It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Hey Bill, think about this, before refrigeration there were only really two ways to reduce the
temperature of beer: letting it cool naturally in a cellar, or using natural ice, cut from a river or
lake. Then the real problems began when brewers began to realise that as they served their
beers colder and colder they could also make them blander and blander without their
customers complaining or even noticing. As blander also means cheaper, this was good news
for those trying to maximise their profits.
Since beers served ice cold taste much the same the drinker was wide open to the influence of
other factors, such as advertising. Refrigeration allowed the beer to be transported longer
distances and it also meant that the product had less chance of offending anyone. Beer was
marketed as a cool refresher rather than as a drink to savour.
We both remember that by the early 60's American beer was pale, thin, almost tasteless and
always served freezing cold. The public was led to believe that drinks had to be ice-cold to be
refreshing. Not so. My good friend Greg Katz taught me years ago that beer as a serious taste
experience. Simply put, if your beer is too cold you will miss all the flavors that make it great.
Bill, even you would not expect to be served a vintage Burgundy heavily chilled, but many bars
do that to those poor Trappists and other great examples of the brewing arts. Look, even the
non-wine drinker knows that you don’t chill reds. Sadly, even those with a great love of beer
often have no idea of the optimum temperature to bring out a great ale’s subtleties.
Over chill your beer and there is scarcely any aroma and the nose is left with very little to
enjoy. The tongue is frozen into numbness, further narrowing the sensations experienced.
Various essential taste components present in the beer are not released in the mouth and
disappear unnoticed down the throat. What a waste.
I could give you a few rules about temperature but we both hate "rules" about beer. So the
easy way is to get a bottle at the temperature suggested on the label. If you're having a draft
beer, well good luck. Unless you are in a quality beer bar with different settings for their cold
room everything will be served at the icy setting. Ask the staff why it’s so cold and the most
likely response is ‘that’s the way people like it”. More accurately, it the way the bar manager
wants it since chilling can help cover up any faults of the beer.
One last word of advice. If you pub's beer is served too cold, try a trick my friend Greg Katz
uses. Order two beers at once. By the time you finish the tasteless first one, the waiting pint
will be just the right temperature.
Hey, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next month.
Gina, personal taste, physics, culture and the consumer’s own expectations all come into play
when deciding how cold your beer should be. No-one can produce a unchallengeable list that is
right for everyone, everywhere. A subjective experience such as drinking pleasure will always be
influenced by personal taste. For me, especially in summer, I like my beer to be cold and
refreshing. It’s true, when the sun is beating down on you on a blistering summer hot day, few
things can cool you off like an icy brew.
Of course I agree that If you’re looking for something more from your beer beyond it’s
temperature, something like taste, having your beer cool, not at a ice cold temperature, is the
only way to go.
It's funny that you mentioned wine in your article since there are things called "wine refrigerators"
to make sure the chilling is just right. Well, I just saw an ad for something called a Beer Froster.
It's is a specially-designed refrigerator that holds beer at 24 degrees, the absolute coldest
temperature a beer can get without freezing. People want cold beer. Even President Obama, in
his exchange with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the G-20 meeting in Canada, said
that Cameron should drink the beer he brought,Goose Island 312 wheat beer, "ice cold."
Beer companies are usually selling the message of Ice cold beer because they know it appeals to
the consumers sense of refreshment. Case in point -Coors Light beer is almost synonymous with
“cold” and has helped differentiate the brand from competitive brews. That brand image work has
been so successful that Coors Light has moved to being the No. 2 light beer behind the longtime
sales leader, Bud Light. By the way, the "cold activated" cans start to turn blue at 48 degrees
and turn fully blue at 44 degrees. That however wasn't cold enough for some drinkers so Coors
added a second "super cold" strip. Hey, there's no accounting for taste, or in this case tasteless.
Gina, you know I love Belgium beers served at cellar temperatures but on rare occasion when i
mowed the back 40 acres, I really don't want taste of any kind. And I don't want water. So then
it's a Iron City from the cold back part of the refrigerator for me!
Hey, Gina, your next "frost brewed" cold one is one me! See you next month..