Who’s pilfering the pilsners and pocketing those pints?

Full Disclosure Dep’t: Once, about 20 years ago, I walked out of the Fort – a dark and stale midstate college bar where you could drink Genny Cream all night for about two bucks – with a 12-ounce glass mug tucked down my pants. It sat in my kitchen for the remainder of the semester, filled only occasionally with orange juice. I am unaware of its current whereabouts. I have no excuses for my sophomoric behavior.

Now, with my sins confessed, I’d like to tackle the nasty, little habit of glassware theft.

It’s an insidious, costly problem that plagues nearly every bar in the city and burbs. Ask any bartender how many glasses walk out the door each month, and I guarantee it’s in the dozens.

“I probably lose two to three dozen a week, at about three or four dollars apiece,” Tom Peters, co-owner of Monk’s Cafe (264 S. 16th St.), told me. That’s about a hundred bucks a month.

The cost to replace glasses, naturally, is passed along to all consumers. Worse, glass theft cuts into everyone’s enjoyment of beer.

Most exotic beers are best served in unique glasses, like tulips and pilseners. You don’t want to slop down a Cantillon Kriek, for example, in a Flintstones jelly glass. This cherry lambic is as sparkling as champagne and deserves a delicate flute, to allow its effervescence to sparkle upward and pour lightly across your palate.

When someone swipes the flutes, though, the bar that serves this wonderful beer must pour it into the next-best glass – or not at all.

In Belgium – where every beer is served in its own glass, supplied by its brewery – it’s not unusual for bar patrons to be told a certain beer is unavailable because all of its particular glasses are in use. During a visit to Brussels last fall, I had a devil of a time finding Kwak on tap, because bars frequently ran out of its unique bulb-bottomed glasses that are kept upright in a wooden holder.

One bar in Ghent, known as Mad Meg, actually insists that Kwak drinkers remove one shoe as a deposit for the beer glass.

Peters laughed at that solution for the glassware crime spree. “The city health department would probably frown on that,” he said.

But he’s serious about the Great Glassware Caper.

“We would love to serve each beer in its own glass, to show off its characteristics, its color, taste, aroma,” Peters said. “Before I opened Monk’s, I had been saving glassware I collected during trips to Belgium. I probably started off with several hundred glasses. Within a couple of months, I was down to several dozen.”

Some – like an old Rodenbach snifter – were irreplaceable.

Peters assumes patrons are picking up his glasses as souvenirs. “Hey, they walk out with the `Employees Must Wash Hands’ sign out of the lavatory,” he said. “If I had logoed ashtrays, they’d be gone, too.”

It occurs to me, though, that these Belgian specialties are not cheap. The aforementioned Cantillon goes for about $15 a bottle.

Which is Joe Sixpack’s way of pointing out that much of the Great Glassware Caper is being perpetrated not by lowlifes and college students looking for free juice glasses, but by the comfortably well-heeled, who think nothing of sneaking out of the bar with a five-dollar glass stuffed in their jacket or handbag.

Yo, didn’t your momma teach you manners? If you like the glass, buy it.

Almost all the local microbreweries and brewpubs will be happy to sell you pint glasses with their logos for about 3 bucks a pop.

And exotic glassware is available at decent kitchen stores, homebrew shops and distributors. Peters sends glass-seeking patrons to Home Sweet Homebrew (2008 Sansom St.), where proprietors George Hummel and Nancy Rigberg can get their hands on nearly anything. Or try Shangy’s (601 State Ave., Emmaus, Pa.) beer distributor or Golden Lion Pub Paraphernalia, which has a great selection on the Web (www.pubstuff.com) and by mail order (800-694-4255).


Cool off with any of these three great summertime beers, selected by Monk’s Tom Peters.

  1. Gueuze. The tart Belgian ale is a surprising thirst-quencher.
  2. Victory Hop Devil IPA. An extraordinarily hopped brew from Downingtown.
  3. Berliner Weiss. A German wheat ale, often flavored with syrup. Peters likes green woodruff in his.

Joe Sixpack (written this week with a bottle of Celis White) appears every other Friday


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