Beer Matters

“A Man That Looks On Glass…”

“What’s in a glass?” as Juliet might have said, “a beer in any other glass would taste as sweet.”

Anyone who has been to Belgium will know that they take their glasses very seriously over there. The bar in which I spent a significant portion of my weekend in Brugge a couple of years ago kept over 300 beers and each one came in its own unique glass; even the station buffet at Brussels Midi served all its dozen or more beers in the correct receptacle. I detect a slight trend in that direction at home – particularly with new beers aimed at “the younger drinker”.

But for most of us the choice has traditionally been “jug or straight?”. I eschewed the jug long ago, partly because the handle seemed superfluous (of course, one never picks a jug up by the handle unless it’s empty in case the handle should fall off), but also because it was the choice of the (then) middle-aged keg drinkers who were bringing about the downfall of the British brewing industry. Thus most of my (conservative estimate) 30,000 pints have been downed from the ubiquitous straight glass with a little bulge near the top.

That bulge is deceptive. When I was young there were no regulations on fresh glasses and it was normal after the first pint to have one’s glass refilled – either with a pint or a half. Being an impecunious student and noticing the apparent generosity with which halves were administered, I adopted a strategy of ordering one pint then replenishing it with a succession of halves. It was only later, when lined glasses came in, that I realised just how accurate those unmeasured halves had been.

[To digress for a moment, the clean glass rule is all very well and no doubt enacted with the best of European (ignored in Italy and zealously enforced here) hygiene (can’t allow any of those nasty little everyday bacteria that gave our forebears their robust constitution) policy in mind, but it depends how much residual detergent there is in the glass. Allied Breweries pubs were particularly bad in this respect a few years ago. At least a trace of one’s own spittle doesn’t affect the flavour of the ale.]

My preference is for those sturdy glasses with dead straight, slightly tapered sides, the sort that feature in old Guinness adverts and have made a come-back in recent years. I avoid anything that resembles a flower vase, but no drinking vessel could be as ghastly as the “glug” of the mid-80s (remember it? - dimpled like a jug but taller, narrower and no handle). Mercifully it proved universally unpopular and soon disappeared.

But in the end, Juliet was right; it’s what’s in the glass that counts. Cheers.

Maximus Bibendus

Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.

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