In my book (of beer drinkers. What else would my figurative book be about?), there are 3 kinds of people: 1. People who drink beer to get drunk, 2. People who like what they know of beer and on some level are interested in learning more, and 3. “Beer Geeks” who are adventurous learners with unquenchable thirsts.
#1. Those who drink to get drunk, and care little about flavor. To these people: Continue to drink from an icy cold glass. Chances are you’re pounding Natty Light. And no one actually wants to taste that shit. Consider the marketing of Coors Light for example. Is flavor ever even mentioned? No. “COLD” is their marketing strategy. “Look! Our cans tell you how cold the beer is! Ta da!” Cold numbs taste. Translation? Drink as COLD as possible to avoid actually tasting what you’re putting in your mouth. This would be like Dunkin Donuts advertising their coffee as simply “hot”. If you can’t find one flavor descriptor to describe the beer you’re drinking (think: “light with grapefruit and floral notes “, “dense dark chocolate with toasted malt, bourbon, and a strong vanilla finish” or “with bready banana and clove flavors”), that should tell you something about the flavor. There isn’t any. So Natty Light pounders, keep those taste buds cold!
#2. Those who like what they know of beer, and are on some level interested in learning more about it. To these people: Read on, my friends!
#3. “Beer Geeks”. To these people: Obviously, keep reading! You probably already know this, but it’s never tiring to hear that you’re right!
I mentioned in my first blog post that I “appreciate disdain for frosted beer glasses at a craft beer bar”. Well, friends, it’s time to put my beer snob pants on. (Which, let’s be honest… This is every pair of pants I own…)
(Note that my use of the term “beer snob” connotates not a term of entitlement, but rather one of appreciation and respect. A frosted or chilled glass isn’t the end of the world, so don’t act like it is. Don’t be a dick. There’s a polite way to get the beer you want, served the right way.)
Walk into a brewery and see if they serve you your beer in a frosted glass. If they do, pay for your beer, chug your beer, and leave the brewery. You don’t have to be an expert to brew beer, and young breweries occasionally make some mistakes. But I have yet to experience even one brewery where beer was served in a frosted glass. This isn’t a mistake brewers should be making.
Unfortunately, you will see the occasional frosted glass at a bar with a good beer selection. The selection of bars with good beer in my hometown isn’t the greatest. But of my two favorites (the two with the best craft beer selection), one of them serves beer in frosted glasses.
“But, Janée…”, I can hear some people questioning, “It seems that if a bar with a good craft beer selection is serving beer in frosted glasses, then there must be a reason, right?”
Yes. There is. That reason is called “laziness”. There’s no excuse for the owner or manager of a craft beer bar to allow beer to be served in this way. No excuse.
I do not call these bars “craft beer bars”. The word “craft”, to me, indicates passion. It’s mildly understandable (but extremely regrettable) that not all bar owners or managers have a passion for beer. But, once again, I come back to the words my good ol’ cousin Abe said. “Whatever you are, be a good one.” If you want to be a bar that sells craft beer, almost anyone can do that. But if you want to be a good one, do your homework!
So exactly why are frosted glasses a no-no? To simply put it, extremely cold beer hinders the development of volatile compounds that make up the complex aroma and flavor of your beer. Beer that is too cold literally has a numbing effect on your tongue. Frosted beer glasses also cause ice crystals to form on the inside of the glass, further oxidizing the beer beyond intended oxidation levels.
Also, if you’re storing a glass in a freezer, your glass will pick up the flavor off of other things stored in there, says Joe Katchever, Founder and Brewmaster of Pearl Street Brewery in Wisconsin. “Don’t believe me?” he says. “Chip some frost off the wall of your freezer and melt it in a glass and drink it.” Who wants to try first?
The sad thing is, people are taught that “cold” is the best way to drink beer. Check out the websites of Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors’ most popular beers. Do you see any flavor called out? You don’t. I rest my case.
So what temperature is best to serve beer? This varies for different beer styles. Do you like Pilsner, Light Lager, Kolsch, Hefeweizen or Wheat beer? Try 40-45 degrees. For Pale Ales, Porters, and Irish or Sweet Stouts, it’s 45-50. Sour Ales, Lambics, Belgians, Bocks and Scotch Ales should be in the range of 50-55. And Imperial Stouts, Belgian Quads, Dopplebocks and Old Ales should be around 55-60 degrees.
We know that temperature directly affects taste. GREAT CARE is taken to produce each of those complex styles with their particular flavors. Beer takes more care to make than most meals you’ve probably consumed take. (Brewing even puts my Thanksgiving dinners to shame. And that shit takes days, and it is well worth it.)
Brewing and fermentation are long processes with many different steps. Hops are added for bittering at certain times in the brew. Hops are added for aroma at other times. The chosen grain bill affects the flavors, style, and color of the beer. Different yeast strains are chosen carefully. Additives like raisins or cherries can be added to contribute flavor. Adjuncts like flaked barley are chosen to contribute fermentable sugars. (I could go on for days, friends. You get the picture. This isn’t just something someone throws together.)
This isn’t a burger and fries. This isn’t even a gourmet burger and fries. It’s not even a damn-near-perfect Thanksgiving feast. The time dedicated to producing these flavors is unreal. You want to taste this labor of love! So put down that frosted mug, damnit.
Craft beer is artfully crafted to showcase these great flavors and styles. Another BIG no-no is drinking beer straight from the bottle. Your sense of smell contributes SO MUCH to your sense of taste, that without aroma, even the most complex of flavors is completely muddied. You can’t smell your beer if you’re drinking from a bottle. Always ask for a clean glass!
Even the wrong glassware can damage how you taste beer. I once visited a new brewery where they served their flights in tall, almost test tube-like, shot glasses. I was not happy to have driven out of my way to visit it. I enjoy actually tasting beers when I try new ones.
This list of ruining of taste could go on and on to dirty glassware, improperly stored beer, improperly cleaned draft lines, old kegs of beer, light, etc. But we’ll leave it here.
I have a “beercation” planned to Denver, Colorado starting tomorrow, and we’re leaving PA shortly! I can hardly contain my excitement! Check out my Instagram and Twitter at @JaneeLovesBeer, for updates on where I am and what I’m drinking. My camera is charged, my brewery diary is packed, and of course, our beer boxes are prepped for the trip!
Stay thirsty, and stay tuned!
Blog Fuel: Goose Island Gillian, Wells & Young’s Brewing Company Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale, The Bruery Shegoat.