The secret to perfect quaff-ability is in the mercury


As I stood scraping ice off my frosted-over car last week, it occurred to me that many folks are drinking their beer way too cold—or, worse, from a frosted glass. So, because I care about you and your drinking experience, I’ve written the definitive column about the proper temperature at which to serve beer.

There’s no doubt that when one thinks of beer, one envisions an ice-cold pint of golden goodness. Serving it too cold, though, is actually detrimental to enjoyment. Sure, icing a beer to near freezing makes it easier to drink and it’s quite refreshing. Unfortunately, what’s gained in quaff-ability is lost in taste. You see, the colder something gets, the less flavor your taste buds will be able to taste.

A study published in the scientific journal Nature revealed that microscopic channels in our taste buds are responsible for our noticing the difference in how things taste at different temperatures. These channels react to the temperature of food,  causing more intense taste sensations when something is consumed above the appropriate serving temperature. Take the example of a frozen cola: When consumed in its frozen state, it tastes like a regular cola, only much colder. When frozen cola melts, it’s much sweeter than canned cola from the vending machine. Similarly, with ice-cold beer, the bitterness is suppressed. All you get is a cold sensation and slightly sweet flavor.

Bitterness and maltiness are the qualities that make beer taste like beer. By serving beer too cold, you rob yourself of the pleasures created by the balance of flavors; all that’s there are muted flavors and an empty buzz.

Beer-serving temps change depending on what beer style you’re having. Still, there’s great debate over the exact, ideal serving temperature of specific styles. Most experts agree with the general opinion that lighter-bodied beers should be served cooler; darker styles served warmer.

To make drinking beer at its optimal temperature easier, here’s a list of temperature ranges and the beers to serve within each. While it’s not the gospel, and you certainly can make adjustments according to preference, these are the recommended temperatures to ensure you get the best flavor from your beer.

Best for hefeweizens, premium lagers, pilsners, fruity beers, golden ales, weissbiers, Belgian whites and sweetened lambics. Examples include Wicked Barley’s I Vienna Hump-A-Lot, Stella Artois and Lindemans Framboise.

The optimum temp for American pale ales, amber/red ales, hefeweizen dunkels, stouts, porters, Belgian ales, schwarzbiers, Irish ales, unsweetened lambics and helles bocks. Examples are Intuition Ale Works’ People’s Pale Ale, Bold City Brewery’s Red Rye-der Red Rye IPA, and Leffe Blonde.

Also the “cellar” temperature, this range works best for bitters, brown ales, IPAs, English pale ales, saisons, sour ales, bière de garde, Belgian strong ales, dubbels, bocks, Scottish ales, Scotch ales and Baltic porters, including Southern Swells Brewing Company’s Karate in the Garage, Veterans United Craft Brewery’s Farmers Little Helper and Westmalle Trappist Dubbel.

Best for barleywines, quadrupels, Imperial stouts, doppelbocks and meads, including Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout and Harris Meadery’s Pineapple Pen mead.

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