A British Icon Smashed, or the Emperor’s new Glassware?

“Drivel, utter drivel,” commented “Chuffy” on 27th January, in response to a piece in the Guardian entitled “Calling time on the pint glass”. What was it that raised Chuffy’s ire? Another daily newspaper’s pathetic attempt at writing about beer? Hardly! The byline was Ben McFarland, current British Guild of Beer Writers’ Beer Writer of the Year, so at least some beer-informed people think he knows what he’s talking about.

But 990 people agreed with Chuffy. The comment earned him (surely it is a “him”) nearly one thousand “Recommendations” (Guardian-speak for “Like”). He was not alone in his opinion either: 997 people agreed with George999x, “You lot live on a different planet. Long live the pint glass!!” said George999x. Perhaps his likers included George001x – George996x, who knows.

Ben’s article dared to suggest that the standard pub pint beer glass, known as the nonic, is not the best vessel from which to appreciate the beverage for which it was made. Ben accuses the nonic glass is made for the landlord’s (and the brewery/pubco’s) convenience. He goes on to suggest it is ugly, not best suited to a lot of beers on grounds of flavour and aroma, and, it holds too much beer, he throws in, just to make sure there are no short measures.


MaltCim shoots a selection of our glasses*

No prizes for guessing I’m on Ben’s side. Regular Nightjar readers might remember one of my non-resolutions/predictions for 2012 is to champion beer served in less than a pint. “Think big, drink small” I wrote. The late, great comedian Linda Smith is quoted in another comment, “A third of a pint? That’s not a drink, that’s homeopathy.” Funny, but a gross misrepresentation of homeopathy. However, if ever there were a subject worth grossly misrepresenting…

Smaller measures for bigger beers, is what I’m saying. And so does Ben, but he goes further, asserting that different shaped glasses bring out the best in different beers; especially those with plenty of aroma. But let’s allow that some people can’t or won’t care about such matters. Let’s talk about aesthetics, because smart-looking glasses sell beer.

Why did people suddenly develop a taste for Peroni? Their standard lager flies out of the taps at my local Ember Inn. Can it be anything to do with the glass? It’s seductive, sculpted curves, etched along its length with the Peroni logo.

I’d wager a mixed case of Kernel to a half-empty can of Fosters that there are crowds of people who would rather drink a Stella Vier from its continental pilsner glass than anything in a nonik. I bet your average young beer drinker – man or woman looks at the holder of a nonic glass and thinks, “Sad, old fart”. 

Of course, there are cool, branded pint glasses: Adnams and Ringwood have attractive pints that are a bit more than merely nonics with a logo stuck on. Of the national ale brewers, Fullers tries the hardest, with a different design for all of it’s major ales. But they are all pints. The wonderful ESB goblet: a glass for savouring an ale of 5.5% would be even better in a two-thirds measure.

So let me grant that Chuffy and George999x were partly right: the nonic is a British icon, but one that needs clasting. Pints will still be served, we will still drink them, but the nonic needs an extreme makeover. A new model army of brothers is needed in order to make beer of all styles more attractive in the pub, and acceptable on the dinner table.

Ben McFarland’s original article in the Guardian: Calling time on the pint glass
Fullers range of pint glasses
Do yourself a favour and buy Kernel beers from Beer Merchants
The Nightjar’s Wishes for 2012

Thanks to MaltCim for the photo.
Back, left to right: Fullers ESB goblet, Stockholm Festival 2009, Brew Wharf sampler, Stockholm Festival 2010.
Front: Lagunitas fruit jar, & private stock Gentle Giant etched US pint mug.

One thought on “A British Icon Smashed, or the Emperor’s new Glassware?

  1. LOL! Just to confirm that I only own the 999x ID, and self-recomennded a maximum of like 2-3 times 🙂 Appreciate the passion of your opinions and I dont think you misrepresented.George

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