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How Much Difference Do Beer Grips Really Make?

Josh Augustine, September 08, 2014 -   

So far we’ve seen a couple schools of thought on how one should hold one’s beer glass: (Higher Grips for Colder Beer Or Lower Grips For Stability and Accessibility?) But how much difference does where you hold your glass actually make? Are you really keeping it so much colder by avoiding as much contact as possible?

In this post, I attempt to do some sort of actual science or something close to it. So much science is attempted, in fact, that I’m filing this article as a BeerGraphs article rather than a BarelyBeer post. If you didn’t come here looking for something that resembles science, then consider this your warning.

I conducted an experiment with two different types of glassware, a standard 16 oz. shaker pint glass, and a 12 oz snifter glass. I ran three trials with each type of glass: One holding the main part of the glass, making contact with the beer contained therein with reckless abandon, one holding the glass in a way that would minimize contact with the beer (in the case of the pint glass, I held it with fingertips around the rim as shown in the header image, in the case of the snifter I held it around the stem and base), and finally one where I did not touch the glass at all to act as a control group.

I monitored the glasses for a total of one hour, taking the temperature of each at 10 minute intervals. In addition, to simulate what actually happens in real life, I took what I would call a “hearty swig” from each glass at each 10 minute interval. I ran the three trials for each glass concurrently, so I was able to make sure I was drinking the same amount of beer from each glass.

In all cases, I poured 12 oz of beer into the glass to start with. The beer I used for the experiment was the delicious No Coast IPA from Peace Tree brewing, based out of Knoxville, Iowa. All trials were conducted in my apartment, which over the course of the testing was kept at a stable 70-71 degrees. All temperatures were measured in degrees Fahrenheit.

The results were, well… not especially surprising.

First the raw data:
 

And an illustration of said data, a simple graph of temperature over time. I tried to color code the lines to blues for the pint glass and reds for the shaker, and have realized in hindsight it may have been better to make two separate graphs. But you should get the idea.

First of all, how the starting temperature had so much variance, I have no idea. The bottles were all right next to each other in the fridge until the experiments were conducted. How there was as much as a two degree variance in initial temperature is beyond me. But we’ll attempt to account for that shortly.

The obvious takeaway is that wrapping one’s meaty paws around as much of the glass as possible warms the beer therein most rapidly, as the lines for both glasses which were gripped by the entire glass had the temperatures rise most quickly, and end at the highest point. We do see some stabilization around the room temperature of 70 degrees. Specifically, note the snifter glass’ rapid rise until about the 40 minute mark before leveling off slightly for the last 20 minutes. The glasses held with minimal beer contact ended just below 70 degrees, while the untouched glasses both ended up in the low to mid 60s.

Now let’s try to account for those slight differences in beginning temperature. This next graph shows not the actual temperature of the beer over time, but the difference between the measured temperature and the initial temperature over time:

This is a little more interesting. The snifter held around the bulbous section of the glass still sees the greatest increase most quickly, but the snifter held by the stem increases at just about the same number of degrees/minute as the pint glass gripped by the glass, whereas the pint glass held at the rim remains closer to the untouched glasses.

Let’s take it a step further and make it a rate instead of simply counting degrees. The next graph shows the percentage increase over the initial temperature over the course of the hour:

This tells virtually the same story as the previous graph: by percentage of initial temperature, the temperature of the beer in the snifter held by the stem rises at very nearly the same rate as the pint glass held by the entire glass, while the pint glass held by the rim warms only slightly faster than the glasses that are left untouched.

What’s the explanation for this? Is it as simple as the idea of heat rising? I’m not quite qualified enough in science these days to answer that question, even if this article WAS filed under BeerGraphs instead of BarelyBeer. It’s entirely possible it was a fluke. We’re dealing with a very small sample size, after all. It’s possible, likely even, that over the course of a hundred hands holding a hundred beers we’d see quite different results.

So what’s the best way to hold a beer? Is there a best way? I don’t know that we’ve determined that. I will say that during this experiment, while holding the snifter by the stem for an entire hour, not a single second went by that I wasn’t terrified of dropping the thing. So I’m going to keep holding that type of glass around its most bulbous area, temperature be damned.

As for you, dear reader? Well, you paid for the beer, right? Hold it the way you like.

Josh Augustine is a real doofus and displays as much on Twitter, and will soon be writing love letters to Founders Breakfast Stout on untappd.

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