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What are Pint Glasses?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 16, 2024
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Pint glasses are a type of glassware usually used to hold beers, ales, and lagers. They are so-named because they usually hold a British pint of liquid. Pint glasses come in many shapes, textures, and designs, and they are a staple of the modern pub or bar.

A British or Imperial pint is equal to 1/8 of a gallon, or 568 mL of liquid. In the United States, a pint is equivalent to 16 ounces, or roughly 473 mL. Most pint glasses follow the British measure of a pint, though oversized glasses are also available, and in the United States, many pubs use glasses that hold a US pint — which is just over 80% of the liquid found in an Imperial pint glass.

In the United Kingdom, it is against the law to sell a pint of beer that is not actually a pint, and pint glasses play a large role in helping a customer determine this. The Crown issues certifications for pint glasses, which bear a stamp of the Crown and a certification number. Customers at a bar can look at the pint glasses and quickly ascertain that they are in fact a true pint. This use of pint glasses is so fundamental that it is illegal to use non-certified glasses without some other authorized way of measuring out beer — such as a calibrated pump.

Since the head that forms on a beer necessarily takes up some space, and since many people wish to retain the head, oversized pint glasses are sold so that a full pint of liquid can be poured with a head. These glasses are also known as lined glasses, because they usually bear some sort of marking at the pint line to let the pourer know when he or she has poured a pint of liquid into the glass.

Pint glasses come in a wide array of shapes and designs, but two shapes are most common. Nonic-shaped pint glasses are found everywhere. Also referred to as conical glasses, they slightly taper out at the bottom, and then bulge more widely near the top. Tulip glasses are also popular. They have a similar shape to the nonic glass, except that they are curvier with a more exaggerated flare — almost like an hourglass — and often taper in slightly at the very top.

Pint glasses may also be found in a number of stylized shapes and designs. The most common of these is a boot shape — hearkening back to some cultural practices of drinking from a wooden shoe. Some pint glasses also contain a metal lid of some sort that can be flipped up, like a traditional beer stein. Etchings, dimpled glass, and coloration are all variations that may also be found on pint glasses, though modern pint glasses tend to be fairly Spartan in their appearance.

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