Ugly pint glasses begone! They do little to enhance the flavour and drinking experience of beer and cider and encourage huge glugs that channel the liquid to the throat so it is swallowed before the brain has chance to register the subtleties of the libation. That is the equivalent of a dog gobbling its food without chewing. Beer and cider are magnificent partners for food but because they are so widely served in cumbersome pint glasses have gained an unfair perception of being declassé and not worthy of a place on the dining table.
Brewing and cider making is an art, a craft and an expression of the mystical properties of yeast. Fermented drinks have an extraordinary array of aromas and flavours and the vessel in which they are consumed can amplify or diminish them. Depending on the ingredients fermented beverages vary in body, acidity, tannins, texture. These factors can also be heightened by the shape of glass they are served in.
If you are planning this year's Christmas dinner may I suggest that you give beer and cider a chance and serve it in appropriate glassware. Taste for yourself why those particular libations go so well with seasonal fayre and how much better the drinking experience is with an elegant shaped glass. Beer and cider need different shaped glasses because they have different properties. Beer tends to have bigger body than cider, more powerful aromas, and a combination of flavours that need to hit certain parts of the tongue to be fully appreciated. With cider think of it as apple wine - it has acidity and tannins - so serve it in a wine-glass.
This is a guide to Christmas dinner with beer and cider and how glassware enhances each.
Smoked salmon: The texture is oily so it needs beer and cider with the acidity and tannins to cut through it.
Beer: Try a sour style called Berliner Weissbier it has invigorating fruity tartness.
Cider: Kingston Black - this is name of the apple varietal and the cider is sharp and dry with firm acidity and tannins. .
Glassware for both beer and cider: Loire wine glass. This is tall and slim with a medium sized bowl and a narrow rim that enhances the freshness of the aromas and balances the fruit and acidity of the flavours in the beer and cider.
Goose is flavoursome gamey, rather fatty meat so it needs something bold and dry.
Beer: Stout. A big flavoured dark beer with bitterness and tannins to stand up to the meat. Drink it from a Tulip - this glass has a large bowl that tapers into a narrow mouth. This traps aroma, maintains the head and presents the beer so it looks beautiful.
Cider: Dry cider. Its acidity, tannins and astringency handle the flavour and texture of goose. Serve in a Burgundy glass with a wide bowl that tapers towards the rim. Acidic cider with moderate tannins is enhanced with this shape because it is directed to the tip of the tongue where the fruit is highlighted and acidity balanced.
Turkey is a dry textured lightly flavoured meat so the drinks choice should not overwhelm it.
Beer: Golden ale. The juicy character of the beer contrasts with the dry texture of the turkey. Drink it from a Tumbler. The large mouth of the glass permits a sip that covers all parts of the palate. The sweet biscuit malt registers at the tip of the tongue, acidity at the side and bitterness at the back.
Cider: Medium dry with soft fruit character to add a sweet juiciness to the meat's texture and acidity to refresh the palate. Serve in a Pinot Grigio glass. It has a small bowl with a tapering neck designed to enhance acidity.
Nut Roast : The texture is dense and the taste can be bland that is why the drinks need to compensate by adding acidity and savoury flavour.
Beer: Brown ale is a combination of bitter and sweet with a nutty character to complement the nut roast. Choose a Snifter - also called a balloon because of its bulbous bowl shape. It tapers at the top and the narrow mouth promotes sipping so the beer hits the tip of the tongue where sweetness is registered and then slowly covers the palate so the umami and bitter tastes are revealed.
Cider: Medium dry oak aged dry cider with firm tannins and fruity acidity for balance. The cutting ability of tannins and acidity lighten the texture of this dish. Drink from a Rhone wine glass with a large bowl and a wide mouth that enhances aroma and smoothens the tannins.
Christmas Cake/Mince pie: These desserts can be dense and cloying in texture - they need bitterness or tannins for balance.
Beer: Barley wine. This full-bodied bittersweet style of beer is the equivalent of Christmas cake in a bottle so it complements the fruity fayre. Serve it in a tall slim Thistle glass with a narrow rim and large bowl. The bowl promotes swirling to release the fulsome fruity aromas while the narrowness of the mouth enhances the beer's head and encourages sipping to register the beer's sweetness.
Cider: Dry with firm tannins to match the density of these desserts. Use a Bordeaux wine glass. They are tall with a full-sized bowl tapering at the rim. The shape pours the cider to the mid-palate for a balance of fruit, acidity and tannin.
If you want advice on specific brands that do what I note above then read A Guide to Christmas Dining with Beer & Cider written by me for the Friends of Glass.
Bottoms of your very elegant glasses up!