Serve your beer right!
Posted on August 05 2020
Serving beer and temperature
Deciding a temperature to serve your beer – isn’t that going too far? Well, no, actually, because it does make a big difference to how your beer tastes. And, as our comrades know, real beer has a lot of flavour!
The logic is simple – serve something ice-cold and you taste very little. Really cold and you get more sensation than taste. The cheap mass-produced lagers out there are largely just thirst quenchers, so ice-cold is fine if you must! But anything else will have much more to say – you want to taste what you’re drinking.
Of course, there are many different styles of beers and a different temperature to serve each at. However, follow a general guide and it doesn’t have to be über-complicated.
First off, to store beer, it’s important to keep it cold, fridge-cold if possible, as it will stay fresh and hoppy and flavoursome for longer. Maybe it’s time to treat yourself to a beer fridge! But, not all brews want to be served as cold, so you may need to plan your beer drinking in advance. Seriously. If your beer improves as it warms up in your glass, you know you’ve served it too cold. Worth bearing in mind for next time.
Temperature and style
The broad rule would be, the weightier the beer, the more it has to say, the warmer it needs to be. So, a light lager should be served cold, straight from the fridge. A real lager with a bit more heft and richness will need to be a degree or two warmer, without losing its refreshment value.
Pale ales have that balance of fruity hops and rich malt and need some warmth to show off its breadth of flavours. Give it 10-15 mins out of a cold fridge.
- IPAs – there’s a big divergence of style, but big hoppy styles can cope with some reasonable chilling and still shout hops and fruit. Let’s say straight-from-the-fridge cold! Danker styled IPAs want a bit more warmth to show at their best – 10 minutes out of the fridge should do the job.
- DIPAs and NEIPAs – tend to be a super-hoppy, bright fruit style. Again these have a lot to say to Comrades, but are usually so flamboyant they can cope with some chilling. This will add to their refreshment value too. Definitely not ice-cold though.
- Sours – for brighter, fruitier styles of sour, go for a cold temperature, straight from the fridge; for funkier-flavoured sours, go a little warmer, 10 minutes at room temperature before you crack it open.
- Wheat beers – are obviously quite wheaty! They tend to have a creamy weight, but also a banana, bubble-gum and clove character. This type of beer can take a bit of chilling, but it also has loads of flavour, so warm it up a bit. 15 minutes out of the fridge should do the trick.
- Stout and Porter – are a roasty-toasty style, sometimes a bit of a warm blanket almost, and need to be served at a temperature of 10-12C. Serve too warm and all the refreshing nature is eliminated and the beer loses its perceived structure.
- Traditional cask ales – have a malty richness that taste best at around 10-12C. If you’re at a pub, that’s the temperature they are served at. But the equivalent style, at home, is worth getting to that temperature.
Why not try a little experiment for yourself – take two cans or bottles of the same beer and take one out 30 minutes early and serve the other straight from the fridge. Put into separate (same shaped) glasses and compare the smell and taste. You’ll notice a difference. If you want to be techy, the chill slows down the aromatic compounds … they’re not so volatile. And aroma has a big part to play on what you taste.