Should you be immediately skeptical of the design of Spiegelau's new glass designed specifically for India pale ales, you may want to know that Ken Grossman was too.
The founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., who sat on a panel that chose the glass from about a dozen prototypes, admitted that the glass looks, well, let's go with Grossman's word: "unusual."
"We sort of chuckled about it," Grossman said. "But we kept coming back to the fact that it really enhances the aroma."
And there you have the point of Spiegelau's IPA glass, which will be in stores May 1. Created in conjunction with Grossman and Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, the unlikely shape is designed to highlight not just an IPA's flavor, but its florid, piney, citrus-heavy aroma. When drinking an IPA, the relationship between aroma and flavor is important.
"Flavor is mainly aroma," Grossman said. "You drink what you smell."
While many beer glasses can be appropriate for an IPA — classic American pint glasses need not apply — Spiegelau's vice president of sales in the U.S., Matt Rutkowski, believes he and his panel of craft beer all-stars have found the standard.
The shape of the glass, Rutkowski said, pours an ideal flow onto the palate for such flavorful beer: short of a gulp, but beyond a sip. Meanwhile, its oval-shaped bowl allows an IPA's pungency to coalesce in the nose, while the ridges along its stem agitate the beer with each drink, releasing added aroma and flavor.
The glass is also part of Rutkowski's ongoing agenda to demonize the American pint glass, which he compared to "drinking from a bucket" with its thick, straight sides and wide mouth. Grossman seconded the sentiment, saying he winces at the sight of his well-hopped beers — such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Torpedo Extra IPA — served in such glasses.
So is the IPA glass the remedy? I compared it to a few of my favorite glasses — including some made by Spiegelau — and come down on the side of "Yes — but it's not essential."
Though the ridges in the bottom of the glass truly re-energized the beer, and kept each sip fresh until the last, the difference between the IPA glass and other quality glassware seemed slight.
One day, an IPA would taste sprier from the IPA glass. The next day, with a different beer, I'd favor a different glass. But the differences were always narrow. The most important factor was drinking from a well-made and properly-shaped glass — and the IPA glass certainly qualifies on both counts.
Whatever you do, just leave that pint glass on the shelf.
Branded versions of Spiegelau's IPA glass are available for $9 though the Sierra Nevada (sierranevada.com) and Dogfish Head (dogfish.com) websites. On May 1, unbranded versions will be available in $25 two-packs from Spiegelau (spiegelauusa.com) and retailers including Bloomingdale's, Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel.