Illustration by Eric DeFreitas
The beautiful bite of that first swig of cold beer is unparalleled refreshment. But what impact does temperature have on beer, beyond the icy grip of revitalization and relaxation? Contrary to popular belief, cold temperatures aren’t the be-all and end-all of beer service.
“The short answer is, serve beer too cold and you won’t be able to taste everything,” says Shana Solarte, Advanced Cicerone, content manager for Cicerone and educator for Dovetail Brewery. “Serve beer too warm and you might not enjoy drinking it!”
When beer is too cold—around 32–35°F—Solarte says, it becomes hard for the drinker to taste or smell the full range of flavors in the glass. At lower temperatures, carbon dioxide becomes much more soluble—you’ll know this if you’ve ever accidentally frozen and then thawed a beer and opened it to find very little fizz.
“Cold liquid holds much more CO2 in solution than a warm liquid,” says Natalya Watson, beer sommelier and Advanced Cicerone. “So, if we serve a beer too cold, the bubbles, and, all importantly, those aroma molecules, remain trapped in the beer, dulling our overall flavor experience. Conversely, if we serve a beer too warm, the bubbles and aromas escape before we’re fully able to enjoy them.”
Not only does temperature impact the ability of all those flavor compounds to reach our olfactory centers, but it also impacts our physical ability to taste what we’re drinking.