Local Suds

Beer, Wine, and Spirits

Abbot’s Cellar

{3141 16th Street; 415.865.9523}

As cicerone at Abbot’s Cellar, home to scores of brews from around the world, Mike Reis believes every component of the beer drinking experience is enhanced with appropriate glassware. Rims that curve inward can help retain a beer’s precious aromas and its carbonation, while a variety of glassware shapes can improve the appearance of the beer, which Reis calls “an under-discussed element of beer presentation.” Clear pale lagers, for instance, vividly show their crystalline clarity and carbonation through the elegant, slender pilsner glass. Meanwhile, heavy, aromatic beers like barleywines and imperial stouts—two of Reis’s favorite styles to enjoy during the winter—best exude their aromas when sipped from a snifter.

Trumer Pils

{1404 4th Street, Berkeley; 510.526.1160}

Nearly everyone has sipped a beer from a standard pint-sized “shaker glass”—but Anthony Raggio believes most beers deserve better. Brewery Administrator at Trumer in Berkeley, Raggio says aromas and carbonation dissipate too rapidly from such a glass style, which is designed for easy handling and stacking. The curvy shapes of true beer glasses, from tulip to Belgian to pilsner to snifter, are designed to retain aromas—yet most bars don’t provide such specialty vessels. What to do, what to do? Ask for a wine glass, says Raggio. This winter, try to find a taste of one of Raggio’s favorite wintertime beer styles—bourbon barrel-aged stouts. Enjoy it a little colder than room temperature, and sip it from a snifter.

21st Amendment Brewery

{563 2nd Street; 415.369.0900}

The finer nuances of a good beer’s aromas can elude even a seasoned beer drinker. Use the wrong glass style, warns Shaun O’Sullivan, Founder and Brewmaster at 21st Amendment Brewery, and a beer’s aromatic compounds might vanish entirely. O’Sullivan says the tulip-shaped beer snifter is a superb all-purpose glass. Its shape, with that bulbous bottom and flared-out top, “offers great foam stability and allows your nose to get in there and take apart those aromas and flavors.” During the winter, O’Sullivan often looks for rich, high-alcohol beers, like barleywines, imperial stouts, and strong Scotch ales. Yet, as an “antidote” to such sometimes-overwhelming styles, 21st Amendment has released a Belgian-style saison this winter called Sneak Attack—spicy, crisp, light, and refreshing. With this beer, O’Sullivan says, “we’re essentially bringing summer to winter.”

Magnolia Pub and Brewery

{1398 Haight Street; 415.864.7468}

Dave Maclean, founder and owner of Magnolia Pub and Brewery, says enjoying a beer in the right glass—and a clean glass—can significantly improve the drinking experience. The concept of winter beers can be a hard sell in the relatively mild Bay Area, Maclean points out. Yet, occasional cold snaps do arrive, at which times Maclean finds that a rich and warming beer, often dark and malty, can hit the spot. Though Magnolia is renowned partly for its annual release of monster brews each February during “Strong Beer Month” (in which 21st Amendment Brewery also partakes), Maclean calls the return of the low-alcohol “session beer” one of the most refreshing trends in brewing.

Thirsty Bear Brewing Company

{661 Howard Street; 415.974.0905}

When it comes to selecting a glass for his beer, Brenden Dobel—Brewmaster and certified Cicerone of Thirsty Bear Brewing Co.—thinks first about bubbles. “For practical reasons,” he explains, “Bavarian Hefeweizens require a tall, vase-like glass due to the voluminous foam that can appear on the beer. Belgian bottle-conditioned beers also have high carbonation levels.” He notes that Duvel produces a proprietary tulip-shaped glass designed to contain an entire bottle of beer while retaining its thick, foamy head. Dobel, who calls himself “an old-school San Franciscan,” prefers Anchor’s Christmas Ale as the wintertime beer of choice. “It’s different every year and also good every year,” he says. This particular ale contains some fantastic spiced aromatics, which are best enjoyed, Dobel says, by drinking it from a Belgian-style tulip glass. Hold the glass by the stem and swirl, sniff, and drink.