Drinking Beer From A Curved Glass Is A Risky Proposition

Drinking beer from a curved glass is a risky proposition. When a tankard was a tankard, you knew where you were and the best looking of those tankards had a nice round belly like their owners.  But in these more sophisticated days, glasses are often more like vases for sticking flowers in.

The effect of rates of beer consumption due to glass shape has been studied by psychologists Attwood et al from my old Alma Mater (U Bristol) and is published in last weeks PLoS ONE (1). 159 young men sober young men and women (18 to 40-years old) were lined up and divided into 8 groups. (It would have been 160 but one participant failed to drain their glass.)

Vase shaped lager glasses (“flutes”) were used and compared to true cylindrical straight up and down honest glasses. Some were filled to the brim, some were half filled, some were filled with a soft drink and some only half filled. Note alcoholics were weeded out and all had been sober for 12 hours.

The rate of drink consumption was monitored by computerized video as the participants watched a nature documentary and then carried out word-search puzzles with pencil and paper.

By now I’m sure you are all thirsting for the results. Well, the drinkers who were given full 12 oz. glasses of lager drank faster than those with straight glasses – they finished the glass in 60% of the time it took a straight glass drinker to drink theirs. Those who worked with half full glasses or soft drink glasses (full or half-full) drank at a rate independent of glass shape.

The explanation suggested was that the judgment of how much was left was impaired by the curvature of the glass as if the person had consumed half the beer, the remaining beer would be more than half the height of the glass due to the wide top and narrow bottom, unlike the honest straight glass where the height would accurately reflect the remaining percentage. Thus the drinkers were regulating alcohol consumption by the height of liquid in the glass. The bottom half of the flutes were close to straight so the misjudgment would be less when this part was in play.

It is interesting to note that the consumption rate for the soft drinks matched that of the curved glass beer drinker. In this experimental program the soft drink was Dr. Pepper and somewhat inexplicably for a town with plenty of microbrew choices, the beer was a French lager (Bière de France) – very strange!

  1. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0043007

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