Sunday, October 12, 2014

In Defense of the Humble Shaker Pint

Choose your weapon...
Perusing through my news reader the other day, I came across yet another obituary for the humble shaker pint. The "movement" to banish these straight-sided drinking vessels from pubs and taprooms has been going on for years, and in some places, it appears the beer snobs have finally won out. I see fewer shakers sliding across the bar nowadays, that's for sure.

Many upscale craft beer bars exclusively use tulip pints and/or stemmed glassware. Ugh, nothing looks more ridiculous in my hand than a dainty lil' stemmed glass, I'll tell you what. I have a manly imagine to maintain and sipping beer with an extended pinky isn't going to help. Seriously, an ascot and smoking jacket would clash with my motorcycle boots. I'm just sayin'.

There are lots of reasons the shaker is derided as an inappropriate beer glass. Here are the list toppers: 1) The straight sides result in diminished head retention, thus reducing aroma; 2) The glass must be held with a full palm, causing premature warming due to body heat; 3) They don't really hold a full pint; 4) Shakers are ugly.

Truthfully, I think the whole argument is ridiculously pretentious. It brings a "wine snob" element to beer drinking that just irritates the hell out of me. First and foremost, I absolutely agree that SOME beer styles require a different drinking vessel. High ABV barelywines, delicate sour beers, beers that are traditionally served in specific glassware--these should all be served in the appropriate measure and glass. Otherwise, it doesn't make a bit of difference!

It is possible to pour beer from bottle or tap into a shaker pint and achieve an appropriate head. I've done it a zillion times. After the pour, any head is going to dissipate no matter what glass it's in. My question is this: how long does it take the average person to drink the average beer? I believe it takes me about 15 minutes to put down a pint. It's not like it's a bottle of wine that needs to sit around and "breathe". I don't walk around with an IPA in a stemmed glass, sipping and savoring it for half an hour. Do you? If so, you're doing it wrong!

The arguments against shaker pints do have some level of legitimacy. "Cheater pints" do exist. Their thicker bottoms and walls can result in something less than a full 16 oz. pour. Wah! Tulip glasses DO result in better head retention and to some extent better aroma distribution. (I would never use a shaker pint at a bottle share or tasting, where identifying the aromas and precise flavor profiles is the point of the drink.) As for the attractive design of the glass itself? Seriously, who gives a crap? I've enjoyed many a fine beer out of a Mason jar, thank you very much!

For the bar owner, shaker pints are super cheap and practically indestructible.  They are easy to wash, easy to stack and do the job just fine for most beer serving purposes. I've had to throw more shakers away because they became scratched and ugly than I've ever broken. That's some legitimate value in a business with a very thin profit margin, where any cost savings can make or break you.

I think a blind, no-hands taste test is in order. I would really like to see how many beer drinkers could identify the specific glassware they are tasting from--bet most couldn't. Perhaps I'll roll that out at the next bottle share...

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