The temperature of your beer when you drink it can have a variety of effects on the entire experience. I’ve always heard that the ideal temperature is around 55°F of course this varies by style with lagers being better cooler and stouts being warmer. I found this breakdown of temps for styles on RateBeer, hit up that link for more style ranges:
Very cold (32-39°F): Any beer you don’t actually want to taste.
Cold (39-45°F): Hefeweizen, Premium Lager, Pilsner
Cool (45-54°F): Pale Ale, Amber Ale, Dry Stout, Porter, Helles, Tripel
Cellar (54-57°F): IPA, Bitter, Old Ale, Saison, Lambic, Bock
Warm (57-61°F): Barley Wine, Belgian Quad, Imperial Stout, Imperial IPA
Knowing this I decided to test out what changes you could expect at various temperatures. I went with Rivertown’s Helles because I’m very familiar with this beer and lagers don’t hide flaws as well as say an IPA. I then subjected the bottles to the situations below and took a temperature reading at the time of my initial pour.
Refrigerator – Standard serving style taking a nicely chilled beer from the fridge and pouring it into a room temperature glass. – Serving Temp 45°F – I figure this is the most common way people will drink most of their beer and it tastes just like it should with no strange effects to the beer.
Room Temperature – Got home from the store but forgot to put the beer in the fridge for a few hours and can’t wait? Here’s what to expect! – Serving temp 79°F – Brighter more golden color compared to the previous yellow. Much more grain in the aroma then previously as well as increased fruity esters. Significantly more bitterness and almost no sweetness left, clove and banana fruit esters are coming out, and lots of grain. Body hasn’t changed much but carbonation took a big leap up. Pretty much needless to say but this is fracking putrid and beer should never be consumed this way. Now to make it worse so you don’t have to….
Hot Summer Day – The high today was 93°F so I left this brew setting on the back patio. The potential for becoming light struck existed but luckily didn’t occur here. Perhaps you had a party yesterday and this straggler got left out and you got curious? – Serving Temp 99°F – Slightly darker color then the others with loads of head during the pour but it only lasted a few milliseconds at best. The room temp glass quickly became warm to the touch. Grainy flavor and I can feel some heat on my nose. Uck wow… That is putrid. Extremely bitter blowing away most IPAs, very highly carbonated, no real flavor other then the bitterness. Still a super light body but there is a slick slightly burning mouth feel and I’m throwing the rest of this out. Finally on the opposite end of the spectrum….
Frozen Glass – Pulled from the fridge and poured into a shaker pint fresh from the freezer to replicate all those beer commercials on tv – Serving temp 40°F – I’m a bit disappointed in the lack of change between this and standard refrigerator temp poured into a room temp glass. I thought the frozen glass would have more then a 5 degree impact. So looks like TV commercials and bars aren’t all horrible for doing this as it makes a very small difference, though I do have to wonder about the cleanliness of a glass that’s been sitting in a freezer….
Update: Ryan from Mould’s Beer Blog reminded me that Randy Mosher – beer writer, partner in 5 Rabbit Cerveceria (now availabe in Cinci), and all around cool dude – wrote about this in his awesome book Tasting Beer (My review here, go buy your copy here) this is the picture he used to display the temperature range for different styles.