The Belgian and his beer glass
By Erik Verdock & Luc De Raedemaeker
Visitors from abroad are baffled when they look at our beer glasses. The Belgian beer glass really is in a world of its own. There is no other country with a greater variety of beer glasses. It is not only the shape that determines the identity of the brewery. Size and style also come into it. Our brewers are going one step further. They often feel that each beer deserves its own glass. Manna from heaven for collectors. They browse flea markets. Collectors websites and trade fairs. The hotel, café and restaurant trade does not always share this enthusiasm. After all, where do you put all those beer glasses? However, the Belgian beer lover has come to expect it. When he orders an Orval, Kwak or Chimay he wants to drink it from the correct glass. Café Anvers has many belgian beer glasses for you to enjoy your belgian beer! So come on down to the café….
The tradition of the beer glass was born in the 19th century. Before then people drank their beer from recaptacles made out of wood, ceramic, metal, porcelain, terra-cotta or enamel. In 14th century Germany introduced closed receptacles for foodstuffs to try and prevent the plague. Beer jugs were covered with a tin lid. This also protected the beer from insects crawling or flying in. The traditional wide, bulbous beer jug is reminiscent of Bavaria. The “pint” is a reference to Great Britain and Ireland. This stable, robust and masculine glass turned into the trademark of Guinness. This glass fits well in the hand and thanks to its shape, slightly wider at the top, the aromas of the stout are done full justice. The jet black color of this beer can be seen forming below the creamy head. In Belgium most beer glasses that were tied to a brand only made their appearance after the war. The current Orval glass dates back to 1947. Just like the iconic “Caétan” pils glass with its ribbed bottom. That particular glass was blown using machinery but cut by hand.
In recent years the market has been flooded with beer glasses. Marketing execs have been doing overtime and it is hard to find two glasses that are exactly the same. However, the main function of the glass shape is to do justice to the aromas and tastes of the beer. Furthermore, the glass helps to form a beautiful collar of froth that is different for each beer. The majority of beer are a reflection of the beer style involved; the chalice for abbey beers and Trappist beers, the tulip-shaped glass for a strong blond beer or pale ale, the flat, wide, massive bock glass for white beer… The bulbous, balloon-shaped glass is suitable for sark beer and the ribbed glass is characteristic of Pils. These iconic glasses belong to the beer, form part of its identity and are coveted collector’s items. Just think of Hoegaarden, Leffe, Orval, or Chimay. Some breweries are breaking the tried and trusted codes: Dupont, Dubuisson and Van Steenberge to name a few. They elevate the beer glass to a work of art. Others go for coherence by introducing one design across the board. Their beer glasses seamlessly fit the brewery in question, represent the “soul” of the beer and give much tasting pleasure to the drinker. Example include the Trappists, St Feuillien, Bosteels (Triple Karmeliet), De brabanderere (Petrus), Waterloo….The real classic drinking vessels remain the same throughout the decades. Even with closed eyes, you can recognize a Duvel glass. The same goes for the glasses of Val-Dieu, Brasserie du Bocq (Gauloise) and Grimbergen. And then you have the oddballs. This is where originality gets the upper hand on functionality. These glasses “tell a story” There is no Kwak without a coach driver’s glass. Equally, you cannot imagine a Corne du Bois des Pendus without a drinking horn or a Paix-Dieu Pleine Lune without its bulbous moon at an angle, resting on a tall stem.