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Stupid Food Fights: Cold Beer

December 8, 2017

Once again, I’m calling beer food. Heck, it may be more like bread than most of the bread available in the supermarket. Don’t get me started on bread. Because today I’m going to get riled up on beer and beer temperature. Although my argument may not quite take the hard line stance one might expect.

In American culture there’s a strong underlying belief that beer should be cold. However, it goes beyond that. Not only should beer be cold. But the colder the better. One bar I would drive past in California advertised on a sign out front, “We have the coldest beer in town.”

The way I read that sign was a little different. It was like a giant neon message that read, “We have the worst beer in town.”

Why would someone take something of any quality and chill it down to a temperature where you cannot taste or smell all of the delightful flavors and aromas the brewers worked so hard to achieve? What sort of monster would do such a thing? I would ask myself these questions in vain, until I met one such monster at a local craft beer bar. She and her mother rode up on a motorcycle, and gave me an education I won’t soon forget.

The particular bar isn’t important. Okay, fine. It was the Mohawk Taproom. I was there on a pleasant Saturday afternoon, with my laptop doing a bit of work. It’s one of the perks of having a job where you can work anywhere so long as there is a WiFi connection. Anyhow, I was nursing one of the fruited sours from Allagash. It was one of those beers that I know people love, and it sounded really great on paper. But I just wasn’t feeling it. To me, it smelled like Band-Aids.

Anyway, these two women rolled up to the one of the best craft beer bars in the Capital Region and ordered two Michelob Ultra Lights.

I can’t quite remember how we got to talking. If my memory serves correctly, they were amazed that people would pay more than just a couple of bucks for a beer. Before the Allagash, I was more than happy to pay whatever they were asking for the Hill-Farmstead Edward. Really, I should have ordered a second one of those instead of the Allagash, but you live and learn.

What I do remember was learning more about their love for Michelob Ultra Light.

It had nothing to do with it’s flavor. It had nothing to do with its low calorie count. It wasn’t about the price to value ratio. It wasn’t about its widespread availability, or about its domestic production. It was all about what happens to a perfectly cold bottle of this beer, right when it’s opened. Apparently, tiny delicate ice crystals form just at the surface of the liquid, and those are just magnificent.

But it doesn’t always happen. The beer has to be super cold for those ice crystals to appear.

So these ladies were on the hunt for beer bars, with friendly bartenders, who keep their Michelob Ultra Light in their ideal temperature range. In other words, they are Michelob Ultra Light beer snobs. Or if that’s unkind, we can suggest that even lovers of mass market, industrially produced beer, can be particular about how it is served.

With this in mind, maybe the desire for deeply cold beer is a bit more understandable. Although there are indeed some beers that one might want to have super cold, explicitly to minimize their off flavors. Those could come from the beer itself, or dirty beer lines. But I’m not going to get into dirty beer lines today, that’s a whole different post.

Still, it’s incredibly frustrating to be served a beer that’s far too cold. Keeping beers in an ice chest will do this. The beers I got on Southwest were stored this way, and I had to warm my Fat Tire for what felt like an eternity before it was no longer freezing cold. The process involved holding the can in my warm hands, then re-warming my hands on the top of my head. I repeated this action more times than I care to admit, but it did speed things along. And I’m afraid that without going through those machinations, it would have taken even longer.

Of course, I’m sure the opposite happens all the time too. I’d love to talk to people who work at craft beer bars, and find out how many people complain about beer being served at too warm a temperature, when it’s not. The sad thing is it’s easier to warm up a cold beer that’s been poured than it is to chill down a warm beer that’s been poured.

Ultimately, if a beer seller is going to err, I’d still rather a beer be too cold than too warm. Still, ice cold for anything of merit is a cop-out.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. EPT permalink
    December 8, 2017 8:04 am

    I agree with you. If I may stray a bit, Europeans generally believe we serve our white wine too cold and our red wine too warm. Again, the temperature effects the taste of the product. Frankly I’m a fan of Fat Tire, as well as, ESBs, IPAs, Pale ales, all pretty much hoppy ales. Often Americans in English, Irish, Scottish pubs complain the beer is served too warm, it’s not. It’s served at the right temperature to maximize flavor. A cask ale will be served at a different temp than Carling’s, and the amount of carbonation will differ too. So we agree, again??

  2. SaratogaDad permalink
    December 8, 2017 11:42 am

    My Grandparents (born in 19th century) preferred their beer room temp, I remember my grandfather warming his beer on the radiator. My quess is they grew up with pre-prohibition beers and never develop a taste for the mass produced industrial beers that replace the small scale familly/local brewers

    • EPT permalink
      December 8, 2017 1:58 pm

      When I was in Germany, it was Farther’s Day and the folks I was staying with insisted we take a walk to the woods (5-6 miles) where there would be food and refreshments, such as homemade schnapps and beer. As it was a fairly chilly day, the beer was served as is, so as not to chill the stomach.

  3. December 8, 2017 12:57 pm

    There is no such thing as ‘beer’ in the way you are discussing it. Lagers and Pilsners should be served cold. American lagers should be served very cold (33-40 deg).

    Different styles, different temps. I betcha right now somewhere in America there is a “craft beer” “nerd” sitting somewhere asking for a Pilsner Urquell at room temp…

    • EPT permalink
      December 9, 2017 1:55 pm

      Possibly, but what’s your point if that is what one prefers. American lagers, for the most part are mass produced crap. Pilsner Urquell is a fine beer, as are many of the European pilsners and lagers.

  4. albanylandlord permalink
    December 10, 2017 9:28 pm

    They were serving Edward and you only had one of them???

    I really enjoy sours now but they are always hit and miss for me, much higher risk of one that I do’nt like than any other style.

  5. December 11, 2017 11:24 am

    Rule of thumb: Beer that tastes like piss should never be served warm.

    • EPT permalink
      December 11, 2017 2:04 pm

      Beer that tastes like piss shouldn’t be served, PERIOD!!

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