Friday, March 7, 2014

Form and Function: The Dartington Ultimate Tankard

Following my sister's wedding on Family Day Weekend, she presented me with a thank-you gift (needlessly, I think; she had already fed me and paid my bar tab, so I was already waaaay ahead on the transaction!) of the Dartington Ultimate Tankard.


Obviously, as a beer fan this was tremendously appropriate and much appreciated. I'm a huge proponent of using a glass for beer as opposed to a bottle, as my consternated and occasionally annoyed friends will attest to, as bottle drinking not only eliminates the nose entirely from tasting the beer, but also needlessly agitates it.


I have a few different types of beer glasses in my collection now, from tankards to pint sleeves to a set of kolsch-style rods (or stange, if you will), and I don't think I've bought any of them. The majority are branded promotional items included with the purchase of a particular beverage, but the rest are all either commemoratives or gifts: The earthenware stein that Island Mike lugged all the way back from Berlin for me actually predates my marriage and has survived being moved to Toronto and back. My pewter five-year veteran's mug from GW is engraved with an imperial eagle as well as my name, although I don't drink from it that often. The girls bought me a Guinness tulip glass with a vintage "Lovely Day for a Guinness" ad on it Which is in fairly regular rotation. The one exception I can think of is the enormous (1 litre) Klingon drinking stein I bought at a Calgary convention with proceeds (and tribbles!) going to the children's hospital there, but it sees very little use as a drinking vessel.


Now, there is quite a bit of speculation as to exactly how much effect the shape of the glass can have on what you are drinking, for both wine and glass. Pete has done the Pepsi challenge, sampling the same wine from two different glasses and though initially somewhat skeptical, was suitably impressed at the improvement in taste from the specialty glass. For myself, my attitude is on the topic is the same as the one I have on ghosts: while I am sure it is possible, and will never discount the accounts of others, I haven't any direct experience. Part of this is undoubtedly due to the simplicity of my palate and a lack of discipline in my tasting, for whatever that's worth.


Even without somehow enhancing its contents, the Dartington is a wonder to behold as well as a joy to drink from; the ample handle permits gracious accommodation for all four of my fingers, and its low positioning leave a full pint well balanced and comfortable in the hand. The trumpet flare of the mouth of the tankard is not only a stylish design flourish, but also permits you to build a good, sturdy head on the appropriate beer, as well as providing a better fulcrum for the thumb when tipping the glass to imbibe.


The flared edges do require a certain amount of caution when orienting to drink, as a frankly surprising amount of liquid can be dispersed along a wider than usual surface area in a very short period of time, with almost no warning whatsoever.


There are many different styles of beer glasses, some regional, some historical, some designed for specific styles of beer; Belgian ales (especially Trappist styles) are often served in a chalice, and are designed so the beer can be warmed in the palm of the hand. Other strong ales are served in a snifter or balloon, similar to brandy, in order to collect and concentrate the aromas. As a result of this, it is difficult to assert that all beers will taste or feel better in this particular glassware. It's 573 cL size also means that a regular (355 mL) bottle looks a bit small once decanted within it. Having said that though, I feel fairly confident that the Dartington Ultimate Tankard will be my go-to glass for pint-sized beers for some time to come. Slainte, Tara and Jerry!


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