Cold Beer Not a Virtue
I was looking at a guide to Vancouver pubs and lounges last night and noticed it was peppered with references to cold beer, as if that were somehow a virtue. Unfortunately, that is a misguided holdover from the B.C.’s Dark Ages when you could only get macro lager. I remember my father putting ceramic mugs in his freezer during the summer and inviting his friends over for “the coldest beer in town” at the end of the day. He was proud.
Sorry, Dad, but the beer isn’t necessarily good just because it’s cold. When a beer is too cold, it actually masks the taste, which is what purveyors of macro lager want so your judgment of what you are drinking is impaired. Thus, it goes down as easy as water — the easier for you to tolerate drinking more.
To get the best measure of a beer, it should be consumed at a temperature appropriate to its style. That doesn’t mean that English-style ales should be served “warm” at room temperature. Room temperature is 21°C/70°F, which is too warm; you should drink them between 12-14°C/54-57°F.
Unfortunately, pubs in B.C. almost universally serve ales too cold, thereby robbing you of much of their flavour. For them to serve chilled ale in chilled glasses is a gross disservice. If you order a beer that should be served at cellar temperature and see a bartender reaching into a fridge for a glass, politely ask them for an unchilled glass. The ale will undoubtedly still be too cold out of the tap, but it will warm to the proper temperature faster with a little hand-holding.
Rate Beer has a good reference to beer serving temperatures for various styles that I recommend you peruse. If you aren’t currently cognisant of proper serving temperature, your beer-drinking experience should noticeably improve as a result. Perhaps with time, publicans will be persuaded not only to serve beer at the proper temperature but also in the proper glass. I’ll leave the latter for another post.