Confessions Of A Glass Hoarder

If breweries insist on giving away glasses and bars keep having pint night promotions, Jim is going to need more storage space.

As long as I can remember, I've loved glassware. I think it might stem (no pun intended) from the cut glass whisky tumblers, sherry glasses and decanter we had in a display case when I was a kid. I reckon they must have been family heirlooms because neither of my parents drank booze more than once or twice a year. I loved the way the light played on them and, if I held one in just the right position, how it would act as a prism and split the light into its component colours: Richard of York Gained Battles In Vain (along with SOHCAHTOA, one of the few mnemonics I remember from my school days). They were probably very good quality old lead crystal, and I wish I knew where they are today.

I also find logos fascinating, as long as they're well-designed. I'm sure we can all cite instances of logos that make little or no sense or which we find visually abrasive. Personally, I'll take London 1948 over London 2012 every time. What were they thinking?

If someone takes a piece of glassware and adds a colourful and attractive brewery logo to it, they've got me hook, line and sinker. I can't resist it, and if you look at that small collection pictured above I think you can understand why (only two of those are in my cupboard, at least for now - the Guinness and the New Belgium). It's not just a visual thing, of course. Even without decoration the glasses themselves are useful as well as pleasing to look at, and some of them, like the Chimay chalice or the Sam Adams Perfect Pint glass are actually quite sensuous as well as being specifically designed to enhance the enjoyment of your beverage, although I think the Sam Adams glass is somewhat over-designed (and partly based on misinformation about the sense of taste), but that doesn't stop me from using my own glass almost every day. It's a very satisfying object to hold and I'll be quite sad on the day it gets broken, as glass inevitably does.

Not content with making some (most?) of the best beers to be found on the planet, the Belgians are probably the best known of all beer-drinking people for employing an astonishing range of glassware, insisting on specific shapes and branded glasses for each one. That must sometimes be a logistical nightmare for bar owners, not just in terms of storage but also given the fact that several patrons will no doubt find it difficult to resist the temptation to walk out with that Duvel tulip under their coat. For me, one of the most aesthetically pleasing glasses to be found in Belgium isn't even for a Belgian beer - it's the thistle-shaped glass used for the Scotch ales that are popular there.

It is entirely possible to get a little too precious about beer glasses. In beer reviews you'll often see the reviewer citing not just the shape of the glass the beer was poured into but also the brewery, as if that really mattered. A chalice is a chalice is a chalice, I reckon, and all these folks are really doing is showing off that they have one from Chimay, Westmalle, Rochefort etc. If you pour a beer into a Guinness tulip pint it's not necessary to add that it's a Guinness 250 glass. Incidentally, there was a time when you could order a pint of Guinness and get it served in a very sexy rounded glass tankard with the Guinness name on it. These must be so rare nowadays that no one has even posted a picture that Google can find, but it was shaped very much like this.

As I mentioned a week or two back, I'm also not against the straight pint glass the way that some are because it fulfils one important criterion: keep it simple, stupid. There are variations on the theme, such as the Guinness tulip pint (see above), the Hoegaarden tumbler and the Nonik which, although it has a certain charm, is definitely not the most attractive piece of barware. However, if you slap a nice beer-related logo on it and offer it up at a pint night or a brewery, it's going home with me, no question.

Keeping it simple includes adding a handle. I've never been too enamoured of the dimple mug, partly because it has certain... well, I won't beat about the bush - class connotations. I've found the dimple to be associated with a more middle class drinker, while the straight is usually considered the preference of the average working man (and woman too). All class warfare aside, what irks me most about the dimple is that handle. It's not the right shape and not comfortable to hold while the glass is more than half full because you can only get one or two fingers in it, and the seam where the two halves of the mould the glass was pressed in meet usually runs down the length of the handle making it even more uncomfortable.. The old school fluted glass, as shown in this advert is much more to my liking, both aesthetically and ergonomically. You can get all four fingers into that handle and grip it properly while you tip the contents into your mouth. Sadly, those had all but disappeared from pubs by the time I started drinking. Here's an example from more than 60 years ago. Maybe it's time they made a comeback.

Examples of not keeping it simple include the Pauwel Kwak, complete with wooden stand, the similarly shaped yard of ale, often seen hanging on brackets above the bar in country pubs, and the German boot. Any glass which requires a stand to stop it from falling over or which has the potential to douse the drinker in beer if they don't do it right is no beer glass at all in my opinion, no matter how sexy it looks.

It seems that my apartment will continue to fill up with branded glassware - there are so many I still don't have, most of which I probably don't need. Although I don't (yet) own a set of Beer Hunter glasses (it will happen, oh yes), I have at least one glass close enough to each of those four shapes, and if the Beer Hunter himself says those are all you need, that's good enough for me. My problem now is that if I'm drinking a beer from a brewery and one of that brewery's glasses is in my cupboard, I have to use that particular glass for the beer.

I will be talking to someone about this soon and getting help, I promise.