Have you ever wondered about proper beer serving temperatures? Have you perhaps seen lists where bars and breweries were rated based on how close to frozen they sold their beers and wondered WTF? Well, you've come to the right place.
First things first, where did this idea that beer should be served ice cold come from? It might surprise you that this idea comes from the mega-brewers who know that cold temperatures inhibit your taste buds from functioning fully. Their marketing of cold-taste or ice-brewed basically means shocked taste buds to hide the lack of quality flavors. An ice cold crappy beer really doesn't taste much different than ice cold water.
Ok, so if beer shouldn't be served frozen because you can't taste it properly, how warm should beers be served? In all honestly it depends on the beer style. Unfortunately, in a beer bar like ours you really can't have separate temperature fridges for all the different styles so we have to compromise on the lower end. Our thinking is that you can always allow your beer to warm up a bit in the glass but you can't cool it back down. Moreover, if we really served our beer at the real ideal temp then by the time it was finished it would be way too warm. By starting out a bit low we strive to achieve an idea temp midway through the beer.
So what are the ideal ranges? Well, lets break it down into general temperature categories:
Ice Cold (anything below 39° F): This is the temperature to to serve beers that you don't want to taste. You know, those beers that suck. The ones that apparently get you nearly naked girls in bikinis hanging on you by drinking them.
Cold (39-45° F): This range is usually used for euro pilsnsers and other ligher lagers. These are thirst quenching beers but with actual flavor. Some Hefe's show well at these temps as do fruit beers.
Cool (45-55): This is where most ales really shine. Any American or British Pale Ale or IPA will really start showing it's character when you get above 45° F. Steam Beers, Belgians, Dark Lagers and most stouts really show best in this range (or on the high end of this range).
Cellar (55-57 ° F): Here is where the Saisons, Biere de Gardes, Sour Ales, Lambics, English Old Ales and Ciders exhibit all their full range of flavors.
Warm (Above 57°F): Believe it or not there are quite a few beers which really shine once fully warmed up. These still feel cool since they are well below room temp but the warmer temp allows the full alcoholic warmth and maltiness to shine. Typical beer styles served at this temp are Barley Wine, Quadrupel, Imperial Stout and Double IPA. In particular the new Bourbon Barrel beers taste great once this chill is gone.
So, don't let the megabrewers and their sexy ad's fool you. Real beer is best served at the proper temperature not the coldest.