Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The No-Frills Tumbler
For many (or, probably, most) beer drinkers, this is their first introduction to beer glassware. Commonly called, simply, the pint glass, it's also referred to as a tumbler and makes up one half of the Boston Shaker, used to mix cocktails.
In the U.S., these glasses are just about always 16 fl. oz. and are easily the most common glasses found in bars. Part of the tumbler's ubiquity owes to practical concerns -- it's rugged, stackable, easily washable, and cheap.
Tumblers do a good job of holding beer, and that's about all most people ask of them. They don't contain aromas particularly well, at least not compared to many other styles of glassware, and their simple design offers little in the way of added visual flair.
Yet, the tumbler's easy acquirability and popularity among bar owners makes it the favorite glass for slapping a on brewery logo, at least here in America. Try to think of a brewing company that has not made up its own logo pint glasses. There may be one or two, but they would constitute a minuscule proportion. In this regard, bar owners can stock a "selection" of glasses (which they could have very well gotten for free) from different breweries without having to deal with physical incompatibility. In return, the brewery gains the (real or perceived) value of cheap advertising to bar patrons and, depending on how much the bartender is paying attention, customers get the pleasure of drinking a particular beer out of its own glass.
Breweries aren't the only ones to routinely decorate the tumbler. Bars, universities, even TV shows have their own pint glasses. So common is the screen-printed pint glass that sheer variety can, in plenty of respects, make up for the glass' structural simplicity. The dedicated beer glass collector could spend a lifetime hunting down attractively embellished tumblers.
Pint glasses can have entertainment value, as well. Some have drinking games printed on them. Others are adorned with witticisms. And surely there must exist a market, likely satisfied, for pint glasses emblazoned with naked women -- although this blogger is only now speculating.
The tumbler is an all-purpose glass, and as such most styles of beer find their way into it. But frankly, it's best to chose a style that is impacted the least from the tumbler's physical limitations. Light lagers are the most obvious choice -- they tend to have little in the way of aroma and head retention, anyway. Other average-strength ales and lagers can go in the tumbler, but as gravity and aromatics increase, so too does the advantage of reaching for a snifter or similar glass.