Contrary to popular, beer is not better when drank ice cold. Unfortunately, for decades, commercial breweries have brain-washed us into believing that ice cold beer is best. Using marketing terms like, Cold-filtered, Frost brewed, Colder than cold, Extra cold, or with packaging ploys such as a new re-closable aluminum package called the “Cool Twist bottle” by Bud, or Coors’ “Cold Activated” cans and bottles, in which the mountains on the label turn blue when the beer is cold enough to drink. (I couldn’t help but laugh as I typed, “cold enough to drink”. Its more like “cold enough to not taste how bad this beer is”).
There is nothing that urks me more than when a bartender pours my beer into a cold frosted mug. You see, when beer is ice cold, a beer’s volatile organic compounds (flavors and aromas) get locked up. Drinking a beverage is a lot like eating food; it begins with an aroma. Aroma plays a 50% roll in taste, so once that is diminished, you’re left with 50% of your flavor profile. Now taste is also affected by the cold, so your 50% is now reduced to 25% leaving a whole plethora of flavors behind, because you opted for a frosted mug straight out of the freezer.
“Stouts, barleywines, big barrel-aged beers, and some stronger Belgian styles really benefit from being drank at warmer temps, closer to room temperature—50 to 55-ish,” said Brad Clark, brewmaster at the Athens, Ohio-based Jackie O’s. “The beers really open up and present their true character.” When Clark is in the mood for a bigger beer like a barrel-aged stout, he’ll order two beers: one to consume immediately, and the other to rest and warm before drinking. Beers like that are often served in snifters that exploit the glass’s surface area and the warmth from drinker’s hands to really “let it spring forth,” said Clark.
It’s not just preference, it’s actually science, says Stone Brewing Co.‘s craft beer ambassador “Dr.” Bill Sysak.
America’s first settlers drank warm, English-style ales from their homeland typically at cellar temperatures since there wasn’t any refrigeration back then. These cellar temperatures are still the preferred temperatures for most beers; typically in the high 40’s, and creeping up into the mid 50’s for bigger, bolder and more complex styles such as Russian Imperial Stouts. These days, tap systems dispense beer at 38 degrees Fahrenheit for two reasons: It’s a temperature that keeps beer fresh, and keeps beer from foaming up when being dispensed. If your beer is served too cold, wrap your hands around the glass to warm it up a bit. If the bar only uses frosted mugs, ask if they have any that are not frosted, or after your first, ask the bartender to just rinse and re-use your pint glass.
You can see just what type of roll temperature plays on your beer by pouring 2 of the same beers; one poured and left to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes, and another poured straight from the refrigerator and consumed immediately. Pay attention to the aromas, and the flavors you taste, or don’t taste. This works the same with other beverages, like hot coffee or iced-coffee, and it goes the same for your food too!
If you don’t care about taste, and you need something cheap that’s going to get the job done, then throw a bunch of domestic adjunct light lagers into the cooler, top it with ice, and chug away. Don’t worry, no one is judging you…well, maybe just a little. But who cares, you’re entitled to your own opinion about what temperature beer is best drank at. Just remember to drink quickly, cause you’re not going to want to see what that beer actually tastes like once it warms up.
“I like most beers cold, but definitely not ice-cold. I believe it’s true that flavors are easier to perceive at warmer temps, which is probably why Coors Light encourages you to drink it as cold as possible. I do find cold beer more refreshing, so if I’m crushing pales, IPAs, or pilsners, I’d prefer it to be somewhere in the mid-40s [Fahrenheit] for temperature.” said by, Founders Brewing Company brewmaster, Jeremy Kosmicki.