You might believe that the colder the beer, the better, right? While this may be true for large, mass-produced beer companies, it is not necessarily the case for all craft beer styles. Let’s explore and determine the ideal serving temperature for different craft beer styles to enhance the overall experience.
The temperature greatly influences our taste buds, as well as the flavors and aromas expressed by a craft beer. Colder temperatures dampen flavors, while warmer temperatures bring out more prominent flavors. However, we don’t necessarily want to weaken the taste and aroma of a beer, but there are reasons to serve certain craft beers colder than others. Craft beer temperatures can be compared to how red wines are served at room temperature and white wines are chilled or placed on ice to remain cold.
First, let’s clarify why we mentioned earlier that big, mass-produced beers should be served extremely cold – around 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
The icy cold temperatures of these mass-market lagers usually contain more CO2 gas, which masks the beer’s taste. They are often served this way because they are inexpensive beers made with rice or corn as their grain and lack any added special flavors or aromas. That’s why they are suitable for easy drinking and chugging in beer games. Can you imagine trying to chug a slightly warm beer?
Now, let’s move up the temperature chart to something slightly fancier.
The next tier ranges from approximately 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit and is considered just cold, not as cold as the light lager beers served below 40 degrees. In this range, you will find the best expression of Pilsners and Wheat beers. Since most of these beers have lower alcohol content and a lighter body, it is acceptable to enjoy them at a relatively cold temperature.
Next, we have the 40 to 45 degree Fahrenheit range, which brewers refer to as chilled. In this range, India Pale Ales (IPAs), American Pale Ales, Porters, and almost all Stouts perform their best.
Beers like IPAs often have fruity characteristics and a hop-forward presence, so they fare better at this intermediate temperature. Similarly, Porters and Stouts, with their moderate alcohol levels and medium bodies, are perfect candidates for this temperature range as well.
Continuing to warm up a bit, we have the 50 to 55 degree Fahrenheit range, known to brewers as cellar temperature. In this range, you will typically find Belgian Ales, Sour Ales, and Bocks being served. Sour Ales, with their earthy and tart characteristics, particularly belong here because these flavors should not be masked by cold temperatures.
Last but not least, we have the cool temperature section, ranging from 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In this range, you will find the highest alcohol content and fullest-bodied craft beers. Anything that has an excessively high alcohol percentage should be consumed at this cool temperature to fully express all the captured flavors.
Although this is not always the case, if you noticed the pattern above, the easiest way to determine the ideal serving temperature for your beer is that lighter-bodied, sessionable beers are best served colder, while fuller-bodied, strong beers are best enjoyed at warmer temperatures.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that you MUST drink your craft beers at these specific temperatures! As long as you enjoy your craft beer, that is all that matters.