Beer Banter

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A Guide to Proper Beer Glassware: Brown Ale

A Guide to Proper Beer Glassware: Brown Ale
SHARING:

It's at this point in the series that I am excited to cover possibly the most iconic beer glass in modern day drinking: the shaker pint glass and the slightly newer nonic pint glass.

If you have ever ordered a beer at a local pub or sports bar, chances are it was served in a shaker pint glass. The shaker pint is a standard sixteen ounce glass with smooth walls that opens up a bit at the top. It's simple, strong and utilitarian in its purposes. It rose to prominence in the American bar scene for two simple reasons.

First, its ease of use from stacking to washing made it ideal to serve drinks in. Anyone who's worked in the restaurant or service industry knows that the shaker pint glass is great for stacking and transporting a large number of glasses quickly. It fits easily on a tray and the simplistic design is sturdy, unlike other glasses such as a tulip, chalice or flute.

Second, it fits as the other half of a shaker (hence its name) and is sturdy enough to withstand the shaking required to make a mixed drink. The utilitarian principles were the driving factor in the rise of the shaker pint glass.

It’s great for drinking American Brown Ales, like Brooklyn Brown Ale and Druthers Fist of Karma Brown Ale. The conical shape of the glass allows for a large head to form and stay. Likewise, American Brown Ales are known for easy drinking. The wide top of the shaker pint glass allows high volume fluid transfer with ease. The “drinkability” aspect of the conical pint also helped its rise to popularity in the bar scene.

However, regardless of the mildly dry pragmatic origins, there's still something comforting in the unassuming nature of the glass. For this reason, I find the glass is also versatile. In a pinch, I would be hard pressed to find any beer that cannot be drunk out of a shaker. I know some glassware experts would disagree, but to me, the shaker glass has that simple, inviting form that welcomes all beer. 

To specialize the shaker just a bit more, Hugo Pick developed what is known as the nonic pint, or “no-nick,” in the early 1900s. The nonic pint is exactly the same as the shaker pint except for a prominent bulge that the glass features roughly two-thirds up the glass. The bulge has two uses.

To start, it adds strength to the glass itself. The term “no-nick” is used to describe the additional sturdiness of the glass that is due to the bulge design. The bulge grants the glass strength to withstand stacking pressure, as the glass rests on the bump of the one below it. Bartenders obviously love this aspect of the glass as it prevents the lips from nicking and allows for easier stacking.

The second aspect is the bulge acts as a handle for the glass. Shaker pints lack a grip and often get slippery once condensation builds up on the outside. The bulge of the nonic pint provides a bit of texture to prevent slippage.

The bulge can also be argued to help with the formation and preservation of a head, though I haven't seen any definitive evidence pointing any which way. Regardless, the nonic pint glass is perfect for British Brown Ales, such as Davidson Brother's Brown Ale or RS Taylor & Son's Nut Brown Ale. But, again like the shaker, the nonic is one of those glasses that I feel you can put nearly any beer in and enjoy it. It's strong, utilitarian, unassuming and comforting in its simplicity. 

That's enough from me; I'd love to hear what you think and whether or not you prefer the nonic or shaker design.

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Stephen Pendergast
Stephen Pendergast

Steve Pendergast is a beer and food enthusiast. After going to school in Albany, he's split his time between drinking beer and writing about it. He's always searching for a new craft beer to try, and loves finding the local brewpub to immerse himself in the unique taste that each town develops. When he's not writing or reading, you can be sure to find him sitting by a campfire with a bottle of Green Blaze in hand or hiking whatever mountains are close at hand.

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