Matthew Cummings is still six weeks behind on orders, but he’s getting there. He was eight weeks behind back before Christmas. With any luck, he may see some relief by summer.
His product? Beer glasses. To be specific, he is the man behind The Pretentious Beer Glass Co. and a glass blower who has taken the pint glass where no pint glass has gone before. Cummings’ glasses sometimes have mustaches. They sometimes have built-in fingerprints (of sorts). The have dual compartments. They lean.
But he makes them because he feels they are perfect for the types of beers for which they are designed.
You know, that basic beer glass you get to drink from at almost every bar in Louisville? Yeah, it’s really better for soda than for beer. It is a glass of convenience in the shape of a shaker.
A couple of years ago, Cummings and his buddies began hanging out at Mellwood Arts Center, where Cummings’ studio is located (he has been a professional glass blower for 10 years). They would drink his home-brewed beer and enjoy the patio area; it was a beer club of sorts, and one day a friend said, “We should have our own beer glasses.”
That set Cummings to work. What the Centre College grad didn’t expect was that his creations would quickly take off. His friends loved them, so he set up a website, and orders began to trickle in. He did a “pop-up” event with Against the Grain as part of Louisville Craft Beer Week. And then it happened: His phone started blowing up with orders. He was shocked. What was going on? Was it SEO in action?
Nope. It was Huffington Post. A story on that popular site had alerted the world to his product, and it was on.
“I went home and checked the [beer glass] site, and it was going nuts,” Cummings says. “It was getting thousands of hits.”
Soon The Pretentious Beer Glass Co. was 60 cases behind. Then 100.
“And then, it was madness,” says production coordinator Lisa Wulf.
Good problem to have, though. This is a guy who suddenly has a thriving business that also helps fuel his art projects – he continues to create his “science inspired” blown glass, and is a well-respected artist in his genre. Truth is, despite his love for beer, he never envisioned himself as a blower of beer glasses.
“If you had asked me two years ago,” he says, “I would have said, ‘No, I wouldn’t do that.’”
But he did. And he does. And he loves it.
“It’s awesome,” he says of his nearly accidental business. “It’s so much fun to make a glass and give it to somebody, and see how excited they are.”
In creating the glasses, he spent six months looking at what European pubs poured various styles of beer into. And then he would pour different styles into the “wrong” glasses, to see how it affected the nose and flavor. It was daunting research, to say the least. Ahem.
And now he has a full line of glasses from which to choose, from the mustachioed ale glass to the curvy malty beer glass to the bottom heavy aromatic beer glass to the dual beer glass, which allows the drinker to pour two different beers into different parallel chambers to enjoy a custom blend. Imagine a black and tan, but side by side instead of stacked.
And not long into my visit to his studio, Cummings said, “How much time do you have? I’m going to make you a custom beer glass.”
I love making new friends.
And so, we went to his “cold” studio, where he asked me to handle a few of his pre-made hoppy beer glasses and pick one that felt good in my hand. At that point, he told me how to position my fingers around the glass, and traced them with a Sharpie. And then he went to work on his lathe, grinding out a custom grip based around my fingers.
“This is the world’s only tailored beer glass,” he says, asking me to grip the glass to see how well the grooves fit my fingers. “I’ll get this so that it fits like a glove.”
After a couple of adjustments, it absolutely did fit like a glove. A glove that can hold hoppy, delicious beer.
And it became clear to me that this is a guy who is happy doing what he does. He and I chattered about beer styles, beer history and beer glasses for two and a half hours through what I had thought would be a 30-minute interview.
He is planning a move to Knoxville, Tenn., to expand upon his business, which will be a loss for Louisville. But he’s all about pushing the limits. He believes there is an untapped market there that needs to be explored – not that he won’t miss Louisville. He simply wants to keep exploring the possibilities.
“There are no real rules,” he says.
Oh, and be on the lookout: He has a line of bourbon glasses that has not yet been widely released. His website may blow up yet again when those hit the market.
This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.