We've all met those people: folks who insist that if you don't use the right glassware, you'll kill the flavor of your wine or beer, and that proper enjoyment of fine alcoholic beverages is a factor of having a fussy pile of expensive drinkware.
Bad news: Much as we'd like to permanently ignore anybody calling for us to buy more random stuff for our kitchen and/or bar area, they have a valid point. Glassware can make a big difference in terms of flavor and experience when it comes to drinking serious beverages.
Good news: It's nothing that can't be solved with a couple easy rules of thumb and a few new glasses (or properly used old glasses).
Richer, more deeply flavored wines and beers like room to breathe -- sweeter, simpler, lighter varieties usually want taller, more cylinder-like glasses. If you stick to those basic rules -- and have a couple varieties of wine glasses and a couple types of beer glasses -- you can get a lot more bang for your buck with your delicious alcoholic beverages of choice. In short: always have a couple glass options on hand, and you should be set.
A couple examples, for beer:
- Rich Belgian beers, like dubbels and tripels, work well in goblet-shaped glasses that maintain the drink's foam and allow all the powerful, deep scent sensations of the beer to reach the nose.
- Light, pale beers, like lagers and pilsners, work best in tall, conical pilsner glasses that showcase the color of the beer and its simple clarity.
- Medium-bodied ales fit naturally into the good old fashioned pint glass.
- Big wines such as chardonnays like work well in glasses with wide mouths and deep bowls -- serve them in a narrow, short glass that is perfect for a Riesling and they lose their depth.
- Rieslings, by contrast, taste too acidic in a big glass, but taste sweet and wonderful in a smaller, shorter piece of glassware.
- Champagnes and other similar wines flourish in flutes, which slow the escape of gasses so as to prolong the effect of the carbonation.
Beer Advocate has a great guide to beer glasses
; Tasting-Wine.com has a similar guide for wine glasses