How Cold Should Beer Be Served?

Beer Guide

Cracking open an icy cold beer on a hot afternoon is as much a part of summer as cook outs and frisbee. Or is it? As refreshing as a cold beer can be, we recently learned that we might be doing some of those beers a real disservice!

In talking to the bartender at a local brewery restaurant, we learned that they serve all their beers at around 42° Fahrenheit, which is significantly warmer than is common in the United States. We asked why and the bartender explained that the colder it's served, the less you can taste all the flavors in a beer. Delicate aromas are also lost. Stored and served slightly warmer, the beer opens up and you get a lot more complexity in taste and aroma.

Curious, we did some research to see if this was a peculiarity of this brewery or if there was a standard temperature at which beer should be served. We learned that it really depends on the type of beer:

Lagers, which are fermented at lower temperatures to begin with, can generally be served at a refrigerator temperature of about 40° or below. Light beers, pilsners, and some wheat beers can also be served at this temperature.

Ales like IPAs, ambers, and browns do better if served slightly warmer, at 45° - 55°. Ales have a lot of fruity flavors that become muted at colder temperatures.

Strong, dark beers are best at room temperature or only slightly chilled. This applies to stouts, barleywines, many cask-conditioned ales, and double bocks.

Ultimately, we think that how much you chill - or not - your beer can be a matter of personal taste and what you're in the mood for. Take these guidelines and try your favorite beers at a range of temperatures to see what you like best!

Do you have a preferred temperature for drinking beer?

Related: Beer Pairings: Pilsner Urquell and Linguini

(Image: Flickr member epicbeer licensed under Creative Commons)