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!
I’ve always heard that beer needs to be stored cold and stay cold until you drink it. They also say that temperature fluctuations, going from cold to warm and back again, are terrible for beer. However, I’ve never seen any tests done on this, so I’m going to do a test.
The temperature of your beer, when you drink it, can have a variety of effects on the entire experience. I’ve always heard that the ideal temperature is around 55°F, of course, this varies by style with lagers being better cooler and stouts being warmer. I found this breakdown of temps for styles on RateBeer, hit up that link for more style ranges:
Very cold (32-39°F): Any beer you don’t actually want to taste.
Cold (39-45°F): Hefeweizen, Premium Lager, Pilsner
Cool (45-54°F): Pale Ale, Amber Ale, Dry Stout, Porter, Helles, Tripel
Cellar (54-57°F): IPA, Bitter, Old Ale, Saison, Lambic, Bock
Warm (57-61°F): Barley Wine, Belgian Quad, Imperial Stout, Imperial IPA
Knowing this, I decided to test out what changes you could expect at various temperatures. I went with Rivertown’s Helles because I’m very familiar with this beer and lagers don’t hide flaws as well as say an IPA. I then subjected the bottles to the situations below and took a temperature reading at the time of my first pour.
Standard serving style taking a nicely chilled beer from the fridge and pouring it into a room temperature glass. – Serving Temp 45°F – I figure this is the most common way people will drink most of their beer, and it tastes just like it should with no strange effects to the beer.
Got home from the store but forgot to put the beer in the fridge for a few hours and can’t wait? Here’s what to expect! – Serving temp 79°F – Brighter more golden color compared to the previous yellow. Much more grain in the aroma than before as well as increased fruity esters. Significantly more bitterness and almost no sweetness left, clove and banana fruit esters are coming out, and lots of grain. The body hasn’t changed much, but carbonation took a big leap up. Now to make it worse, so you don’t have to.
Hot Summer Day
The high today was 93°F, so I left this brew setting on the back patio. The potential for becoming light struck existed but luckily didn’t occur here. Perhaps you had a party yesterday, and this straggler got left out, and you got curious? – Serving Temp 99°F – Slightly darker color than the others with loads of head during the pour but it only lasted a few milliseconds at best. The room temp glass quickly became warm to the touch. Grainy flavor and I can feel some heat on my nose. Uck wow, that is putrid. Extremely bitter blowing away most IPAs, very highly carbonated, no real flavor other than the bitterness. Still, a super light body but there is a slick slightly burning mouth feel, and I’m throwing the rest of this out. Finally on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Pulled from the fridge and poured into a shaker pint fresh from the freezer to replicate all those beer commercials on TV – Serving temp 40°F – I’m a bit disappointed in the lack of change between this and standard refrigerator temp poured into a room temp glass. I thought the frozen glass would have more than a 5-degree impact. So it looks like TV commercials and bars aren’t all horrible for doing this as it makes a slight difference.
Update: Ryan from Mould’s Beer Blog reminded me that Randy Mosher wrote about this in his incredible book Tasting Beer (My review here, buy your copy here) this is the picture he used to display the temperature range for different styles.