Know your port: A beginner’s guide

Port wine; it has a somewhat bad name. Stereotypically the reserve of the older generations, it’s sweet, rich taste makes it the perfect after-dinner refreshment but is sadly dismissed by those who don’t know what they’re missing.

If you’ve neglected this delicious and delicate drink in the past, now is the time to correct your behavior. Luckily for you, Home Wet Bar is on hand to tell you everything you need to know as a beginner, from how it’s made to how to drink it.

What’s in a name?

Douro Valley at Home Wet Bar

The name of port stems from its country of origin: Portugal. Grown and produced in the Douro Valley of Portugal, port is actually like champagne, in the sense that if the product is produced in any other region, it’s not technically port.

If you want to invest in some genuine port, the official name if Vinho do Porto, an important name to note as many products produced elsewhere in the world including other regions of Portugal and within the US will be labelled as either port, or by other Portuguese names such as Dão, Oporto, or simply Porto.

How it’s made

Port Wine Cellars at Home Wet Bar

As the name Vinho do Porto would suggest, port is made in a very similar way to wine. The season starts in September when specially grown port grapes are picked, often by hand. These particular grapes differ from those used for wine as the juice much more concentrated thanks to the small size of the berry and its thick skin.

There are several varieties of port grape that each produce a distinct flavor and are typically harvested together to result in a final product that produces a rich and delicious nose for the beverage.

Once picked, the grapes are crushed either by machine or by the traditional method of foot crushing until the majority of the juices are released. The skins are left with the juice, which allows the product to ferment and become a dark color, while some of the natural sugars are still present.

Poured into a massive container known as a Cubas, neutral grape alcohol is added to the mixture. Similar to brandy, this extra alcohol is of a very high percentage, usually in the 70% region. Once blended, the liquid is then added to barrels until it has aged appropriately.

Before bottling, some ports may be blended again according to their type, whilst others may be bottled as is – and that’s it!

Know the styles

Port Bottles at Home Wet Bar

Just like any other drink, there are several styles of port to choose from depending on the taste you’re looking for. Let’s break them down:

  • Tawny: A sweet or medium dry style, tawny port is made from red grapes and aged in a wooden barrel that allows the liquid to slowly oxidize and evaporate. This process gives the liquid its amber color and produces a nutty, sweet flavor that works perfectly as a desert wine.
  • Ruby: One of the most common types of port, a ruby port is stored in a solid container of either concrete or steel in order to prevent oxidization and maintain the rich, deep color after which the style is named.
  • Rose: A newcomer to the port scene, rose port is technically similar to a ruby, but as the liquid has been fermented for a shorter amount of time with the skins which are soon removed after crushing (in the same style as rosé wine), the liquid adopts a light, rose color.
  • White: A vast range of flavors, white port can be anything from extremely sweet to extremely dry and is excellent when included in a cocktail. Made from white grapes, the port is typically allowed to age in a wooden barrel for long periods of time.

These are the basics; there are a variety of other styles available based upon different years and blends, along with the area of production but most types fall within these four main categories.

How to drink it

Cheese with Port at Home Wet Bar

Since port is so much stronger in both flavor and alcohol content than wine, you don’t want to drink huge amounts of it at once! Port is best enjoyed after a delicious meal alongside desert or a rich and varied cheeseboard, as the sweetness and complex nose can help to enhance the flavors of a meal.

Port should be aired but not oxidized, which can make serving it quite tricky. Designed in the 17th Century, port sippers allow the port to air, while the hand warms the liquid as you sip from the spout. A traditional way to drink this delightful wine, and one of the best!

Types of Beer Glasses 101

Beer is one of the oldest beverages developed by civilizations, so we can only imagine the types of drinking vessels that were first created for beer. Traditionally beer glasses, were made with a specific purpose. For example, the German beer stein was developed with a lid to keep flies out of it during the Black Plague. Another example is the pint glass, which was produced to prevent breakage when storing beer glassware by stacking them.

It also has been said that the reason there are so many types of beer glasses available in this time is due to typical marketing schemes by beer breweries. This could be a true statement, there are just about as many beer glasses as there are types of beer. But would the beer breweries go that far for a marketing scheme if there wasn’t a benefit to this? Of course not! Like wine, beer glasses each have many attributes in which improve the flavors in different types of beer. Beer contains volatiles which are compounds that evaporate from it to create a beer’s aroma. Choosing the right glass for the type of beer you’re drinking can enhance these volatiles when pouring your brew. With so many choices, choosing a glass for your beer can be overwhelming. That is why we put together a short guide to the various types of glasses along with beer recommendations below.

Common Types of Beer Glasses

American Pint Glasses

Pint GlassThe American pint glass is just about the most common type of beer glass. These are the best beer glasses for use at local restaurants and most homes because they are easier to store by stacking them. They are constructed in a cone shape that tapers slightly toward the bottom of the glass and usually holds 16 ounces.

  • Use with These Beer Styles: Good all around glass, goes well with American Lagers, American Pale Ales, and most other beers

 

English Pint Glasses

englishpintThe British pint glass (also called a Nonic Glass) is similar to the American pint glass, but the difference is a slight bump along the top of the glass and it holds 20 ounces. The bump also adds the benefit of grip so your beer glassware won’t get stuck when stacking them. Another benefit this small bulge adds is head retention when pouring your beer which adds to the great aroma of your beer. Traditionally darker beers are served in these types of beer glasses.

  • Use with These Beer Styles: Mid-Dark beers, American Stout, English Porters, English Stout, English Ales, and other dark beers

 

Beer Mugs

Personalized Beer MugBeer mugs are a popular type of glass which feature a sturdy handle and are usually heavier than other beer glassware. The handles on these types of beer glasses are said to have been developed so the drinker would have more confidence when “clinking” glasses. These can be made of a variety of materials including pewter, ceramic, glass, or stainless steel to name a few. Well-known beer glass styles of the beer mug include the German beer stein, tankards, and dimpled mugs. The stein is a German beer mug that is usually made of pewter and, many times has a pewter lid attached to it. Legend has it steins were developed in during the black plague to keep the fleas that carried the black plague out of your beer. Yuk! Thankfully we no longer have to deal with disease carrying fleas but they are still a great way to keep flies and other bugs out of your favorite brew.

Beer tankards, similar to the stein, have a flared round bottom, hold more than the usual serving size of beer, and some tankards even have a glass bottom. A funny story behind the glass bottom tankard is that most bar fights started when someone was blindsided while drinking from their tankard; the glass bottom provides a clear view so they could always see what was coming! Meanwhile, dimpled mugs are a charming beer mug style that was once a standard beer glass at pubs in Britain.

  • Use with These Beer Styles: Most American Ales and Lagers, English beers, Bock beers, good multi-purpose glass

 

Wheat Beer Glasses, Weizenbier glass, or Weissbier Glass

wheat beerThese types of beer glasses are many times mistaken with the real Pilsner glasses below in American. The term seems to be used interchangeably at times. In reality they are called Wheat Beer Glasses. They are used to serve wheat beers, traditionally called a Weizenbiers or Bravarian Weizens. This German style glass has thin elegant walls and is typically quite tall allowing the glass to showcase the beer’s color. It is said the tapered glass shape originates from the desire to trap yeast at the bottom of the glass, which was very common in traditional beers until mass bottling and forced carbonation became popular in the early part of the century, and is still common today in micro-brews and home brews. These Weizenbier glasses typically hold around .5L but it’s also common to see them holding 20oz -24oz. The larger sizes allow for more of that appealing fluffy foam or “head” which traps aromas and is visually pleasing; typically associated with this type of beer

  • Use with These Beer Styles: Pale Wheat Beers, Dark Wheat Ales, Hefeweizens

 

Pilsner Glasses

Pilsner GlassesPilsner glasses are a more elegant type of beer glasses. These beer glasses are tall and have tapered walls that lead to a sturdy base. The pilsner glass was created to complement the lighter ales. The thin walls show off and maintain the sparkle in the golden hues of the ales they contain. The tall pilsner glass is also ideal for maintaining the perfect beer head which enhances the volatiles in beer, therefore creating a better enjoyment in the taste of pale ales. Sometimes this beer glass style can be mistaken for a Weizen glass, but the pilsner is tapered evenly from top to bottom and has no curves in its design at all.

  • Use with These Beer Styles:  Best for light colored beers, American Pale Lager, Czech Pilsener, Light Lagers, and Low % Alcohol Beer

 

Beer Boots

beer bootBeer boots have been around for over a hundred years, but have regained popularity thanks to movies like Beer Fest in recent years. Born from a Bavarian tradition over 100 years ago where soldiers filled their boots with traditional ale to toast and salute their military victories. Shortly there after the glass version was made, and the rest as they say, is history! Range anywhere from 0.5L to 2.0L. TIP: Twist the boot when you near the end unless you want a beer bath!

  • Use with These Beer Styles:  Novelty glass! Use for any beer you want, but we recommend low % alcohol beer because you’ll likely be drinking a lot of it!

 

So What Beer Glassware Should I Use?

Our suggestions under each type of glass above should be a good starting point for the average beer drinker. However the type of beer glassware you choose for your ale is ultimately up to you. Each is made for a different type of beer and all the different types of beer glasses all have their pros and con dependent on the type of beer you are drinking. No matter if your choice of ale is bitter, cream ale, or stout there is a beer glass that was specifically created to accent the aromas and taste of your beer just right! So experiment with different beer glasses and see which one works best for you!