When our glassware designers were tasked with creating the ultimate beer glasses, they knew they’d need to call in the pros to get it exactly right. Enter Dave McLean, founder and brewmaster at Magnolia Brewing Company.
Dave has been brewing beers Williams-Sonoma’s hometown of San Francisco for nearly 20 years. His European-inspired ales have always had a touch of small-batch California cool: He first tried micro-brewed West Coast beers in the parking lot at a Grateful Dead concert and has been inspired ever since (our favorite Magnolia beer is his Kalifornia Kolsch). We knew he’d be the perfect pro to put our glasses to the test.
To begin connecting the design, Williams-Sonoma glassware designer Alexia Chimenti first took time to research different types of beer. “I spent a lot of time researching each beer style and the glass shapes that best enhance a beer’s flavors and aromas,” she told us.
After that, she spent months sketching out the perfect beer glasses. “There are some really important features that I consider when designing glassware,” she said. “Balance, weight and contours of the glass all add to the drinking experience, so I spent a lot of time creating mock-ups and reviewing prototypes.”
From there, the team took the samples of Alexia’s designs down to Smokestack at Magnolia Brewery, Dave’s beer and barbecue spot in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, and put them through rigorous rounds of testing (read: drinking) with Dave and his small-batch beers.
Test #1: English Pub Glass
First up: The English pub glass, which was modeled after a traditional English Pint glass. The bulging ridge is a classic design, which helped pub owners stack their beer glasses, explained Dave. “I don’t stack my glasses because it scratches them, but this shape still has that evocative look that puts me in an English pub mood.”
Traditionally, a British pub pint is 20 ounces, but Dave suggested sizing these glasses for a 16-ounce pour. “Smaller glasses mean the beer won’t warm up in your hand so it always tastes like a cool, fresh pour.” A design tweak for better-tasting beer? Check!
Test #2: Wheat Beer Glass
Next, the team poured a Magnolia wheat beer into a tall, slender wheat beer glass. “You drink with your eyes first,” explained Dave, who liked the column-like shape that showcased color and effervescence of your beer. “Wheat itself is foam-enhancing, so wheat beers have a tall head of foam,” Dave said. You want a beer glass that’s going to allow for that head forming, but won’t be unwieldy. (The first Hefeweizen glasses he ordered for his bar were too tall to fit under the counter!) For this reason, we kept ours to a manageable nine inches tall.
Alexia also worked on reducing the weight of the base so it was heavy enough to add balance, but not too heavy to lift with ease. “Finding that perfect weight-balance ratio takes trials and testing, particularly with a tall glass like our wheat glass, but when you get it right, it feels great in the hand and the glass isn’t unwieldy.”
Test #3: IPA Glasses
After that came IPA glasses. Magnolia’s Proving Ground IPA (one that Dave has been brewing since 1999) is malty, hoppy and delicious: The kind of beer that deserves a great glass. “Brewers like to put highly aromatic beers into snifter-style glasses,” explained Dave. “The bottom gives it a place to bubble but the chimney-style opening focuses the aromas.” He cautioned about designing a footed beer glass that was too delicate. “You want something durable, that won’t easily break.”
Test #4: Everyday Beer Glasses
Sometimes it’s the simplest designs that can be the toughest—Alexia spent months tweaking the look and feel of the perfect tumbler-inspired beer glass that would fit a 12-ounce beer with a nice head of foam.
It was worth the work when Dave deemed this glass his favorite. “I have so many specialty beer glasses in my bar, but it’s nice to have a one-size-fits-all glass at home,” says Dave. “It feels good in your hand because your finger automatically slides under the glass to support it; it’s really the perfect size.”
After the testing round (and a few Advil), the glassware team went back to the drawing board to make a few tweaks. If you fancy yourself a beer drinker as well, you can finally check out our brewmaster-approved Williams-Sonoma beer glass collection.