Sunday, February 10, 2013

Like drinking beer in High Definition

spiegelauMy BMW riding friend Charlie Parsons dropped by Friday evening to gift me a pair of Spiegelau wheat beer glasses.

I’d never heard of Spiegelau glasses, but I was immediately struck by the clarity and thinness of the glass.

I did some online research and tried one of the glasses out last night with a couple of bottles of Beck’s new Sapphire beer.

Since I’ve not tasted Beck’s Sapphire, it was a poor choice for evaluating the glass other than to say it was smooth and flavorful. I should have done a side-by-side test taste with Sapphire in a regular glass.

I found an  excellent review of the glasses at and now realize that Charlie gave me something really exceptional and I owe him a large debt of gratitude.

Here’s the review:

The last thing I needed as a beer geek was something new to obsess about.  Let’s face it, there’s a lot on my plate already; finding interesting beers, storing them properly, learning how to brew my own, serving beer at the right temperature, on and on and on it goes.  Now, thanks to the Spiegelau Glass Beer Classics Connoisseur set, we can add “glassware” to the list of the things that I need to be *just so* for me to truly enjoy the beer I’m drinking.

Simply put, these puppies are amazing.  It’s really night and day tasting beers side-by-side in a regular glass and one from the Spiegelau set.  My wife thought I was being a little precious by saying there was a difference, but then she tried some New Holland Dragons Milk, a beer she knows very well, in both a standard snifter and the Spiegelau stemmed beer tulip.  She actually said “whoa!” because the difference in flavor fidelity was so much better in the Spiegelau glass.

That’s for better and for worse.  In some beers, the clarity of flavor these beauties provide will help you find new things to love in your favorite beer.  I always knew I liked Dale’s Pale Ale, but I never realized it was the interplay between grapefruit and caramel that makes me so crazy for that stuff until I had it in the Spiegelau lager glass.

In other beers, the flavors that are diminished by ordinary glassware can take over and make you reevaluate your relationship with that particular brew.  I use the example of Victory Prima Pils in the video above, which is awesome in an ordinary tall pilsner glass, but becomes a peppery hop menace (to me) when poured into a Spiegelau tall pilsner vessel. I adjusted to it and still like the beer, but the herbal sweetness that drew me to Prima Pils in the first place is largely blotted out by the beer’s aggressive hop profile.

I reached out to Matt Rutkowski, a VP at Spiegelau USA, and asked him what black magic the company has worked to make these glasses so superior.  Here’s his reply, which was so well written (and I’m so lazy) that I’ve pasted it in its entirety below:

The chemistry and production of Spiegelau is what sets us apart from all others. It all starts with using the purest base ingredients. For Spiegelau, that is quartz silica (some people call this “sand”). We source our quartz silica (the primary ingredient) from the purest natural quartz mineral deposit in Europe, the Hirschau-Schnaittenbach Basin. This source is renowned for ultra pure quartz with almost no iron impurity. Iron, when is present at high levels, as is found in cheap glass, creates a green hue  (ever look at the edge of a glass table or shelf and see the green color? That’s iron in the glass). Impurities also demand that glass be made thick and rigid for structural integrity. Worse, this kind of cheap glass is full of distortions when you look through it.

Pure glass like Spiegelau does not need to be thick to be strong, because pure glass is flexible, and flexibility is where Spiegelau’s strength is derived. Just as a building in Southern California needs to be flexible, not rigid, in order to not break when under stress. The principal is the same with glass.

Pure Spiegelau glass, being colorless will visually present beer with optical-grade clarity.

Pure Spiegelau glass, being thin, will retain the cool beer temperature far longer than a thick, pint style glass. Thick glass actually draws temperature from the beer…and puts it into the glass itself, making your beer get warm quickly.

Pure Spiegelau glass is thin AND its surface is ultra smooth when viewed with an electron microscope, helping retain the precious effervescence of your beer. Cheap glass is thick AND porous which allows the beer to get warm to fast, thus robbing a beer of its fizz in a hurry.

So yes…the unsurpassed glass chemistry and high tech manufacturing process of Spiegelau absolutely does matter in how your beer will perform. Every beer is better in Spiegelau glass.

I’m not sure I agree with that last point, that every beer is better in Spiegelau glass (see Prima Pils above), but these glasses offer a clarity of flavor that makes you feel like you have the palate of a food critic.  And just like HDTV makes Adriana Lima look breathtaking and Maria Shriver look even more like Skeletor, these glasses bring out the essence of the beers served inside of them like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, for better and for worse.  I shudder to think what my homebrew might taste like in a Spiegelau glass!

You can find a starter set of these glasses on Amazon for about $40.00, which I think is a small price to pay for superhuman tasting abilities.

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