| Beer's Best Serving Temperatures
by Toby Shanner
Serving beer can have kind of a Goldilocks effect: too warm, it’s flat and possibly off-flavor; too cold, and its
flavors will be masked. Just as there are optimal serving temperatures for wines, beer also benefits from being
served the right way.
In more scientific terms, per the American Homebrewers Association,* “Cold temperature slows the volatilization of
aromatic compounds causing them to linger in the beer. When these compounds are not released, it dramatically
changes the apparent flavor and aroma of the beer, sometimes to the point where it may come across as thin and
tasteless.” Hence, why Coors Light is so refreshing when it’s “Cold as the Rockies,” or why many craft brewers will
drink their favorite macro lagers ice-cold.
But what about, say, the New England IPA, the hottest style in the country right now? Well, the worst thing that
can happen to a New England IPA is to serve it anywhere below 38 degrees, which is a common serving
temperature at almost every bar in the country. If you serve it below that, you really diminish and lose out on the
flavor potential for that beer. The sweet spot is 44 degrees minimum, up to 54 degrees. If you serve it at 38
degrees and let it warm up, you have a more interesting experience. As you go into the low 40s and low 50s, it
really opens up and you get more of the fruit expression, not just in flavor, but in aromatics as well
For American Macro Lagers / Light Lagers go cold — anywhere in the 33- to 40-degree range is suitable for
macro lagers. This is around your average refrigerator temperature, with 33 degrees, near freezing, on the low
end. Your sweet spot is really between 36 and 38 degrees
For most craft lagers and pilsners, 38 degrees is ideally your low point. Anywhere up to the low-to-mid 40s is fair
game. “[Pilsners] are more traditionally [served at] 38 degrees, and are probably best suited there. But for really
hoppy American styles or IPLs [India Pale Lagers], the same holds true for those [as for NEIPAs] — you definitely
get more expression with the hops as the beer warms up.
For darker lagers, like Vienna-style, Oktoberfest or Marzen-style lagers, and amber lagers, you’ll want to go
slightly warmer, in the 45 to 50 range. Stronger lagers, like a dunkel or doppelbock, would do well at 50.
Due to their light body, mouthfeel, and grain bill, blonde ales and cream ales are best enjoyed in that pilsner
range of 40 to 45.
Pale ale is the style where things tend to get more flavorful, with fruity, citrusy notes playing a major role in hop
character, bitterness and body reaching medium levels, and bolder malt choices, like caramel malt, starting to
make appearances. An American pale ale is best imbibed at at least 45 degrees, topping out as high as 50
degrees. An English-style pale ale, however, can be pushed to 50 to 55 degrees. This is because English-style
pale ales, or extra special bitter (ESB)-style ales, are richer in flavor, fuller in body, and fruitier, thanks to yeast
IPAs have such a variable range of flavors and sub-styles, trying to pin down one temperature is futile. Generally,
you want the temperature to be higher than refrigerator temperature, which, as we said, is about 38 degrees. This
allows all those tropical, citrusy, piney, dank, and herbal flavor and aroma compounds to show up to the party.
The American IPA molecule party tends to get pretty turnt up at about 50 degrees. Depending on the beer’s
balance, alcohol level, and hop composition, it could rage at as low as 45 degrees and as high as 55.
Stouts and Porters really beg for a range, usually between 45 and 55 degrees. It's best to start with your stout at
44 degrees and allow it to warm up, similar to a New England IPA. Nitro stouts do better on the lower end, 45
degrees being about as high as you’ll want to go for these uniquely gassed brews. For a typical American stout,
those coffee and chocolate notes will really express at 50 degrees. A milk stout could even go a little higher, as
could a brown ale or English-style mild.
Imperial stouts, especially the big, ingredient-packed imperial dessert stouts of today, will also benefit from warmer
temperatures, Bachli adds. “Fifty to 55 degrees is a good range for those beers. They’re very expressive and
robust in flavor. Any time you cool a beer like that down too much, you miss out on a lot of flavor elements.
Wheat beers come in many forms: American wheat ale; Belgian-style wit; Berliner-style weisse, and perhaps the
best known, the hefeweizen. For the most part, these cloudy, yeasty brews are best served between 40 and 45
degrees. For the hefe, which goes lighter on hop flavor and heavier on yeast-driven banana and clove aromas,
slightly warmer temperatures are acceptable. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll be wrapping your hands around
that big, vase-like glass, which will add heat.
Sour, tart, and funky ales come in many forms — in fact, they are near infinite by nature — and so, too, can their
ideal serving temps vary. An American brett ale, for example, can range from fruity and refreshing to leathery and
funky, the former of which you may want to play up with a warmer temperature, close to 55 degrees, and the latter
you may want to subdue with a lower 45 degrees. Since American sours tend to be high in acidity, a lower
temperature might do well to minimize that lactic or acetic burn. For lambics and other fruited sours — cassis,
framboise, kriek, peche —flavors can be sweet or dry, lightly or intensely acidic, pungent or subtle. In general, you’
re safe in that 45- to 50-degree range. As for a gose, the low 40s seems to work best.
Generally, the bigger and boozier the beer, the warmer the temperature can go, but this is not necessarily true.
Belgian-style dubbels are malt- and yeast-forward, often chocolatey and sweet, with fruity, banana-like esters.
Both dubbels and quadrupels are ideally served in the low- to mid-50s. The tripel, however, is tricky. Paler in
color, lighter in body, and spicier in yeast character, tripels are often drier and have a higher ABV (7 to 10
percent). But, because they are bottle-conditioned and more similar in style to a golden ale, they tend to do better
at lower temperatures, between 40 and 45 degrees.
(based on an article by Cat Wolinski)
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