Craft beer continues to change beer service for restaurants. According to the Brewers Association, the craft brewing industry reached double-digit volume share for the first time in 2014, hitting 11 percent of the total.
Restaurant operators are responding to this growing fascination with craft beer not only at the taps but also at the table—embracing new style-specific and multi-purpose glassware.
Form and Function
At Michelin-starred The NoMad restaurant, bar, and hotel in New York City, the servers take advantage of multi-purpose and style-specific glassware to showcase the expansive beer list. The NoMad’s 120 bottled beers, which include some cellared examples dating as far back as 1998, are rounded out by two dozen draft offerings. To serve its beers, the restaurant uses a half-dozen glass styles.
“For the most part we use pilsner glasses from Spiegelau,” says Alex Pfaffenbach, the dining room manager at The NoMad. “They’re really elegant, thin glass—tall and skinny—and they put the perfect head on a pilsner, leaving a little room in the top for aromatics.”
The restaurant uses a Spiegelau Belgian tulip glass as its all-purpose glass; Spiegelau weisse glasses for large bottles of Schneider Weisse; Zalto beer flutes for old, effervescent lambics; and highball or fizz glasses for lambics and Kölsch beers.
The NoMad Bar, the company’s bar and restaurant that opened next door in 2014, swaps out the Spiegelau tulip in favor of a heartier Libbey Pub Glass as its all-purpose glass. This choice fits better with the higher-volume traffic.
Thin glassware, like the pilsner, presents some challenges for a restaurant operation, including cost, greater chance of breakage, and inventory management. Additionally, the staff must be trained on proper pour sizes and on how to explain to guests the methodology for choosing a particular glass for a particular beer.
To this last point, Pfaffenbach emphasizes the importance of hitting the right balance with beer glass selections. “Not only does [glassware] need to be functional—it needs to make the beer taste good, and it needs to look and feel good in your hand,” Pfaffenbach says.