by Alain Schepers Blogger at Bierista.nl
How cold should beer be served?Finding the right temperature
“I’d love an ice-cold beer,” is a phrase often spoken. On a hot summer’s day, there’s nothing better than a refreshing glass of beer that fizzes down your throat. Delicious! But think back to that moment. Did you actually taste the beer? Probably not. The cold temperature makes the beer refreshing but it dampens the flavour.
Sometimes you just want a bit of refreshment. But if your aim is to truly enjoy the taste of your beer, it’s best not to drink it ice-cold. If it’s flavour you’re after, drink your pilsner at a temperature of 6 degrees Celsius.
It’s all about the essence
If you’re drinking a heavier beer such as a Tripel or IPA, the temperature should be even higher. An Grimbergen Tripel tastes best at a temperature of 8 degrees Celsius. There are even beers that only flourish at a temperature of around 14 degrees. These include heavy, dark beers such as a Russian Imperial Stout or a Quadrupel, like the Zuster Agatha by Muifelbrouwerij. If you drink them straight from the fridge then you miss out on the essence of the beer. It would be like deep frying a Wagyu steak or buying a Ferrari to do your weekly shop at the supermarket.
Why is the temperature so important? Well, if a beer is served too cold, the flavours are locked away. Only when you serve it at a warmer temperature do the flavours reveal themselves. An exotically hopped IPA will have almost no aroma if served at a temperature of just above freezing. If you let it slowly warm up, the aromas will start to come out of their shell. The tsunami of ice-cold beer in your mouth also prevents your taste buds from working properly. The icy beer dulls them and inhibits your ability to taste.
The right temperature
What is the right temperature? That's both a simple and a tricky question to answer. Each beer is different so the correct drinking temperature differs per beer. That’s why brewers tend to give a suggested serving temperature for each of their beers.
The simple solution is to take a look at the alcohol percentage. In most cases, this number can be used as guideline. However, be sure to round up, rather than down. For example, De Natte byBrouwerij ’t IJ has an alcohol percentage of 6.5%, so serve it at 7 to 8 degrees Celsius rather than 5 to 6 degrees.
An exotically hopped IPA will have almost no aroma if served at a temperature of just above freezing. If you let it slowly warm up, the aromas will start to come out of their shell.
A thermometer in your beer
“How do I know the exact temperature of my beer? It’s all well and good giving this advice, but I’m hardly going to sit there with a thermometer in my drink!” We agree, don’t do that! It’s important to actually enjoy the process of drinking beer, so let’s use a healthy dose of common sense here. Most fridges are between 3 and 5 degrees. The bottom of the fridge is often a bit colder, as well as the back of the fridge where the cooling elements are. So the best place to keep your pilsner is at the top of the fridge, away from the cooling elements.
If your beers have a higher alcohol content, you can also store them in the fridge, but allow them to warm up before drinking. Heavy beers with alcohol contents of 10% or higher such as Hel & Verdoemenis by De Molen or Donker by Kasteel are best stored in a cold shed. If you don’t have a cold shed at your disposal, chill them in the fridge but remove them half an hour before serving.
The taste test
If you start paying more attention to temperature, you’ll soon develop a feel for it. In order to experience the difference between the right and the wrong temperature, you could try the following: Take two of the same aromatic beers, such as Punk IPA by Brewdog. One should be ice-cold and the other at 6-7 degrees Celsius. Pour each of them into a tulip-shaped glass, and smell the difference. The cold beer will give off almost no aromas, whereas the other glass will be full of the scent of tropical fruit. If you only have one glass, you can slowly warm the beer with your hands instead. You will then experience how this bouquet of aromas slowly starts to blossom.
Stay cool and let your beers rise to their full potential by serving them at the right temperature.