Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Pokal Pilsner Glass

Toss the word "pokal" into any Internet search engine and see what comes back. If Google et al. are to be believed, the pokal is little more narrowly defined as a beer glass than is, say, the pint glass. (In the case of the latter, do you mean a tumbler? A nonic? A tulip?)

Beeradvocate offers this: A pokal is typically "tall, slender and tapered" ... "a European Pilsner glass with a stem."

That's descriptive and potentially helpful, but how "slender" is this offering from Kulmbacher? This and other examples (how about this beauty from Sierra Nevada?) suggest that the pokal as a category is a flexible one – accommodating relative diversity in terms of height, roundness, stemmed-ness, and so on.

Let's go ahead and (OK, arbitrarily) take the glass at the right as our standard pokal. You'll note its tall, narrow body, footed design (in this case, no real stem per se, though it does offer a thick, narrowing base), and tapered mouth. On this last count the pokal differs from other Pilsner glasses you may have seen that feature a distinct flare at the top. (We'll discuss those at a future date.)

Certainly, Pilsner and other lighter beers are most logical choices for the pokal. Anything that is not too heavy on flavors or aromas, or color if you're interested in aesthetics, will find the pokal a comfortable fit. The more delicate the better. (But please – to a point. Let us say unequivocally that it's better to drink a Pils from this glass than an O'Doul's.)

The pokal's design is meant to show off a Pilsner's bright color and clarity. (That may sound like an obvious thing to say about a vessel made of glass, but in this case the pokal's elegant look serves to compliment the Pilsner's brilliance, delicate color, fluffy white head, crisp flavor, and so on. In this way, the refined-looking pokal is a proper match for Pils, which had historically been regarded as a beer of tantalizing luxury.) Also, the glass' tapered top should help gather up head and aromas.

Whatever its precise form, the pokal is likely to make just about any beer look good. And who can deny the allure of a well poured Pilsner (tall, blonde, and available), beckoning the prospective drinker from its elegant vessel?

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