Originally designed as a vessel for aged brown spirits like whiskey or brandy, hence the glass’ other name, “Brandy Snifter”, the snifter has become a fantastic vessel for beer as well. In fact, I would dispute that it’s possibly one of the most important glasses for beer enjoyment next to the tulip.
The snifter’s bulbous shape allows the glass to be cupped in the palm of the hand, transferring heat to the beer, warming it up; a key factor for many styles poured into this glass as they all benefit from being served at a slightly higher temperature. The wide base also helps evaporate the liquid while it’s narrow opening captures the escaping aromatics, perfect for the styles with a more complex nose.
Interestingly enough, the snifter is generally never filled in part because the open space allows for aromatic collection but also because the snifter was designed in such a manner that, when filled with liquor and rested on it’s side (not the base), the liquor would fill the basin without spilling out!
Styles to pour into a Snifter:
American Double IPA
American Imperial Stout
American Strong Ale
Russian Imperial Stout