Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, we can safely say that summer has arrived. With this change of seasons comes the opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite warm-weather activities: the consumption of German wheat beer. Wheat beers, whether they are of the filtered or unfiltered variety (I tend to go for the more flavorful unfiltered type), are to summer what porters, stouts, and barley wines are to winter. Incredibly refreshing, they are the perfect accompaniment to lighter fare we consume during the warm months.
German wheat beers — or weizen beers — are also famous for their associated glassware. Tall, slender, and often sporting a rather curvy profile, weizen glasses are large (they hold more than a half liter), with a wide mouth that allows for the lacy head to form, and for the drinker to enjoy the amazing aromas the yeast imparts (most commonly banana or clove).
I currently possess two such glasses: this elegant glass from the Erdinger Brewery:
And the less-curvy-but-still-pretty Edelweiss glass from Horbraü Kaltenhausen:
The first thing you will notice about these glasses, other than their unusual shapes, is that they sport the logo of the brewery. Like virtually every other brewery-centered piece of glassware, these glasses are first and foremost an advertisement for the brewery in question, the goal of course being to get you to purchase their beer (that breweries are shameless marketers will surprise no one). What this also means is that you can typically purchase these for fairly low prices. The trick, of course, is finding a place that carries a good selection.
One such place is a delightful mom-and-pop operation known as John’s Grocery in Iowa City, Iowa (full disclosure: I was a shift manager there, years ago). Currently John’s has in stock a wide selection of weizen glasses, which range in prices from $5.99-$7.99 for the 0.5 liter variety. For less than $50, including shipping, you can pick up a half-dozen or so for your next barbecue or dinner party.
Weizen glasses are also a good way to get into collecting beer-related glassware. They look beautiful on the shelf, adding color and shape to what can often be a drab and overlooked part of your taproom.
The other thing that’s worth keeping in mind is that it isn’t the end of the world if you break one of these. Vintage glassware, of which I have a few unique examples (I looove my hand-blown, silver-rimmed martini glasses), is hard to come by. And because of its scarcity (and, often, high prices), I am very reluctant to use it. Once it’s broken, it’s adios forever. Brewery glassware, on the other hand, isn’t something over which you’re likely to shed a tear if your next-door neighbor accidentally drops it into the rhododendrons. At one time I had at least a dozen 0.5 liter weizen glasses. Through attrition, I’m down to the two loyal soldiers you see above.
And there are an endless variety of glassware styles out there if these are not your cup of tea. Flutes, Pilsners, snifters, goblets. You name it. There’s a different style of glass for virtually every different style of beer.
And here’s a tip: if you’re at your favorite watering hole and you see a glass you would like to own, ask the waiter or bartender if you can purchase it. If they have enough in stock, they are usually pretty cool about selling them to you at cost. I’ve used this method to purchase lots of glassware over the years.