Higher Grips For Colder Beer

Josh Augustine, July 21, 2014

Avoid warming the beer as much as possible. This is the driving theory behind BeerGraphs Editor-In-Chief Eno Sarris’s choice to grip his beers toward the top of the container.

Over the course of a few baseball and beer themed meetups during the MLB All-Star Break, I attempted to monitor how Sarris chooses to grip his beers. It initially struck me as a bit unusual how often he holds his glass just barely around the top edge (see header image). To a clumsier person (myself), this seems as though it could be dangerous, especially for certain shaped glasses. Pint glasses or tulip glasses which are at their widest point at the top seem like they should be secure enough, but would the strategy hold true for a globe-style glass, or a mason jar sort of shape?

Sarris is unconcerned with such peril. “I just don’t want to warm up the beer!” was his response when I asked about his hand placement. This explanation is consistent with the one given to Yahoo’s Andy Behrens, who pulled off this same gag while my version of it was still in planning.

But is there a possible platoon issue here? After collecting photos and reviewing how Sarris grips a variety of containers and beer styles, an interesting trend emerged (Apologies for graininess, many photos were taken in poorly-lit situations:

12 oz. bottle grips:


Mason jar-style glass grips:


Standard pint glass grips:


Globe glass grips:


See the trend? When using his left hand, Sarris’s strategic claims do indeed ring true, as he seems to avoid direct contact with any sectors of the container which are in contact with beer on the other side. The only diversion is with the globe, where Sarris moves from the top of the glass to the stem, as there is no shape or texture at the top to aid in gripping (and with a glass of Founders KBS, you want to keep that baby safe).

However, when he moves his beer to his dominant right hand, consciously or not, his stated strategy goes out the window. Sure, in the case of the pint glass he is still avoiding contact with the beer, but that's simply a function of the small quantity of beer in the glass at the time, rather than the actual grip.

But why is this the case? Has he become such an experienced and well seasoned beer drinker that he’s actually conditioned his dominant hand to be lower in temperature? I'll be the first to admit that I know little about human biology, but it seems unlikely.

It does seem possible that there is some measure of selection bias at play here. All the observations herein were made in very social situations where the right hand needs to be readily available for gentlemanly handshakes and signing a closed tab. Gripping a receptacle lower on the glass with the right hand allows the glass to be easily transferred to the preferred grip in the left hand when right hand functionality is required elsewhere. Perhaps in less formal situations when the right hand doesn’t need to be quickly at the ready, containers are held more consistently with Sarris’s stated strategy.

Unfortunately, BEERf/x data is not available to show amount of time spent in each hand on a per beer or per glassware type over the course of Sarris's entire beverege-swilling career, so for now we attempt to derive meaning from this limited sample size. From what we’ve seen in the last week or so, if preventing the beer from warming rapidly is the goal, Sarris may benefit from scaling back on switch-drinking and focus on gripping his beer with his non-dominant left hand.

Josh Augustine sometimes says things of little import on Twitter, and hastily rates the beers he drinks using untappd.