Voted the number three beer bar in the world, HopCat knows how to serve beer.  And part of the experience is the glassware used to serve it.

At the Grand Rapids pub, you’ll get your Imperial IPA in a snifter and your stout in a pint glass. But does it truly make any difference? While the glassware might not ruin your experience of the beer, a glass that matches the beer can only enhance things, as HopCat manager Steve Smith explains.

“Do you have to ‘enhance’ it? You don’t have to,” Smith says. “It’s a hold to tradition and gives more definition within the styles.”

According to Smith, HopCat’s effort to serve in glassware that matches the brews is part of the overall experience for its patrons.

“You want to be able to feel like each beer is special,” he says.

But you don’t have to go to HopCat or your neighborhood pub to enjoy beer in ideal glassware. You can enjoy it right at home with a little investing.

To begin your education, click the photo slideshow to the right of this article to learn which beers are paired with various glasses. We’ll focus on the glassware used at HopCat, which represents those typically used by most beer connoisseurs — flute, pilsner, pint, snifter, tulip and Weizen.

Really, this is just a sampling, as the number of different beer glasses in existence is perhaps immeasurable (some beers have special glasses made just for them).

1) Tulip – Smith says the tulip captures carbonation, supporting a foamy head. The open rim allows more upfront aroma. Used for IPAs, lambics, ales and some lagers.

2) Weizen – This glass “captures a nice head” that lasts, Smith says, adding that the aromatics, usually banana-like and quasi-fruity, are best in this glass. Hefeweizen and weizenbock have “a lot of flavor from spices traditional to Germany,” but the glass is also used for wheat ales.

3) Flute – Colors are presented beautifully by the flute glass, but Smith says it also enhances carbonation and offers intense aroma. Used for fruity beers and brews with wine-type feel, i.e.ciders, framboise lambics and meads.

4) Pilsner/Lager – The straight-walled design optimizes carbonation, Smith explains. “Lagers are meant to be very crisp and clean with not a lot of aroma,” Smith says, adding this glass is best for pilsners, bock and both American and European lagers.

5) Pint – This is used for the base-style of beers, i.e. ambers, browns, porters, stouts and lagers. Smith says most lagers and ales are served in pint glasses and any “base” beers.

6) Snifter – According to Smith, snifters are typically reserved for brews with high alcohol by volume as it “captures” volatiles and the aromatic essence that usually goes “hand-in-hand” with high ABU beers. Typically used for porter, imperial porter/IPA, double IPA, double/imperial stout, belgian ale and barleywine (pretty much anything “double” or “imperial,” Smith says).

As you enjoy your favorite craft brew (I won’t tattle tale if it’s not Michigan-brewed), consider enhancing the experience with the ideal glassware. Finding beer glasses is a Google search away — well worth the few minutes it’ll take to find a store that sells them nearby, or have them shipped to your home.

It comes down to whether you want to just drink beer or experience beer.

HopCat is located in downtown Grand Rapids at 25 Ionia SW.