Temperature, you see, has a profound effect on our taste receptors. The chemical composites that are responsible for the myriad aromas and flavors we love in our beer are similarly actuated and suppressed according to temperature. Warmth generally makes a flavor more distinguishable, while cold tends to suppress it. Choosing just the right temperature ensures that these constituent chemicals remain duly in balance as you enjoy your craft beer or homebrew.
Take Sweet taste, as an example. In a 2005 article ( “ Heat Activation of TRPM5 Underlies Thermal sensitivity of Sweet Taste ”), experimenters linked how chemical pathways on the tongue taste receptors vary with temperature. The endpoint of the study is that adding the temperature of a food or beverage strengthens the electrical signals that tell the brain what you’re tasting. But some kinds of taste respond alternatively than others, which is why an ice-cold stout is likely to taste assertive bitter while a warmer sample expresses a balance between malt sweetness and roasty bitterness.
You kind of already know this. There’s a reason we enjoy our coffee hotter, our red wine room temperature, and our white wine chilled, and the same is true for beer. Different styles of beer taste better to the majority of people at different temperatures. Then are some general guidelines.
- 35–40°F (2–4°C): Mass market light lagers
- 40–45°F (4–7°C): Czech and German Pilsners, Munich Helles, wheat beers, and Kölsch
- 45–50°F (7–10°C): IPAs, American pale ales, porters, and most stouts
- 50–55°F (10–13°C): Belgian ales, sour ales, Bocks, English bitters and milds, Scottish ales
- 55–60°F (13–16°C): Barleywines, imperial stouts, Belgian strong ales, and Doppelbocks