By Susan R. Pollack
Time to pitch those red plastic Solo cups and rid your bar of generic, boring beer glasses.
Knoxville glass-artist-turned-brewer Matthew Cummings has created a line of 20 original, hand-blown glasses — he calls them “Formal Wear” — for craft beer and another 10 custom vessels for bourbon, hard cider, cocktails and wine.
Designed in shapes that Cummings says enhance the taste and appreciation of each beverage, these glasses are anything but ordinary. The eye-catching designs include a malt-friendly upside-down snowman; a tulip-snifter hybrid with a hollow foot that accentuates hoppy beers; and Dual, a patented, two-chambered cylinder that conveys the bouquet of both beers simultaneously.
You might say the glasses, which start at $30 per glass up to $306 for a mixed set of eight, are a tad pretentious. And that’s exactly the word that bubbled up seven years ago when Cummings, a master glass blower, designed his first custom batch for his drinking buddies.
Today, the tongue-in-cheek-named Pretentious Glass Company (pretentiousglass.com) is his combination glass-blowing studio and craft brewery, located in Knoxville’s historic Old City neighborhood.
The taproom — showcasing Cummings’ colorful, hand-blown beer tap handles and rows of glassware created, he says, after considerable personal research — is connected to the glass studio by a patio beer garden.
Patrons sampling the frequently changing array of craft brews (hazy and milkshake IPAs, tiki sours and pastry stouts among them, and all with snarky names) may watch a live glass-blowing demonstration by Cummings or his assistants. Or, they can take a turn making their own glass on Friday and Saturday nights, with advance reservations. The hot glass creations must be left to cool overnight.
“Everything is made on site here,” says Cummings, whose two-ton glass sculpture of a 30-foot tall torch recently was installed in the University of Tennessee’s new student union building. “Pretentious is the only place in the world where you can drink beer made in-house out of glasses made in-house.”