Beer Serving Temperatures

There are all sorts of beer available to us.  Some folks always drink their beer directly from the refrigerator, some from an ice chest, while others serve from the tap on a kegerator.  Many styles can benefit from being served from a particular shaped glass.  Chilled glasses can be a plus, but frozen mugs are a definite no-no; we’ll get into that.

Just as with carbonation levels, every style of beer has a “sweet spot” for the temperature level which brings out the best flavor and aroma for that style.  Within each style, there are examples which seem better when served above or below that “standard” of temperature.  There is nothing absolute about any of this as it is subjective but can make quite a bit of difference. The following is just a basic guideline.

Very  Cold (32 – 39o F / 0 – 4o C)
North American Lagers (Mexican, US, or Canadian), Cream Ale, or other styles which don’t have a lot of flavor and require the stunning of your taste buds to consume.  This manipulation of your taste buds is aided by the frozen or frosted mug.

Cold (39 – 45o F / 4 – 7o C)
Most European lagers and ales. German Weissbier, Belgian Wit.

Cool (45 – 54o F / 7 – 12o C)
Most Belgian Ales, Stout, Porter, Helles, Czech Pils, Schwarzbier, Rauchbier, Altbier.

Cellar (54 – 57o F / 12 – 14o C)
Most English cask or keg beer such as Bitter, Mild, Pale Ale, Brown Ale, India Pale Ale, English Strong Ale, Old Ale, plus Saison, Bock, Foreign Stout, Scotch Ale, and American Strong Ale.

Warm (57 – 61o F / 14 – 16o C)
Heavy duty beers such as Barley Wine, Wheat Wine, Imperial Stout, Quadruple, Imperial or Double IPA, Eisbock.

To develop a better understanding of this, do a little experiment.  Pour a beer from your fridge into a glass.  Check the temp with a thermometer and taste the beer.  Allow the beer to warm up a little and taste it again.  Keep going until the beer is up to about 60o F.  Your notes should reflect the temperature at which the flavor of the beer peaked and when it has lost its allure.  Repeat the experiment with another style of beer and see what results you get.  I suspect that taste vs. temperature, even by your own standards, will surprise you.

Experiment with one of your favorite pedestrian beers which are designed to be “thirst quenchers”.  Pour a really cold light beer into a glass.  As it warms up to ambient temp, keep tasting it.  Does it start tasting a bit heinous as it warms?

The claim that the English drink their beer “warm” is erroneous.  As you can see from the above chart, cellar temp is quite cooler than “warm” or “room temperature.” 

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