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The Perfect IPA Glass

Yesterday, at the Craft Brewers Conference, we had the pleasure of sitting in on the beginnings of a unique collaboration between two of the country’s finest craft brewers, Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada. This collaboration however was unlike the two brewery’s past endeavor, Life & Limb, a strong dark ale made from ingredients on both brewer’s family farm.

This collaboration was the meeting of the minds and palettes from both breweries to determine and master the perfect drinking vessel for the IPA; a beer style of which has been mostly limited to the standard 16-ounce pint glass common to any bar. The unfortunate reality being that there is no truly unique glassware that enhances all the distinct and bold qualities of an IPA such as aroma, carbonation, head retention, and of course taste.

Well. That’s soon to change. Ken, Steve, and Brian Grossman and Steve Whitney from Sierra Nevada and Sam and Mariah Calagione from Dogfish went through a guided process with Georg Riedel from Riedel, the Austrian glassware maker most commonly known for its wine glasses, and several others from Spiegelau, the glass manufacturer, to explore a few IPAs with a dozen styles of glassware Riedel/Spiegelau felt was best suited. This of course was with the goal of finding a glass perfectly matched for the hoppy brew.

The first round used Stone’s IPA as the testing beer immediately eliminating half the glassware options.  The second two rounds featured beers from each of the brewers with the mindset that no one would know the best representation of the beer other than representatives of the brewery. The second round explored Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo resulting in elimination of two more glasses, leaving only 4. The final and third round in the process featured Dogfish Head’s 90-minute, a slightly higher ABV IPA than the Torpedo, and resulted in one glass as the clear and obvious choice.

This immediately sparked discussion and excitement from both breweries and talks of the possibilities of how this new glassware could affect IPAs not just in the U.S. but on a global level. They immediately started sharing notes on a few subtle changes they’d make to create a wider appeal to the glassware, especially in the restaurant and hospitality industry. And perhaps not surprising, how Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head could collaborate on a new IPA best suited for the glassware that both breweries will embrace with hopes that others in the industry and bars alike will follow.

At the end of the session, you couldn’t help to share in these two breweries excitement yet ponder if the glassware that they had selected really enhanced the beer as much as they all seemed to agree. Anxious to put it to the test, we of course sampled Torpedo ourselves from the newly discovered glass and to our surprise, all of the enhanced characteristics that the brewers had suggested from the increased head retention, enhanced hop aromas, and clean well balanced flavors were undeniable.

So, what is this magical IPA glassware, you ask? Well, we can’t say as of yet. Not only because we were asked to keep it hush-hush for the time being but because this 2-hour session was only the first phase of a much longer process that both brewers are about to undertake. So to let the cat out of the bag would be premature as what we saw today will be vastly different whenever this glassware goes public. From here the collaboration will include further enhancing and refining the base glass and perhaps even a new beer collaboration brewed to be best accentuated by the new glass. Suggestions seem to indicate that this venture will be something that hop-heads can look forward to in early to mid-2013.

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