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Ask a Pro: Why are some beers served warm and others served cold?

A: I’m not telling you how to drink your beer (maybe just a little), but the brewers who brewed your beer want you to enjoy it just as they envisioned it. You’d be surprised how much more enjoyable certain styles can be when served in a glass, at the right temperature. Much like wine, it’s ideal to serve your beer at the style’s proper temperature. You wouldn’t drink a Pinot Grigio at room temperature, or a Napa Cab at fridge temperature, right? RIGHT!?

Temperature can affect the aroma, flavour, texture, and carbonation! Here’s the gist: you perceive flavour differently depending on temperature. It’s also much harder to smell the subtleties in beer when it is served too cold. 

My quick (very rudimentary) guidelines: stronger beers are served warmer than weaker styles and darker beers are served warmer than light styles.

Have you ever drank a light lager at room temperature? It’s not enjoyable and it can even be unpleasant. But, if you tried a rich, chocolatey stout at the same temperature, you’d smell and taste much more than at a cooler temperature.

Finally, there is a lot of middle ground between those two styles. Amber ales and lagers are best served chilled, but not cold. For me that means taking it out of the fridge 15-20 minutes before opening it, knowing that it will warm up slightly as you drink it. For an IPA or Double IPA style, I’ll take out of the fridge maybe 5 minutes before I pour. I still want it fairly cold as some IPAs can show their sweeter side as they warm up, but I want to take the fridge coldness away to let those hop aromatics shine through. 

An ice cold beer after a long day is one of the great joys in life, but I urge you to unlock the potential of certain styles when they’re  given the right treatment. Cheers!

Do you have questions about wine, beer or spirits that you’d like us to answer? Send your questions to [email protected] to be featured in a future segment!

Image description: A small glass of dark beer sits on an oak barrel.

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