As you may know, heat is one of beer’s big enemies. It can promote oxidation, which is what happens when natural compounds within the beer react with oxygen leading to off flavors in your beer. Heat can also result in flavor loss altogether, creating a bland product that is in no way reflective of the beer in its original state. It can even age a beer at a more rapid rate and for beer stored at various temperatures with other conditions remaining the same, at 100°F the beer will remain okay for about a week, two months when stored at 70°F and for up to a year at 40°F. Simply put, the lower the temperature the longer the beer is preserved.
From storage tips to serving temperatures, let’s take a closer look at the many factors that can have an affect on the overall quality of your beer.
Avoid Both Heat & Light
So, how much heat can you expose your beer to? Well, as a general guideline, if you don’t have any more room in the fridge, room temperature storage is acceptable so long as the beer is kept out of the reach of another enemy — light.
Light can have a far more detrimental impact than heat, resulting in off flavors. Though, the thing about heat, as previously mentioned, is that it ages the beer more quickly. So, if you plan on storing the beer for an extended period of time before cracking it open, it’s advisable to keep it at a lower temperature.
Storing Beer: Kegerator vs. Refrigerator
A refrigerator will certainly get the job done, but if you don’t have the space then you’ll need to find a better solution. In this case, a kegerator is the optimal solution as it provides an environment that is always cool and dark but unlike your household refrigerator, the door isn’t opened nearly as often helping to avoid frequent temperature changes.
However, those with kegerators should be far more mindful of its interior temperature than how you would be with a household refrigerator mainly because of the contents. Chances are a keg of beer will last and sit longer in the kegerator than a gallon of milk or last night’s leftovers would in the fridge.
Tips for Monitoring Your Kegerator Temperature
To ensure that your kegerator is holding the proper temperatures, you should first make sure that it is properly sealed. Over time, the insulation may move or need adjusting or replacement so make sure that the door is properly sealing all the way around at all times.
Also, ensure that the temperature inside the unit is actually what it should be. Sometimes the thermostats are in need of calibration and may not actually be cooling to the temperatures that you think they are. Some people place an air thermometer within the cabinet to get a read, but the best way to gauge what the temperature of your beer is, is to place a glass of water inside the fridge and then place a liquid thermometer in the water. You can even use your brewing thermometer.
Just make sure that if it’s a metal thermometer that the probe is not touching the glass itself as it could provide an inaccurate reading. This will ensure that your beer is being stored at the right temperature but what about being served at the right temperature.
To take things to the next level, there are high-end kegerators that include built-in tower coolers. These divert air from the forced air-cooling unit within the fridge through a tube and up through the draft tower. This ensures that the draft lines within the tower are properly cooled just as the rest of the main fridge compartment. Having cool draft lines greatly reduces the amount of foam that you will get on the first pour or two. While foam is undesirable because you cannot really drink it (foam is only about 25% beer), more importantly it is a premature release of the beer’s carbon dioxide. The lack of carbonation will have a negative effect on the mouthfeel, flavor, aroma and overall drinking experience of that beer—and you certainly won’t be enjoying it as the brewer intended.
Why You Shouldn’t Over-Chill Your Beer
Now, with all this talk about proper cooling, it’s important to understand that you can also over-chill your beer. When the temperature of beer is reduced below 38°F it will retain a noticeably greater amount of CO2 which will result in more bubbly beer. This bubbliness may not be right for the beer and can create a mouthfeel that is unfit for the style.
Additionally, beer at exceptionally low temperatures will numb your taste buds and prevent you from getting a full flavor experience. Though, as long as you are at or above 38°F, different styles of beer can call for different temperatures.
Different Styles, Different Temperatures
To make it even more complex, not every style of beer should be served at the same temperature. Each unique style has its own recommended serving temp, but for the most part, they all fall in the three ranges below.
- Lighter-bodied beers, such as lagers and light ales, should be served within a temperature range of 38° to 42°F. This maintains good carbonation levels which pairs well with the crispness of beers of this type.
- Slightly heavier beers, such as dark lagers and ales, should typically be served around 42-46°F which allows for the perfect blend of a lighter mouthfeel and the slightly more substantial body of the beer.
- Heavy beer styles, including stouts, barleywines and strong ales, among others, can even be served at temperatures of 48°F and higher. In fact, you find that a lot of the beers within these styles may even advise serving temperatures of 55°F and above. Serving these at a higher temperature allows the full complexity of the beer to open up without being too carbonated.
Should You Chill Your Glass?
Additionally, it’s important to understand that the temperature of the glass in which you serve the beer can have an effect on the beer. You don’t want to pour beer into a glass that has been sitting in a freezer because that can lead to a higher retention of CO2. It’s best to serve beer in a room temperature glass or one that has been slightly chilled.
Also, once you pour the beer into the glass, the temperature of the beer will rise a few degrees, so keep that in mind. The next time you’re storing, serving or enjoying a beer, be mindful of the environment in which you store it, the way in which you serve it, and that the temperature at which you enjoy it is fit for the style and you should be much happier with your beer-drinking experience.