Have you ever seen a sign or heard a commercial that recommended "ice cold beer?" There is a certain style of beer, the American Adjunct Lager, that is recommend to be enjoyed as cold as possible. I won't begrudge a person their preference. I typically don't drink many hot drinks. I take my coffee with ice when I can and usually enjoy my beers slightly colder than recommended. So, don't hear me wrong when I say temperature makes a big difference when it comes to beer.
Recently, you might have noticed I started putting a recommendation for glassware, serving temperature and freshness in the beers of the week listings.
I recently wrote a column on glassware and wrote two columns on packaging dates I hope got people thinking critically about the beers they are buying. Now, I want to move onto serving temperature.
I learned a lot of this information through the Cicerone Certification Program, an education program for beer professionals. Again, I want to pause here and let you know this isn't about making beer stuffy and boring or putting your nose in the air. The information exists to help the consumer (that's you) respect the beer. It's about drinking the beer the way its intended so you can respect the beer, respect yourself and respect your money. If you buy an old beer, drink the beer out of the wrong glass or serve it at the wrong temperature, you will not experience the beer the way it was intended. I think the biggest deal in that equation is freshness, personally, but they are all important.
Serving temperature seems obvious at first. I don't know a single person who will drink hot beer by choice. I also don't know many people who would drink an Imperial Stout just above freezing.
But if you were to drink a Belgian Quad, Russian Imperial Stout or American Barleywine ice-cold, you will not have any idea what that beer is supposed to taste like. If that was the first time you ever tried one of those styles, it likely would be the last time.
What I do at home is keep my little beer fridge at basically ice cold. I do this because there are certain beers I have had so many times (Miller Brewing Co.'s High Life, Founders Brewing Co.'s All Day IPA or Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.'s Pale Ale) I don't need to inspect their flavors.
When I pour a beer I am excited to try, need to sample or am asked to investigate, I know at what temperature they generally are meant to be served. I take the bottle or can out of the fridge, set it on the counter and go do something else while I wait for it to reach the correct temperature. Depending on the style, this could be one, two, five or 10 minutes. I make sure I have the right glassware for the occasion, too.
I have included a spectrum of beers and what temperatures you are supposed to enjoy them at. Avoid tasting a beer in bad condition and throwing out the baby with the bath water by glancing through this chart below.
35 to 40 degrees: American Adjunct Lagers and Light Lagers
Why: This style of beer is classified by the Beer Judges Certification Program, and most breweries recommend you enjoy it as cold as possible.
40 to 45 degrees: Czech and German Pilsners Helles Lagers, Wheat Beers and Kolsch Style Ales.
Why: With the added hops, you want the beer to warm up just a little to get more out of the hop aroma.
45 to 50 degrees: IPAs, APAs, Porters and Stouts (the dark beers)
Why: This temperature range is the most common range. Here is an easy cheat: Take the can or bottle out of the fridge for just a few minutes before you are ready for it. Pour it, and let it settle for a little bit. Then, dive in.
50 to 55 degrees: Belgians, Sours, German Bocks and most of the English beers (such as milds, bitters, ESBs and Scotch Ales).
Why: British beers traditionally are served at this temperature. And at this temperature the Belgian yeast with its fruity esters really start to open up.
55 to 60 degrees: The big beers: Barleywine, Imperial Stout, the big Belgians (such as Golden or Dark Strong and Quads) and the German Doppelbocks.
Why: These transform at these higher temperatures. If you pour one that is slightly chilled, pour it into a snifter glass, and warm it with your hand for a while. Take the sniff test, smell it when its cold, and while it warms. Once you can really get the coffee, chocolate, bourbon (if aged) or malt aromas from it, you know you are ready.
BEERS OF THE WEEK
Name: #Merica from Surly Brewing Company
ABV: 5 percent
Style: American Adjunct Lager
Notes: Subtle, fresh corn flavor, while soft hop aromatics add a background mild fruity and herbal character.
Serve In: Any glass at 35 to 40 degrees, as fresh as possible. (Up to 120 days.)
Would Go Well With: Anything you would bring to a backyard barbecue or baseball game, such as Chicago-style hot dogs (no ketchup), potato chips, baked beans or macaroni salad.
Where to Buy: Liquor World in Kankakee or The Open Bottle in Tinley Park sells a in a four pack of 16-ounce cans for about $9.
Name: Lu from Solemn Oath Brewery
ABV: 4.7 percent
Style: Kolsch-style Ale
Notes: Crisp and thirst-quenching, with a mellow malt sweetness balanced by a delicate, spicy, floral hop profile and smooth, fruity ale yeast.
Serve In: Nonic pint between 40 to 45 degrees. (120 days within packaged on date.)
Would Go Well With: Prosciutto-wrapped melon.
Where to Buy: The Open Bottle in Tinley Park sells a six pack of 12-ounce cans for $9.99. The Open Bottle also lets you mix and match any single can and bottle in the store, so you can probably get a bunch of these in one pack individually priced.
Name: St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale from Odell Brewing Co.
ABV: 6.5 percent
Style: Extra Pale Ale
Notes: Pleasing floral aroma and clean, crisp finish.
Serve In: Tulip glass between 45 to 50 degrees as fresh as possible. (Before 120 days.)
Where to Buy: Liquor World in Kankakee or The Open Bottle in Tinley Park sells a six pack of 12-ounce cans for about $12.
Name: Cuvee Rene from Lindemans Brewery
ABV: 5.2 percent
Notes: Cidery, winey palate, reminiscent of bubbly dry vermouth but with a more complex and natural flavor.
Serve In: A tall, thick tumbler at 50 to 55 degree. (Age is just a number for a beer such as this.)
Would Go Well With: As an aperitif in place of dry sherry, with carbonnade a la beouf, mussels poached in gueuze or flavorful cheeses.
Where to Buy: Liquor World in Kankakee sells a 750-milliliter bottle for $11.99.
Name: Three Philosophers from Brewery Ommegang
ABV: 9.7 percent
Notes: Roasted malt, molasses and brown sugar, dark fruits, brandied raisins and chocolate.
Serve In: Snifter at 55 to 60 degrees, just slightly chilled. (Recommended to drink within five years of package date. I recently bought a 2015 bottle of this, and it was fantastic.)
Would Go Well With: Hearty stews, fatty meats and stinky cheese, and you cannot go wrong. In a marinade, the alcohol naturally breaks down the proteins in the meat, tenderizing it while the flavor of the beer is absorbed.
Where to Buy: Liquor World in Kankakee and Binny's Beverage Depot in Orland Park sell a 25-ounce bottle for about $13.