This may seem arbitrary to many people, but contrary to popular belief there are right and wrong ways to drink beer. These methods aren’t the end-all-be-all, but drinking and appreciating beer requires a level of understanding. As Randy Mosher often iterates in his book “Tasting Beer”, Beer brewers put in a lot of time, money, and effort to bring you their product and we all, as beer drinkers, should be mindful of this. Each style and beer type has specific guidelines and methods attached to that will help you enjoy that specific type/style to its fullest. These range from Temperature, to pouring & drinking methods, to food pairings. We are going to go over a few to help you enjoy Beer to its fullest.
Beer Storage & Serving Temperature – Beer is important and delicious, but unfortunately our human anatomy prevents us from being able to enjoy every single beer every made all at the same time. We would either explode or die of alcohol poisoning. Fortunately, our forefathers invented kegs and bottles so they could preserve, condition, and store our favorite drinks for later consumption. In order keep the flavor and quality to the highest possible standard these vessels need to be taken care of properly or else we run the risk of having a surplus of pretty crappy beer on our hands. If you are a brewery owner or a homebrewer you probably already know how to store your kegs. Most of us will probably not have the luxury of having a bar, personal kegerator, or beer cicerone in our homes. Those that do, good for you…make sure you keep your kegs at a constant temperature and keep those damn beer lines clean for gods sakes!
The majority of us, lets face it, will be drinking out of bottles or at bars. The only real one you have control of yourself is the bottle. You’ll notice that bottles are brown, this is the protect the liquid inside from harmful UV light. If a bottle is old, clear, or green you run the risk of drinking a Mercaptan Skunk Bomb. Bottles also help maintain carbonation pressure and to some extent temperature. For this reason you are going to want to keep your beer in a dark place at cellar temperature (54-57) if you plan on storing it for a long time. This is also a pretty good temperature if you are wanting to drink your beer, but it really depends on the style. Warmth and bad storage conditions can age beer rapidly and lead to oxidation or other off flavors. This is why huge liquor stores like BevMo are both a blessing and a curse. One the one hand you have a massive selection of some pretty cool beers, but on the other hand they store their beers at less than ideal temperatures and under damaging glare of heavy florescent lights and non-direct sunlight. SEVERE BEER DAMAGE! Check out this graph if you need evidence. Try to support the liquor, beer, and wine stores that exercise proper storage methods. You can tell they take their products seriously when you see them in a low-lit refrigerated case. Then again, it’s really hard to show off some of the really cool labels out there when there is no light.
Contrary to what some bars in downtown LA might tell you, Beer should never be served at 22 degrees F unless it’s bad and you don’t want to taste it. You see, serving temperature can actually affect the way your tongue tastes the beverage you are drinking. By decreasing the temperature you can numb your tongue and inhibit your tongues ability to taste, well, anything. Every wonder why ice cream tastes sweeter when it’s melted in a pool at the bottom of your ice cream cone? The dessert actually freezes your tongue nullifying your ability to taste everything. I love ice cream though, so in this case it’s okay. For beer though, it’s a no-no. Some beer should actually be consumed at an almost room temperature. In the case of Real Ale, which is a cask conditioned variety delivered to bars while it’s still fermenting, it is served at cellar temperatures, around 54-57 degrees. This is actually highly regimented and if you serve outside of this range CAMRA will find and destroy you. Okay, okay, they won’t destroy you, but they will frown upon your doings and you won’t be certified to serve your beer as a “Real Ale,” which in the UK is a big deal.
For those of you unfamiliar with CAMRA, they are the Campaign For Real Ale, a UK based company who’s sole mission is to protect consumers from bad pubs and promote quality beer – Real Ale – in the UK. They go around promoting & certifying pubs that hold high standards and letting the community know about ones that don’t. And if that is not enough, I also found this on their website – “CAMRA campaigns against all brewery take-overs because they lead to brewery closures, loss of established beers, higher prices and reduced choice.” They are basically the UK brewery and beer evangelists. Check this out for more info.
If you ever have questions about beer storing or serving check the brewery’s website. Most beers will even have information about proper glassware and serving temps printed on the bottle. Randy Mosher’s book “Tasting Beer” is a great companion for anyone that has interesting in beer making or tasting. Many of the answers to serving and storing related questions can be found in his book.
This will be part of an ongoing series of posts so stay tuned.
P.S. Keep in mind that all beers are not created equal. This is meant as more of a guideline than anything else. If you have any specific questions about the beer your are drinking, contact the brewery or consult the Tasting Beer book.