Pint glasses suck. They don’t bring out the best in beer, they hold more than I want at one sitting, and they’re uncomfortable to hold, particularly in a stand-up-all-night kind of social scene.
There, I said it.
When I ran this by the guys at Cracked.com, they laughed me out of their online writer’s room. I hope I can explain myself better here (’cause I always think it’s my fault, not that the guys at Cracked are brash, inexperienced,and clueless about women).
It’s not that women can’t hold a pint of beer; obviously, we do it all the time. In most watering holes they’re the only beer glass available. You have to ask specially for taster glasses, which are too small to be much good for social use (and bigger than I want for a taste). Most places don’t even have a way to charge you for a different size of glass than the pint.
If all you want is a beer, any beer, lots of beer on a Friday night, of course this doesn’t matter to you. If you’re in the mood to enjoy the taste of your beer (which is party of my relaxation on a Friday night), pint glasses just don’t do them justice.
Pint glasses hold way more beer than I want all at once, generally. I know that’s not true for a lot of people, guys especially. Their metabolisms are different, their bladders have more room to expand. Chances are I’d rather have two half-pints, often of different beers, than one whole pint, but that’s ’cause I’m paying attention to the beer. I’m past the age of getting a buzz on that lasts all night and more the age of warming up around a table with friends. I am way past the age of drinking beer just because it’s beer and must be drunk. When I finish a half-pint, I can decide if I want more beer (and whether I liked this one enough to order another). If I have a full pint, I think I have to finish all of it. I generally end up feeling bloated and uncomfortable, and probably didn’t enjoy the last third as much as I could have. What’s the point?
There are, in some places, social connotations to women ordering a pint. In the U.S., pity the under-30 girl who doesn’t; she has to look like she can keep up with the guys and have a good time doing it. In Ireland, a woman who orders a whole pint is trying to be butch. Half-pints are the thing for women. I’d be annoyed at the sexism if it didn’t align so well with how I like to drink my beer.
Here’s one the guys at Cracked really thought absurd: Pint glasses are engineered for men. Historically speaking, of course they are. Taverns and inns were open to anyone, but saloons with their long bars didn’t allow women to enter unless accompanied by a gentleman. Women who went into saloons alone were prostitutes. Some establishments had a separate room for women. Women ordered less alcoholic, genteel drinks – or more likely, their escorts ordered for them. Great pints of beer were for the men standing at the bar (men mostly stood to drink in saloons, rather than being seated at tables as is more common now). I remember this being true in the U.S. as recently as the ’60s and ’70s.
But the pint glass: think about it from my perspective: the “Shaker pint”, the standard beer glass in the U.S., weighs nearly 2 lbs when it’s full and is nearly a foot in circumference around the top. My hand is 6.5 ” from tip of my longest finger to the crease of my wrist. The “strong” part that really grips is something like five and a half inches long. I’m trying to wrap five inches of good grip around what can be up to a foot around, and hang on. I’m stronger than many women I know, but standing around holding two pounds of slick glass that I can’t get a good grip on – it’s subtle, but it’s tiring. My hand fits best around the base, which is also the best way to spill my beer. I want to hold it somewhere in the middle, but can’t ever get my hand around it. So it’s good that we lazy Americans mostly sit down to drink our beer. I need to put the damn over sized glass down.
It’s also hard to carry this too-large glass of delicious foamy brew, say, from bar to table, and not slosh it on myself. The lingering smell of spilled beer on my clothes is just not as nice as what I smell/taste in the glass. I chose my perfume carefully before I left home, thankyouverymuch, and it wasn’t stale beer. Happily, I’ve never had trouble washing spilled beer out of my clothes, or I’d really be pissed.
(In the UK pint glasses are regulated; they must hold an Imperial pint, and used to have a crown stamp and etched number to prove it. In Ireland certified pint glasses were marked with a harp. The point is they’re all the same size.)
One answer to the too-big pint: many styles of beer have their traditional beer glass shape which is NOT the pint, which helps you enjoy the fine qualities of that beer more. They are often narrower, or stemmed: easier to hold. Great German beer steins are an exception, and I think more about delivery than enjoyment anyway. For that matter, biergartens are the antithesis of the saloon in a lot of ways.
Some of these glasses are quite lovely (particularly when filled with beer with the light shining through). For example, in Germany you can often order kölsch in glasses that are much smaller than a pint, tall and cylindrical, more like an iced tea glass – a nice size for the smaller hand, and good-looking besides. In Belgium, local beers are often served at about a third of a pint – that’s a great size if you want to try more than one kind of beer in an evening. Half pints, often used as tasters (though it seems to me like a lot for a taster, but then I’m likely to want to taste several), work well for smaller hands. You just have to find a bar/restaurant that stocks them.
Moderation. We Americans are so bad at it.
If you have no idea what I mean by kölsch and tulip and so-on, take a look at these pages at TrueBeer or the Beer Advocate . Pictures are worth a thousand words, and they’ve got good clear ones. Tastings with Spiegelau’s optic glass beerware as compared to the Shaker pint show the glass makes a BIG difference in how the beer tastes (and is better-looking and easier to hold, besides). So you may want to look into having some of these not-pints around at your place, and look for them at bars and restaurants (you’ll probably find these glasses at bars that serve craft beer they’re really proud of). Don’t make a big point of it or anything, but a guy who knows that what he has is good beer, and it’d taste better in a tulip glass, is pretty darn sexy.
Full disclosure: Spiegelau hosted a tasting for us at last year’s U.S. Beer Bloggers Conference, where we poured beer from the same bottle into one of their glasses and a pint glass from the hotel bar. The difference was really striking. Some of it was the quality of the glass (Spiegelau is very proud of their optic-quality glasses) and how it interacts with the beer, but that’s nearly at the molecular level. Most of what I experienced seemed to come from how the glass funneled the aromas to my nose before the beer met my mouth, and how that changed my experience of the flavor. Noses, man – I love smelling beer and beer ingredients, trying to smell all the lovely qualities of the hops, the richness or lightness of the malt….yeah. We all know how powerful the sense of smell is. I forget how much it changes my sense of taste.