- Mike Riedel
During this desiccating scorcher of a summer, I've noticed that my taste in suds has been skewing toward the lighter side of the spectrum. If it looks like gold, straw or peach and has an ABV of 5.5 percent or less, the odds are pretty good that we're about to become close friends. Now, just because my current battle cry has become "light and fruity, please," that doesn't mean I've flushed my beer-nerd credentials down the shitter.
It turns out not all brews are meant to be served at frigid, tongue-shocking temperatures. That said, they're not supposed to be served at 70 degrees, either. They are a reflection of the regions and the people from which they were born. The British don't drink "warm beer," for Thor's sake. Yeah, it's warmer than the American-preferred 30 degrees but, hey, most liquids are.
You should know that your beer's quenching qualities are not just about brain freeze, and instead are more about equal parts of flavor, hydration and satisfaction. So let's move on to what beer styles can be placed into their specific temperature zones for maximum quaffability.
Frosty, 32-40 degrees Fahrenheit: I often tell people that I've never met a beer I didn't like. That's not entirely true; there are a couple of beers out there that will make me convulse like a vegan chomping on a sea cucumber. Grolsch Lager, out of the Netherlands, is one of those beers that tastes like hurting to me. If I have to swill on one of these skunky and grassy sons-of-bitches, it needs to be at a palate-numbing temperature. In this case, a little frostbite on the taste buds is perfectly acceptable. It will benefit both you and the brewer's marketing department to go this route. No local lager fits this category.
Brisk, 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit: A well-crafted lager doesn't need the kiss of an ice queen to hide its flavors. While many beer-drinkers find warm lagers completely unpalatable due to the herbal and grassy-tasting hops, their long and cool fermentation period creates a smoothness that can be difficult to duplicate at warmer temperatures. Drink these beers chilled, but not so much that you miss the wonderful toasted malts and complementing floral spices. Proper Brewing Co. Beckerman's Brew works here.
Cool, 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit: Now we're starting to venture into a land where the average consumer gets a bit stressed. This is sometimes considered the "warm beer zone," but that couldn't be further from the truth. This range on the thermometer is refreshingly cool. There's no shock or smack, just satisfaction as you get the full sensory experience from the malt and hop additions while your attitude is pleasantly adjusted. Uinta Brewing's Wyld Simcoe Ale is a great example.
Coldish, 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit: At this point, we're out of refreshing territory and into the complexity zone. The beers here are massively flavorful, and you definitely want the full experience on your palate. Drink these in stemware so your hands can assist in keeping the beer at the appropriate temperature. These are definitely not summer beers, but are often irresistible. Epic Brewing Co.'s Big Bad Baptista is the perfect candidate in this category.
Don't stress. If you want that Belgian quadrupel ale on the arctic side, that's your call. Just remember that you owe it to yourself to make every swig a brilliant one. As always, cheers!