Would a ‘Warm Beer’ Sign Make You Stop In?

A good way to develop your taste in beer is to keep drinking and try new beers. Yet, you should make sure you’re getting everything you paid (or brewed) for. The temperature of the beer and the glass can have a large impact in the amount of flavor exposed to your palate.

Last week, I performed a simple taste test to compare a flavor of cold beer in a cold glass to the flavor of beer in a glass that approached the ambient temperature. I used Total Domination IPA (6.7% alc./vol. 65 ibus.) from Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene, Oregon in both tastings. My results are as follows; I encourage you to try a similar test and confirm my results.

Ninkasi Total Domination IPA
Ninkasi Total Domination IPA

Cold Glass + Cold Beer

I used a freezer mug for this test. This mug had been inside the freezer overnight and the fluid inside the mug kept the beer frosty cold.

  • First, the beer tasted cold (obviously, but I need to state this for completeness, right?)
  • I could tell it was a carbonated fluid, but not much more.
  • There was little, if any, flavor on the sip.
  • The beer raced through my mouth, not much time to savor.
  • I tasted bitterness upon swallowing; when back of tongue reaches the roof of my mouth.
  • It also exhibited a bitter aftertaste.
  • This reminded me of the macro-brews consumed during my college years. The point was to drink this one and then move on to the next one. Not much thought was put into enjoying the experience.

Ambient Glass + Near Ambient Beer

Now that I write this, I wish I would have taken a temperature measurement with Dave’s sweet laser thermometer. I didn’t think about it, so maybe I’ll have to re-do the test. Ha!

  • This warmer beer was thick, with a full body which bloomed into a slight citrus taste after a few sips and more time in my glass.
  • This beer was more savory and definitely more chewy than the cold glass I had earlier. I could chew on the bubbles that make up the head.
  • The beer exhibited a more malty finish too.
  • I could tell the bitterness was more of an after-thought than the primary flavor present in the cold glass.
  • I could sense a slight pine flavor; other beers like Pliny the Elder (the beer, not the ancient Roman nobleman) have a bold pine flavor, but this was more subtle.
  • I stuck my nose in the glass and smelled a real craft beer.

Based on my results, I experienced a much broader flavor when the temperature of the beer neared the ambient temperature of the room. I wasn’t missing nearly as much as I did with the ultra cold beer. Even after burning a fair amount of my taste sensation on the cold, bitter beer, I could still enjoy the flavors present in the warmer beer.

You might be asking yourself why some beers actually highlight the coldness of the beer and/or the can. That’s a good question. My guess is that (1) you were watching a commercial for mass markets and (2) the beer advertised was not a craft beer.

I don’t have anything against big market beer with less flavor, it has a time and a place too. And I’ll still get a lot of enjoyment out of my Blazer mug with embedded super-freeze technology. I’ll just put the right beer inside it and enjoy the day. Its a close analogy to mixing Seagrams 7 in a glass of Coca-Cola and pouring Woodford Reserve in a tumbler with a little water to open up the flavor. I enjoy both beverages, but there’s a time and place for each. When you select one, make sure you’re getting all the flavor available to you.

3 thoughts on “Would a ‘Warm Beer’ Sign Make You Stop In?”

  1. Most useful beer blog post I’ve seen all day! Maybe all week…heck, it’s early January, maybe all YEAR. Changing temperature is a good reason not to rush though a beer, but to allow it to change temperature and flavor as you work your way to the bottom of the glass. Well done!

  2. The converse of this test is true as well. Try a cheap ass beer cold then try it warm. There’s a reason why they push the ice cold serving.

  3. The British were accused for years of serving warm beer and ales by American visitors. Of course they were not at room temperature, but at cellar temperatue some degrees lower than ambient temp. Today however, with the popularity of lager style “keg” beers in Britain, alas, most draught beers are chilled.

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