Come Out of the Cold
No, no, please don't serve me that delicious craft beer in an icy mug.
If you see your server reach for that frosty vessel please have no qualms about
insisting on an unfrosted glass despite the dirty looks you'll receive. Many will
say you must be crazy -a chilled mug is wonderful luxury. After all, If beer
wasn't supposed to be served icy cold why would an iconic beer like Coors
Light spend millions of dollars inventing and marketing a can with “temperature-
sensitive thermal chromatic ink technology” that turns the mountains on the
label from white to blue when the beer reaches four degrees Celsius (39
degrees Fahrenheit)? Well it may be perfect for a Coors but not for countless
To put it plainly, most bars in the USA serve their beer much too cold. It’s a fact.
The reason for this? Well, it’s a tradition that lies somewhere between novelty
and beer style history.
Before refrigeration, most beer was served at “cellar temperature.” Accounting
for natural variations in such an environment, this temperature would equate to
around 55°F. It wasn’t until refrigeration was common that the social
phenomenon of enjoying artificially chilled beer was born.
This actually worked to the advantage of certain beer styles. Lighter lagers,
such as pilsners, (the rage when drinking vessels made of glass replaced
stoneware) benefited from being served in the 45°F range, some even colder.
This added the refreshment of drinking cold liquids, especially on a hot day, but
it came to terrorize other beer styles.
Those other styles suffered because chilling a beer too much can reduce the
ability of the flavor compounds in the beer to come through to the drinker.
Colder temperatures reduce flavor awareness. That may be great for a mass-
produced, tasteless light beer, but it doesn’t enhance most of the quality beers
on the market. Temperature is far more important than most people realize.
Ten or fifteen degrees can make an enormous difference in how a beer will
taste, even the exact same beer will taste different as its temperature changes.
In Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion the 'Bard of Beer' writes there are five
categories of chilling beer-
Well chilled: 45°F for pale lagers
Chilled: 46°F for wheat beers
Lightly chilled: 48°F for dark lagers, altbiers, and German wheat beers
Cellar temperature: 55°F for most British ales and Belgian specialty beers
Room temperature: 60°F for strong dark ales and barleywines
To simplify things, some quality beers now have a suggested serving
temperature on the bottle label with most being in the in the mid-50s range.
So before you ice down that imperial stout or Belgian dubbel you have on
hand, be sure to do a little research and enjoy your beer at the proper
temperature. It’ll make a world of difference!
One last thought. If you notice someone ordering a Bud Light with ice cubes,
just see it as a refreshing glass of cold water. If however you see someone do
that to a Chimay or Kentucky Breakfast Stout then a beer-citizen's arrest just
might be in order.
beernexus.com - SPECIAL REPORT