Nationality: Germany, Austria
How it works: This is the locomotive of vessels, the monster transporter that's served its purpose since long before any slick designer shapes or sizes rolled onto the scene. It's utilitarian and non-discriminating, functioning just as effectively with rich or bitter ales as with maltier, drier lagers. Like its ancestor the steel-capped German stein -- the kind with hinged lids developed in the 1300's to keep out Plague-causing contaminants -- mugs in bars today can be gigantic, holding up to a liter of brew. They are perhaps the most social variety of glassware, seemingly designed to endure vigorous toasting. Plus, since your warm hands aren't wrapped around the glass, the contents stay chilled as you linger and mingle.
The verdict: The Munich-style Burgerbrau Helles was the beer of choice on a night at the Bukowski Tavern in Cambridge. It comes in a mug emblazoned with the brewery's logo of a cheerful Everyman -- appropriate, considering burger is the German word for a member of the middle class. The brew is a refreshingly hoppy, perfumey lager. (That's layperson's term for any bottom-fermented beer, which means that during brewing the yeast lingers and ferments at the bottom of the vat, resulting in a crisp, clear, clean concoction.) The wide rim of the glass enable drinkers to savor the fresh, gentle aromas. The iconic tankard brings to mind images as varied as the 16th-century tavern scenes in the paintings of Pieter Bruegel, the merry clowns in Shakespeare's plays, and the watering-hole darlings of pop culture, from Norm Peterson to Homer Simpson.