The Cold Truth on Warm Beer

Illustration: Steve Thueson

Occasionally, we beer drinkers can find ourselves in a bit of a beer bubble. It’s easy to forget that that many of the great beer styles that we enjoy come from regions of the world that are as foreign to us as a BYU singles ward.

These beers were not just created to help you “get your sexy on”—they were primarily created to be necessary nutritional staples in the regions from which they hail. Why you’re drinking a beer has as much to do as what kind of beer you’re drinking. Centuries ago, when you were having a beer, it was because the water was bad or because it was a more practical way to stretch your harvest’s yield, and temperature has a lot to do with that.

Just about every beer on the planet is made to be served at a specific temperature. It affects the taste and how your body can more effectively utilize the beer. Of course, in the world we live in now, beer is all about enjoyment. To get the most out of your beer, you definitely want to properly taste it. That’s where temperatures come in. Whether you want all of the flavor or none of it, the proper serving temps will go a long way to helping you find your happy place. Here are some general serving temps for some of the styles you may encounter.

Frigid, 32–40 F:

Let’s face it: Not all beer styles taste great warm. In some cases, you need a little frostbite on the tongue to cancel out some of the more harsh, bitter notes you can get from some beers. Malt liquors and Dutch lagers such as Colt 45 or Grolsch will benefit greatly from a little tongue shock.

Chilled, 40–45 F:

Lagers such as Bohemian’s 1842 Czech Pilsener, Hoppers’ This is the Pilsener and Uinta’s Baba are fermented at chilled temps, and benefit from the slightly warmer range. The smoothness from their lagering makes it more enjoyable at less cold temps, bringing out the pleasant roastiness/toastiness of the grains used.

Cool, 45–55 F:

These are the temperatures that start to make people think “warm beer,” but that’s not the case at all. The 55-degree F mark may seem warm, but when it hits your 98.6-degrees F tongue, it’s pleasantly cool. Beers served at these temps include Desert Edge’s Latter Day Stout, Shades of Pale’s Publican Pale Ale and Squatters’ Hop Rising Double IPA—the perfect temps for an 18th Century British laborer on his lunch break.

Warm, 55–65 F: 

Now we’re out of the “refreshing” temperatures. The beers we are enjoying in this range are the very complex beers that you absolutely want to taste. Served in stemware to be warmed by your cupped hands, these often boozy and sweet styles such as Epic’s Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout, Uinta’s Anniversary Barley Wine and Moab’s Belgian Tripel want your tongue’s complete and undivided attention. Taking the time to let these big, complex beers warm is a reward all in itself.
Now, we here at SLUG aren’t gonna pee in your Cheerios if you want to drink your barley wine ice cold or decide that a tepid Dos Equis is right up your zip code—I’ve done it, and I still loved it! But you owe it to yourself to make every swallow a perfect one. Cheers!