open his beer glass blowing studio after being part of a “bottle sharing” group in Louisville, Kentucky, where he worked as a gallery artist for ten years. Cummings spent his Friday afternoons sharing limited edition brews with his friends until he was persuaded to hand craft individual glasses for each member.
Six months later, Cummings had the original five.
The original five “Snobby Set” include the Hoppy Beer Glass, an Aromatic Beer Glass, a Malty Beer Glass, a Subtle Beer Glass and — the most traditional of the set — the Ale Glass.
Cummings said his glasses aren't named for any specific styles of beer, but instead for different flavor profiles.
“You can pour an IPA into two different glasses, like my Hoppy Bear Glass or my Malty Beer Glass, and one glass is going to enhance the hoppy flavor notes and the other is going to enhance the malty backbone,” Cummings said. “Any glass you choose highlights a specific element or subdues an element.
“So, you want to pick a glass that highlights the most important flavor profile of that beer.”
It isn't about choosing the fanciest, most pretentious glass though, Cummings said, It's about avoiding those glasses that don't add anything to your beer's most important flavors.
The worst glass of all — for which Cummings expressed a deep animosity — is the shaker pint glass.
“They do nothing for beer,” he said. “They do nothing for any beverage — period.
“There are places that get good beer on tap in Knoxville and then serve it in a frozen shaker pint. It’s the worst thing you could possibly do to beer. It’s terrible.”
In the absence of specialty glasses, Cummings advised drinkers to always opt for a wine glass over a shaker pint. Although it's not ideal, it's a far cry from the dreaded standard of breweries everywhere.
PBGC’s glasses average at about $35 a specialty glass, with the original “Snobby Set” of five priced at $177. All of Cummings’ glasses are hand crafted in his local studio located in the Old City, where he intends to open an adjacent brewery within the next six months.
After all renovations are complete, Cummings said the Pretentious Beer Glass Company will be the only brewery in the world where patrons can drink a beer brewed on location and out of a glass they watched blown right before their eyes.