Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Death to the Shaker Pint!

Everywhere you go, you find them. They seem to multiply like wire coat hangers in your closet. Walk into almost any bar or pub serving craft beer and odds are that the beer you order will be served to you in one of them. They are the ubiquitous glasses known in the trade as "shaker pints".

They are also an abomination.

You're thinking "That's pretty strong language, Bill. Aren't you you perhaps getting a bit carried away?" No, not in the slightest. Allow me to explain.

Point One: These glasses were never intended for serving. They are called shaker pints because they were originally designed to use as half of the shaker in which a cocktail is prepared. When James Bond has his vodka martini "shaken, not stirred", it is poured from a shaker pint glass into the actual serving glass before being placed in front of him. Also, because these glasses were never intended for serving, most of them are not even true pints! If you want to have some fun at a bar you don't mind being chucked out of, take a graduated glass measuring cup in with you. When you're served your "pint", pour what you've received into it. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that the maximum amount of beer you'll have is 14 oz or 87.5% of an American pint or a mere 70% of the 20 oz. imperial pint enjoyed by our Brit cousins.

Point Two: These glasses are so common, most bars use them for everything from fountain sodas to mixed drinks. This makes it nigh impossible for them to actually be clean enough to properly serve craft beers. Using a glass that is not "beer clean" means that the drinker will not be able to actually experience the beer as the brewer intended. Rather, they will also get to taste the residue left by whatever was in it previously and/or the traces of the detergent used to wash it. Getting glasses beer clean is a subject for another day. Suffice it to say that having a big stack of glasses behind the bar and using them for anything that's ordered is not the way to go about it.

Point Three (the most damning of all): Even if you have an oversize shaker that actually holds what you've paid for and you've somehow managed to get one that's beer clean, this style of glass does absolutely nothing for the beer being served in it! The beer's head dissipates too quickly in a pint glass, due to a combination of its shape and wide mouth. The shape doesn't capture the aroma of the beer, but rather helps it dissipate. To quote Brooklyn Brewery VP and brew master Garrett Oliver: "I think a shaker pint is probably about the worst glass out there. It's pretty much a jam jar."

So now that we know why shaker pints are an abomination against good beer, why do so many (read: almost all) bars and pubs use them? Money, of course. Shaker pints are cheap, sturdy, and easily stackable (allowing for better storage behind the bar). Many bars receive them free, as promotional items. If you've ever had your local microbrewed IPA slapped down in front of you in a Bud Light pint glass, you're probably drinking out of such a freebie. And finally, if the bar is underserving by 12.5% (thanks to using under-sized shakers) the beer saved and sold later goes straight to their bottom line. So you can see why so many bar owner out there just love those old shaker pints...

So now you know the truth about shaker pints. Go forth and spread the word! Compliment those bar owners who are wise enough to serve their craft beers in something else. And ask those who aren't about what they're doing with those other 2 oz. of beer you've paid for...


The Foaming Head said...

You forget that right or wrong (I believe it is wrong to use shaker pints) that the majority of Americans are used to being served beer in this type of glass and many bar patrons would become upset at being served a tap beer in anything else, which makes it tough for bars to switch.

Bill said...

Yes, that might be a problem. I'd argue that it needn't be an insurmountable one, though. For example, my local brewpub started out using shaker pints, but has since shifted to using tulip pints for their beers (they still use the shakers for sodas and water). Near as I can tell, no one batted an eye at the change. I only noticed it because I was so happy to see those crappy shakers go.

I think Americans are capable of accepting change as long as they see it as improvement. After all, if they weren't, we wouldn't have any craft beer at all, would we? We'd all still be drinking marco-brews...