Home Behind The BeerDrunken Ramblings Drunken Ramblings #25 – Beer Serving Temperatures

Drunken Ramblings #25 – Beer Serving Temperatures

by BeerTengoku Writer
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There’s nothing like a cold beer after a hard day of exercise, travelling, or work is there? We’ve all been there. Reached into the fridge, pulled out a beer, opened it, drank from the container, savouring that cold, sharp taste on the tongue. Maybe you have been civilised and poured the beer into a glass, and seen those drops of condensation on the side of the glass make the same beer look even more appealing than before. You count the rings of foam that adorn the side of the glass; 1,2,3… and before you know it you are more than halfway into the pint of beer. You’re trying to finish it off before it gets warm as you want that crisp bite all the way before you start the second.

You’ve spent your money on some beer made with more than just a few bits of malt and a yeast thrown together. That beer perhaps has some soft hops, maybe some light adjuncts, or perhaps is bolder than what it appears to be. Your friends have told you about the beer and they have praised the citrus and tropical notes found in the beer but you come away disappointed with barely a whiff of the same notes and you wonder if the beer you bought is in fact, off or bad.

It’s happened to us. We’ve been to a bar and seen that there are some fantastic beers on tap that we want to try. We’ve gone ahead and ordered them, anticipating the flavours coming up. And then the glass appeared and it’s cold. Very cold. We’re talking about a few degrees above freezing and everything is muted. We’ve got to sit and wait for the beer to warm up so we can get the flavours we came for, so in the meantime, we order something different, or, in a recent case, another beer of the same kind to give it some time to warm up.

But, and if you are being civilised and spending good money on craft beer, it shouldn’t be that way. Beer, like many other drinks, has an ideal serving temperature – and it isn’t such a hard thing to do. Serving beer is like Goldilocks and the Three Bears – too warm and it’s flat and you’ll detect off-flavours a lot easier; too cold and the flavours are muted and the beer comes across bland; just right though and you get the plethora of flavours on offer in the beer that your friends were telling you about.


But why is cold bad? In simple terms, the cold temperatures stop the volatising of the aroma molecules in a beer, and instead, they linger in the beer instead of going into your nose. While humans are able to detect five basic tastes, the majority of our understanding of flavours comes from our nose. By having the beer too cold, those same aromas that you want to tickle your nose are stuck in your beer, unable to escape and overwhelm the olfactory senses. 

That’s not to say that some beers shouldn’t be served ice-cold – let’s be honest, some of the macro beers out there are much better when they have been chilled so much that they are just being used as vehicles to get the alcohol into you to get through the rest of the end of year parties next.

So next time you are drinking a beer at home, that is not a macro lager, then try thinking about some of the following points about how to best appreciate that beer you have spent your cash on and to get the most out of the flavours that are being held back by you having the beer ice-cold. We’ve split the next section into four distinct areas, with temperature ranges in celsius. We’re drunkards at BeerTengoku but we’re not animals so we are not going to use fahrenheit – calculate it yourselves.

Cold : 4c to 7c – Pilsners & Wheat beers – Straight out of the fridge

These beers tend to be the lightest in colours with fewer hop aromas than other beers here. They rely more on light malt flavours and as such can be enjoyed at a bit warmer than the macro lagers of corn and rice. The flavours may be slightly dulled but as the beer warms up quickly, you’ll get more of an expression of flavour towards the end of drinking.

Chilled : 7c to 10c – IPAs, Pale Ales, Hoppy Beers – Out of the fridge for about 5 minutes.

These beers rely on the volatile hop aromas to be warmed up so your nose can really appreciate the subtleties on offer from them. They can obviously be poured at lower temperatures, but you will definitely notice, in a positive manner, more that the beers have to offer than when they’re served at a fridge temperature.

Cool : 10c to 13c – Porters and Stouts – Out of the fridge for about 20 minutes

One thing you’ll begin to notice is that the beers are getting darker in colour – and with the darker colours comes a more malty flavour. With these beers, the prototypical flavours you are looking for are chocolate and coffee to be expressed.

Cellar : 13 to 16c – Belgian Ales, Bocks, Sours – Stored in a cellar

While these aren’t big in Japan, these beers should be served barely chilled as the flavours are more appreciated due them being sweeter rather than bitter. The sour funk that comes with beers is also better appreciated when it is warmed up as the bitterness is paired with more of the fruity flavours found in those styles of beers. Having a mouthful of sourness isn’t really appreciated by most beer drinkers, and with bars often serving these styles too cold, it puts drinkers off.

Cellar or above : Barley wines and Imperial Stouts

Some people may try to serve you those cold. Politely decline and put the glass down and let it warm up if you want to experience these as they are meant to be. As much as whisky connoisseurs will chide someone for putting a great big dolloping ice ball in their glass of single malt, chilling these kinds of beers until they’re sub 5c means you lose out on most, if not all, of the best parts of the beer. These beers are big and bold for a reason and the flavours are waiting to be expressed so they need to be warmer than others to be fully appreciated.


To sum up, the darker the beer, the warmer it should be served. Of course, if you like an ice cold barley wine, that’s your decision. If you want a room temperature weizen to drink, then go ahead. But please do not give us one of either.

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