When you order a Kwak at a bar, it is often served in a tall, funny looking glass. Do you know why? There is a quirky history behind the invention of this iconic glass, also called the koetsiersglas.
Who Invented the Koetsiersglas?
This is a koetsiersglas aka “Coachmen’s Glass.” Legend has it that tavern owner Pauwel Kwak designed the unique shape in the 1790s when Napoleonic Code took hold in Belgium. One stipulation of the stringent new legal code was that coachmen were no longer allowed to drink with their riders. This tactic focused on drawing a clear line between the wealthy and working classes. And it meant left of potential customers had to wait *outside* Pauwel’s bar.
Like any enterprising entrepreneur, he figured out a loophole: coachmen couldn’t come in, but beer could come out to them! He designed a wooden cupholder of sorts to hold a glass. The coachmen could attach this cupholder to their coach. Then, Kwak created a glass that would stay in the cupholder, or in the hand of the coachman on even the bumpiest ride.
The tricky part was that the glass had to be narrow enough for a coachmen to wrap their hand around it even with thick gloves. This left a long slender neck of a glass with most of the beer contained in a bottom bulb to prevent sloshing in a bumpy coach. The already odd looking contraption has a massive lip at the top to make drinking (while driving, yikes!) easy and to contain spills.
All things that were very practical for coach drivers, but not so practical today, ha!
Where can you Drink From a Kwak Glass Today?
Belgian beer bars and some serious craft beer bars that carry Kwak will often have it’s quirky matching glassware. Most people will only experience a koetsiersglas with its namesake beer Kwak, but there are bars in Belgium that serve other beers in similar glasses.
They can be such a novelty that at one bar in Gent you need to give up your shoe in exchange for a 2ft tall glass. Hiding shoes above the bar is the only way De Dulle Griet can keep these funny contraptions from walking out the door! (Take a look at the location on Instagram and you’re sure to see some socks.)
Want a Koetsiersglas of Your Own?
The entrepreneurial tavern owner designed the glass in the 1700s, but it is still manufactured today. Kwak makes its own glasses and matching stand for sale. But unbranded glasses with the same elongated shape are also available online or from specialty retailers.
Next time you lift one of these unique glasses don’t forget to toast the tavern owner that made it!