Friday, July 6, 2012

Spiegelau Tulip vs Sam Adams Perfect Pint

Craft beer popularity is exploding and is gaining attention from companies normally reserved to wine drinkers.  Riedel is a name usually associated with quality wine glasses but now the Spiegelau division of Riedel has their sights set on hardcore beer nuts with super premium glassware made specifically for enjoying quality craft brew.  I’ve heard about Spiegelau glassware in the past but either didn’t pay attention or just assumed it would cost more than I was willing to pay.  The other day I was perusing The Beer and Whiskey Brothers post about the virtues of Spiegelau beer glasses when I was pleasantly surprised.  It was interesting to read all the scientific reasons provided by the manufacturer why the Spiegelau glass is supposed to be tip top.  The real exciting part of that post was the fact that Spiegelau now had a 4 glass variety set available for $39.99 on Amazon. SOLD!

I did tons of research as to whether these Spiegelau beer glasses were really worth it and whether they really offered a better beer drinking experience.  Everyone seemed to provide glowing reviews about how awesome these glasses are.  Ok t-minus 5 days until delivery from Amazon.  The package arrived but the postal worker gave me devastating news, “It sounds like it is broken”.  You could hear the broken glass sliding from one side of the box to the other, nice packaging Amazon.  Son of a motherless f…I digress.  Amazon was more than willing to refund my purchase price but I wanted my damn glasses.  I went with Wine Enthusiast for my reorder but they didn’t have the variety pack so I just got two tulip glasses or stemmed pilsner glass as Spiegelau calls them for $24.99 + shipping.  The glasses arrived still intact and it was time to test the Holy Grail of beer glasses! 

My favorite beer glass of all-time is the Sam Adams Perfect Pint glass.  I’ve used it so much that the graphics are starting to wear off.  The kicker is that the Sam Adams Perfect Pint was also made by Riedel.  Hmmmm!  Could the Perfect Pint stand up to the Spiegelau crystal goblet sent from the beer gods themselves?  This could get interesting.

Ska True Blonde Ale

The first beer to try out was the lightest beer I had on hand, Ska True Blonde Ale.  I tried this brew previously and thought it was decent for what it was.  If you want an American Light Lager substitute for the lake or whatever other all day drinking event, the True Blonde is great.  The Perfect Pint produced a much better head and held the head for longer than the Spiegelau which was the case in all of my tests

.NOSE:  The Perfect Pint gave off a grainy/bready malt aroma with a very subtle grass hop character.  The Spiegelau nose is more delicate but easier to sense.  The grainy malt character and delicate hop grassy character blend much more eloquently. 
WINNER: Spiegelau

TASTE:  The Perfect Pint taste was very “thin” with very little taste up front.  The grainy malt character shows up about mid palate and then leads to a bit of grassy hop character on the finish.  The overall character is very dry and seems a bit rough around the edges.  The Spiegelau blends the grain/hop character better and makes the roughness go away.  The mellower grainy malt character starts faster on the palette and leads to a fuller taste.  The grassy hop character is not as harsh and the taste actually brightens up slightly on the finish.
WINNER: Spiegelau

Omalley’s IPA

I got a six pack of this the other day on a whim.  If you follow me, you know I really want to like this local brewery but they seem to ride mediocrity with most of their offerings I’ve tried.  The one thing I can applaud Weston for is that they are coming out with new stuff all the time.  When I tried this the other day I was impressed with the uniqueness of this IPA.  It’s not super hoppy but the earthy/floral hop character is a nice change of pace from the typical citrusy IPAs. 

NOSE:   The nose from the Perfect Pint was dominated by caramel notes without much in the way of hop character.  The nose from the Spiegelau was a more robust caramel character and was much easier to pick up.
WINNER: Spiegelau

TASTE:  From the Perfect Pint, the IPA had good sweetness up front with a bit of caramel coming in mid palette.  The finish has an interesting earthy/floral hop character with a slight fruity/tart character at the end.  From the Speigelau the malt caramel character was more robust and the overall character seemed to have more bitterness.  The taste was smoother and better rounded but was not as “detailed” as the Perfect Pint.
WINNER:  Perfect Pint

Great Divide Wolfgang

This brew is completely new to me so I had no expectations of what it was going to taste like.  8.0% ABV.  Up to this point the differences in taste between the Perfect Pint and the Spiegelau have been very slight so for a curveball I decided to throw in a New Belgium tulip glass.

NOSE:  From the Perfect Pint there is a bit of malt sweetness with a grainy straw-like aroma.  From the Spiegelau there was a less harsh grainy character but very similar to the aroma from the Perfect Pint.
WINNER: Spiegelau

TASTE:  From the Perfect Pint there was a soft sweetness initially that was not overly “simple”.  The sweetness was more of a dark flavor that was reminiscent of a light molasses or maybe even a mild prune character.  From the Spiegelau the taste was very similar except there was a bit more bitterness on the finish and the overall character was more crisp.  From the New Belgium tulip there was a distinct fruity character not present in either of the other two glasses.  I went back through and tasted the three samples one right after another and it was pretty amazing the nuance in each glass.  The Perfect Pint had a better darker malt character, the Spiegelau had more bitterness with more crispness, and the New Belgium had a fruity character.
WINNER: Perfect Pint


As I said before the taste differences between the Perfect Pint and the Spiegelau were very slight.  It was not what I was expecting as far the definition of taste in each glass.  It seemed like the Perfect Pint had higher definition in individual flavors and the Spiegelau seemed to blend the flavors better for a smoother experience.  I thought the Spiegelau would have the higher definition flavors vs the Perfect Pint.  The Spiegelau had hands down the better nose definition so that is a plus for it.  Building head and keeping head was better in all cases with the Perfect Pint. 

What turned out to be the deciding factor for me doesn’t have anything to do with the nose or the taste.  The reason I would say I prefer the Spiegelau glass is the glass itself.  When I first started this test I preferred how the Perfect Pint’s flared rim fit in my mouth.  The flared rim excels in pulling out malt character when compared with the Spiegelau.  The Spiegelau’s rim is super thin and offers the least interference in your mouth when enjoying a brew.  It doesn’t take up as much real estate on your lips while drinking. 

There was another thing related to the glass itself that took me a while to put my finger on.  The beer in the Spiegelau always seemed to be colder than the beer in the Perfect Pint.  I got out a thermometer and tested it out.  There wasn’t much difference in how fast beer in either glass warmed up.  It was always pretty much the same temperature in both glasses throughout the drinking process.  What could this perceived coolness come from?  I finally figured out that the thicker glass in the Perfect Pint picked up more heat from your hands.  This didn’t heat the beer any faster but when you put the rim of the Perfect Pint to your lip it was clearly much much warmer than the rim of the Spiegelau.  So it tricked your palate into thinking the incoming beer from the Perfect Pint was warmer than incoming beer from the Spiegelau.  Now that I’m aware of how warm the Perfect Pint rim is on my lips, it drives me crazy. 

There you have it, my beer geekdom in full force.  I have dissected all the reasons and minute details regarding how my beloved Perfect Pint compares to the Spiegelau stemmed pilsner glass.  The deciding factor turned out to be the thinness of the Spiegelau glass and how it is the least intrusive beer consumption method I have.  It would be awesome if Spiegelau flared the rims on their glass to pick up that extra malt character.  A beer geek can only wish.  Is it worth the price?  It probably depends on your drinking habits and/or environment.  If you are kind of wild and tend to break a lot of glassware then the Spiegelau is probably not worth it.  If you take the time to relax and taste your beer without the ever present threat of shattering your beloved glassware then the Spiegelau would be a good idea.  Not to mention when you flick the Spiegelau it makes a cool noise.  Now that’s worth the price of admission.



Thursday, July 5, 2012

Holy 4th of July Batman!

Hope everyone had a happy and safe 4th of July. This year I experimented with constructing a mortar rack for my finale. There is nothing more exciting than building a contraption that launches 24 artillery shells in less the 30 seconds while in the close confines of a suburban environment.  What could go wrong?  Luckily everything went off smoothly and no one or thing was blown up.  As much as I worried about something going wrong with the mortars, a fountain proved to be the scariest firework we had.  The Tailgate Party fountain started out unassuming enough and then about 5 minutes in it got angry.  People were running, the neighbor’s truck was endangered, traffic was halted, it was awesome!    

If you decide you want to endanger yourselves, your property, and your neighbors property by building a mortar rack be sure to get the right tubes.  DO NOT USE PVC PIPE.  I got my tubes from

And for everyone that said, "It's dry, don't catch anything on fire..." suck it.  Nothing even came close to catching on fire, well except the neighbors trash can but that wasn't my fault.  Here is my mortar rack in action.  The video is terribly composed because I went from horizontal to vertical with my phone midway through the shot so it looks like the mortars are shooting sideways.  I assure you the mortars were shooting UP into the air.  I also forgot I was shooting video and only got about half of the breaks in the sky.  Oops!