I’ve always heard that beer temperature must stay cold at all times or to let it change temperatures gradually to preserve the best flavor. Many distributors and stores can’t keep all the beer cold all the time, they only have so much refrigerator space. This means that the beer you buy from Kroger or Cappy’s has likely been warm at some point in its life. But what is the effect of that temperature changing? Let’s find out!
The Temperature Experiment
The experiment is laid out in full on my previous post here. I bought a 6-pack of MadTree PsycHOPathy, took three cans and marked one cold, one warm, and one rotating. The cold can remained in my refrigerator, the warm can remained on my kitchen counter, and the rotating can rotated between the two about every 4 – 8 hours. That rotation went on for about a week.
Before tasting the cans, I put all of them in the fridge, so they were the same temperature. I shuffled the cans around in the fridge and again on the table before opening. We also labeled the tops of the cans with the numbers one through three. We each took three cups and poured an approximately four-ounce pour of each. To gather the results I asked each person which they thought was warm, cold, and rotated. The tasters taking part was the board of the homebrewing club which includes two BJCP certified judges.
First off, here are the poll results with people’s predictions on
My personal prediction was that there wouldn’t be a huge difference.
Two people guessed that can #1 was at room temp, and #3 was cold, one person guessed the opposite of that. One person thought cans #1 and #3 tasted too close together to distinguish. I honestly had no idea which one was cold or warm, though I was fully convinced that can #1 was the rotating can. While I thought it was #1, everyone else thought the rotating can was #2. So there were nearly equal parts consensus, confusion, and contradiction.
Now, what you’ve been waiting for, the big reveal!
#1 – Rotating
#2 – Refrigerated
#3 – Room temperature
It’s somewhat hard to draw firm conclusions due to the inconsistency of our guesses. It seems that storage temperature fluctuation of a reasonable amount, approximately 30°F in this case, does not necessarily mean your beer is bad. This high number of warming and cooling cycles is unlikely to occur in typical situations, but the lack of an apparent problem in this extreme example shows us that we don’t need to worry too much about how the distributor or the shop stores the beer as long as it is within a reasonable temperature range. The bottom line remains the same, keep your beer cold.
Other Temperature Info
My experiment intentionally only looked at the effect of changing temperatures. For serving temperature, you can check out my old experiment here, which I plan on repeating with a stout. For info on fixed storage temperature we can look to the great Charlie Papazian:
Maybe I’ll conduct another experiment soon testing his 3-30-300 rule. He also shared this awesome infographic:
Have any other beer experiments for me to conduct? Want to blow holes through my quasi-scientific experiment here? Leave a comment below!