I have always been a fan of Two and A Half Men, the TV sitcom; I think I have said this before, though. Back in the year 2007, episode 100, Charlie visits Rose in London, and she tells him that beer is drunk warm in the capital of England. Hearing this, Charlie retorts, you can still catch a buzz, right? I must say this mention of beer being served ‘warm’ in the United Kingdom tickled my curiosity. I am talking about an episode aired over 10 years ago, when I had no idea I was going to wind up as a Certified Beer Server. Being one, I believe there are two aspects of beer service that are essential to the joy of beer drinking: the right glassware and the right temperature. It is about time I tackled the latter.
First, allow me to set something straight. When Rose, one my favorite show’s characters, suggests the pubs in London serve warm beer, that is an overstatement. The thing is Charlie Harper, the main character, is frequently seen drinking Corona, a beer best consumed at extremely cold temperatures. This way, the English serving temperature is perceived as ‘warm’ when, as a matter of fact, it is not. Second, I think it is relevant and timely to write this new blog entry during this cold season as there is this wrong concept that all beers mus be consumed cold. Nothing could get further from the truth.
Now let’s start talking about the basic concepts behind the right or recommended temperatures for beer serving. It has been said before that numbingly cold temperatures only help to one goal: hide off flavors and aromas. Aroma, which is in turn a key factor to flavor, comes to our olfactory organs thanks to volatile molecules suspended in the air after being released by solid and liquid foods. A very low percentage of these volatiles can be released at very cold or near-freezing temperatures. Can you smell frozen pizza? Remember how your food smells so good while you are cooking it over a hot burner? Do you feel the aromas escaping the microwave oven as your food starts to get warmed up? Mass-consumed industrial lagers and the so-called light beers are brewed and sold to cool you down, not to mesmerize you. So it is common practice to drink them dumb cold. That being said, the best way to drink such cold beers is right from the bottle. Pouring beer in frosty glasses just out of the freezer is totally unhygienic.
It is time to continue with the temperatures for the beers we so much love, keeping in mind that the styles that get mentioned first will be served ath the lowest temperature within the range and the styles thah get mention later will be served at the highest temperature within the same rage. Likewise, bare in mind that the temperatures given are for the bottles.
From 38ºF to 45°F: Here are the refreshing and/or effervescent beer syles such Pale Lager, Pilsner, Kölsch, Blonde Ale, Weißbier, American Wheat, Belgian Pale Ale, and Witbier. Since the last two beer styles are Belgian, the recommended temperature will be 41°F and 43°F. Taking the beer out of the fridge and pouring it in a clean, room temperature glass will help us to achieve the target temperature as the glassware will raise beer temperature by at least 2°F.
From 45°F to 48°F: here are the beers that we expect to give us a crisp sensation and also deliver those desirable malty aromas. The styles include American Pale Ale, Amber and Red Ale, Amber Lager, California Common, Bock, Dopplebock, Brown Ale, Maibock, Märzen, Oktoberfest, Sour Ale, IPA, and Double IPA. Once again, the last two styles should be served at the highest temperatures within this range. I suggest to get the beer out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before opening it.
From 48ºF to 52ºF: this temperature range includes most of the Belgian styles (Belgian Strong Golden Ale, Tripel, Dubbel, Winter Seasonal Beer) as well as Stout and Porter in their standard versions. Note that the color and alcohol strength is growing in intensity while the serving temperature. These beers deserve the necessary patience to take them out of the refrigerator thirty minutes before serving.
From 52°F to 55°F: we finally get to the famous ‘cellar temperature’ or room temperature in some areas of the globe depending on the season and geographic latitude. Within this temperature range we will serve beers in the styles of British Bitter (the ones at the English pubs of the opening paragraph), Barley Wine, Imperial Stout, and Belgian Dark Strong Ale. The full ritual is recommended here: remove the bottle out of the cold 45 minutes before opening it, locate the right glassware, check that it has been thoroughly cleaned, rinse it one last time, set up the place for drinking, bring the person you will share the beer with close to you (preferably, she should already be at your place), open the bottle, pour, admire, hold the glass with both hands to warm up the beer even more, and start the wonderful experience.
Do not forget to use this information as a reference you can adapt to any moment. The pleasure of drinking a great beer should not result in too many worries or efforts. Nobody is suggesting you buy a thermometer. However, I am completely sure that someone who invests both time and money on getting a special or limited edition bottle, whether after a trip to a specialized beer shop such as La Cerveteca o after some minutes exploring a virtual beer shop such as La Barra de Grau, will make the time and have the necessary patience to give that bottle the respect it deserves.