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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