Beer Serving Temperature: Is This So Hard?

Alcohol Tourism Frosted Mug

Pro Tip: Don’t do it like this.

Susan and I have been at all kinds and sizes of breweries and brewpubs.  We also frequent pubs which have an expansive draft selection. One thing that continuously mystifies us: if you’re serving craft beer, why are you serving at near-freezing temperature?

Craft beer is intended to be stored at cellar temperature, somewhere around 55°F. This is also the temperature at which quality beer should be served. Quite simply, this is the temperature range that allows you to taste the delicious beer you just ordered.

The problem with excessively cold beer is that the lower temperature tends to dampen the flavor.  This is probably why Coors Light and similar macro beers implore you to enjoy them ice cold, because the flavor is just not very good, and they want it muted.  I know one guy whose ideal serving temperature was the point at which a glass of beer would spontaneously freeze if struck.  If you want to taste your beer, you do not want it very cold.

The problem, as we have experienced it, is that craft beer bars and breweries- who really should know better- sometimes serve all their beer at ice cold temperatures.  Sometimes even in frosted glasses! Why is this happening? Has the world gone mad? Do people who know how to make good beer NOT know how to serve it? It seems difficult to believe that is true, but it’s possible.  It’s also possible the managers who set the temperature don’t know enough about beer to do it correctly.

It’s also possible we get ice-cold beer as craft breweries try to appeal to a more general audience which is not accustomed to nice flavor in their beer.  Most make a kolsch or a mild pale ale to accomplish this, though, so I’m not sure that is it. It may be that the brewers just have different tastes- maybe to them, cold beer tastes better.

In any event, the cold craft beer phenomenon has to stop.  We routinely order beer and then let it sit, trying to get it to warm up before drinking.  That affects carbonation and delays our time to drink beer, which is unacceptable. Come on craft brewers of the world, get it together.

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The Environmental Impact of Alcohol Tourism

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The view at Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery could be ruined.

This post was inspired by the Eco-Guide to Responsible Drinking.  We always try to make environmental choices, which can be surprisingly difficult and frustrating when traveling and eating and drinking out.  There are a number of ways alcohol tourism adversely affects our planet, and ways you can mitigate them.

Flight

Flying is generally fairly bad for the environment.  A large amount of carbon dioxide is produced in all steps of the flying process.  However, it is more efficient, from a carbon-footprint-point-of-view, than driving long distances.  And it’s the only practical way for us to get to Oceania. In general, reduce the amount that you fly.  Some companies also allow you to buy offsets for your flight- I remember Delta doing this, but I haven’t seen it recently. If you do fly a lot, and you’re bothered by the environmental impact of that, you may consider donating to environmental organizations and/or investing in alternative energy research efforts.

Driving

Everyone knows driving creates carbon dioxide and other pollutants.  There are many sites dedicated to helping you be more efficient, called hypermiling.  Some of the easiest tips we use daily: take stuff out of your car (less weight), be easy on acceleration, leave plenty of space, and go by the maxim: if you have to brake, you made a mistake (coast as much as possible).  Driving a fuel efficient car like our Honda Civic Hybrid also helps.

Beer Production & Transport

Drink draft beer produced by a local brewery.  Simple, done!  Making bottles and cans takes more energy than kegs.  Shipping beer any distance also requires energy. Getting pints at the brewery itself is the best way to minimize your beer-carbon-footprint. Again, we keep growlers in our car so we can bring beer back from the brewery without needing bottles or cans. It doesn’t last as long as bottles or cans do, but it’s another small step that may add up.

Lodging

Hopefully you already know you don’t need turndown service daily.  We only get maid service when we are staying somewhere for several weeks, and then we do it once a week, mostly to clear out the garbage.  If you’re staying for just a few days, put the Do Not Disturb sign on your door. Save on cleaning, new towels, etc. etc. If you need more coffee, ask for it at the front desk. We try to mitigate this by filling our reusable coffee cup at the coffee station most hotels have in the lobby. This cuts down on the packaging waste of making it in your room.

Obviously travel requires energy from the planet and degrades the environment.  Ideally, no one would travel for leisure or work. We get a lot of satisfaction from traveling, though, but as we do so we understand we are slowly destroying the planet.  Hopefully in the future technology will be better so we don’t cause so much environmental degradation. In the meantime, we try to mitigate our impact and encourage you to do so, as well.

How to Identify Alcohol Tourism Locales

So you want to go on an adventure focused on breweries, wineries, and/or distilleries, but you’re not sure where to go.  How do you decide on your destinations, and how do you find them in the first place? Here are some recommendations to help you get startAlcoholTourismPostExampleed.

1) This blog.  We have reviewed many destinations, found under the ‘locations’ category.  Check them out and decide if they fit what you are looking for. Our favorite destination is Asheville, NC- if you can get there, go.

AlcoholTourismUsingGoogleMaps2) Google Maps.  This is what we use predominantly.  We find a place which seems fun and interesting for various reasons- such as Tombstone, AZ- and then try to find fun alcohol-oriented destinations near it.  You can try searching “winery”, “brewery”, “brewpub”, and “distillery”. Realize that Google Maps is sometimes not very ‘smart’, and will display liquor stores or general bars when you do these sorts of searches.  Check out the individual entries to see if they actually make an alcohol product on premises.

3) Local business publications.  If you find yourself somewhere interesting, the local business marketing and publications may have some locales for you to check out.  Be aware, though, that these may be touristy and not particularly authentic.

4) Word of mouth.  Talk to your friends- maybe they have been somewhere interesting and they would like to share it with you!  We got a personal recommendation to go to Julian, CA- which we would have never thought to visit- and it was terrific.  You can always ask friends, “Is there anywhere fun to go nearby?” or, if you are going somewhere specific, “Do you have any recommendations for This Location?”

You can either look specifically to go on an alcohol tourism adventure or, if you are already going somewhere, identify places which may be fun to get and check out.  What strategies do you use when identifying great places to visit?

Responsible Enjoyment

AlcoholTourismWalking

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and inhibitor of higher-level decision-making processes.  It is functionally a toxin, which your body attempts to make into a non-toxic compound and then remove from the body.  As such, it has a variety of deleterious effects on the imbiber. This includes poor decision making, ataxia, impaired memory, and others.  As alcohol tourists, we want to remember and enjoy our experiences. We also need to make sure we are safe for ourselves and others. Therefore, we need to be responsible when we enjoy our drinks.

The first step to a successful alcohol tourist adventure is moderation.  I know some people think moderation is dull, but it is essential to successful alcohol tourism.  You want to make sure to avoid spending too much money, minimize potential harm to yourself, and remember the experience.  So, know how much you can drink and still enjoy the memory of the experience and be safe.

The second key is making sure your transportation is secure.  This may mean a designated driver (Susan is responsible for finishing most tasting flights when we are on the road) or, even better, not relying on vehicular transport at all.  We strongly prefer staying in motels and hostels within walking distance of the local breweries and distilleries. This is easy in Eugene, Portland (either Maine or Oregon), and Asheville; not so much so in Amarillo, TX.  If possible, adjust your accommodations to stay near your destinations.

Remember that the effects of alcohol depend on not only the amount, but the timeline and food consumption.  Some people claim a 1 drink/hour metabolism rate, but I have personally found that to be highly variable depending on the rapidity of ingestion and whether there was food involved.  Learn from your experience and, when in doubt, have fewer rather than more. We bring empty growlers with us so we can bring beer back to our accommodations to enjoy safely. Also considera tasting flight instead of several pints.  That way you get the experience without so much consumption!

What steps do you take to make sure you are enjoying your drinks responsibly?

Terminology

AlcoholTourismBeerSizesOK, drinking world, we have to get our act together.  You would not believe the number of times we have asked for something we think is perfectly clear and reasonable, only to have a server or bartender say, “Do you mean This Other Word That Describes the Exact Same Thing?”  Yes, that. Or we’ve asked for a certain size of a drink and they look at us like we’re crazy, but we’re not! THEY’RE the crazy ones! So let’s try to settle this once and for all.

 

Beer Sizes

Imperial Pint – US: 20 oz

Pint – US: 16 oz, UK: 20 oz.

Half-Pint – This is often 10 oz.

Schooner – UK 8 oz.  Not sure what happens if you order this in the US.  We’ve been somewhere which served a 32 oz stein and called it a schooner.

Taster – 3-5 oz.

Flights

Tasting Flight == Sampler Flight == Sample Platter of Beer/Wine/Liquor

This one shouldn’t be that hard, but we encounter it routinely.  We’ll ask for a tasting flight and they respond with, “Like a sampler?”  Yes, that’s what a tasting flight means. Get it together alcohol world.

Type of Locale

Winery/Brewery/Distillery/Cidery/Meadery  – Your primarily business is selling an alcohol product, probably the majority of which is for off-premises consumption.  You may have snacks, but it is unlikely you have a kitchen. You make your OWN products.

Brewpub – You are a restaurant which makes their OWN beer and/or cider.  The majority is consumed on-premises, but you may fill growlers.

Beer Bar – You are a bar which serves OTHER people’s beer, cider, wine, spirits, and/or mead.  Your primarily business is as a bar. The majority is consumed on-premises.

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NOT a brewery or brewpub- a craft beer pub!

Craft Beer Pub – You are a restaurant which serves OTHER people’s alcohol.  The majority is consumed on-premises.

If you do NOT make your own beer, DO NOT CALL YOURSELF A BREWERY OR BREWPUB!  This is so incredibly frustrating because it comes off as deliberately misleading.  Maybe they don’t know the difference. Maybe they assume most people don’t care if they make their own beer or not.  Or maybe they are trying to take advantage of the craft beer revolution and sucker people in.

I realize there are some legal definitions which interact with these, but we believe these are the most common, accepted parlance among alcohol tourists.  Businesses of the world, please recognize these and get in line.

How to Create a Quiet Venue

Image result for shhh

We’ve talked before about how important volume is to our overall enjoyment and experience of an alcohol tourism destination.  Particularly if you are there with anyone other than yourself- you probably want to talk, right? Particularly for analytic tourists like us- we want to discuss the beer/wine/spirit, experience of the drink, and compare and contrast our perception of flavors  . Over the years, we have been in comfy quiet places, silent places, and obnoxiously loud places. Here is the key: background music.

In a silent venue, there is no background music.  The conversation of those around you fills the sound void, but occasionally that lulls.  It can sometimes feel awkward to talk in a silent venue. If the brewery/winery/distillery has a library theme, this is perfect.  Otherwise, it can be a bit stifling.

Obnoxiously loud venues have music so loud you have to scream to be heard.  Maybe not scream, but talk loudly, and you hear only about 50% of what the other people are saying.  This is always due to loud background music- they just don’t know how to use the volume knob on their sound system.  I have heard clubs will do this to _dis_courage discourse, thus causing you to buy more drinks. Fine. But in a setting where you want to _enjoy_ and savor your drink, this is unacceptable.

Comfy quiet places have well-moderated background music.  It is present, but you barely notice it. All voices have to speak loud enough to overcome the background music, so if it is genuinely BACKground, it doesn’t impede on the customer’s experience.

We believe good alcohol tourism destinations should have quiet, unobtrusive background music.  This keeps the conversation flowing more easily than in a silent venue, and is actually possible, in contrast to a loud venue.  It isn’t hard- just turn the dial down so that music is in the background. And maybe have someone who didn’t burn out their eardrums in their teens do this task.

Revving Back Up

AlcoholTourismSantaFeSpiritsHello alcohol tourists!  We’re sorry we haven’t been as active lately as we would like to be.  We have been going on so many adventures ourselves, we haven’t been able to write as much.  We have been on our Arizona Adventure- working and traveling based in Phoenix. We’ve been to LA, Big Bear, Julian, all the major southwest sights like Zion and Bryce Canyon, Prescott, Tucson, Tombstone, the Grand Canyon and, of course, the Valley of the Sun.

We’ve also rediscovered a list of blog post ideas which we had thought we’d already written.  We’ve talked about them so much with each other and friends, we thought we had shared them with you!  In addition to reviews of the above destinations, we have posts planned on driving off the interstate, identifying alcohol tourism locales, and planning your first alcohol tourism adventure.

We hope you’ll continue to read and enjoy the tales of adventure, and we’d love to hear about some of your own!  Please share in the comments your thoughts and your own experiences, so we can all learn and grow together.