A Beer Geek’s Guide to Storing & Serving Temperatures

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.

Ice Cold Beer

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.

EdgeStar KC7000SSTWIN Kegerator

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.

Beer Styles
  • 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.

More Beer Insight:

3 Things to Remember When Storing Draft Beer

Draft Beer

As we all probably know, draft beer is a brew that is dispensed from a cask or, in modern times, a kegerator. Because yeast and carbon dioxide influence its characteristics, knowing the right temperature and pressure plays a crucial role in the overall quality and flavor of your beer. Casks and kegs mediate these variables and cause the resulting draft beer to differ from beer consumed from a can or bottle.

Certainly, there are a number of qualifications that must be met for a beer to qualify as draft beer, and the success of each batch depends on the quality of the keg. Here’s three things to take into account when you buy and store your draught beer.

Temperature

Temperature, for example, is a crucial determinant of the taste of draft beer. The majority of the time, the beer inside your keg has not been pasteurized, so it’s important to keep it cold. From the moment you get it from the distributor until it’s empty, it’s important to maintain the proper temperature or you will sacrifice the quality of the beer.

When its temperature is to high, foam dominates the beverage because the higher temperature liberates carbon dioxide too quickly. This will cause your beer to foam more than it should, leading to a loss in flavor. Conversely, draft beer that is too cold retains carbonation, causing the beer to taste flat because the true flavor cannot escape.

The optimal temperature to store and serve your draft beer is right at 38°, especially for ales. You can go slightly lower without sacrificing the quality of the beer, but it’s not recommended to go above that temperature. Any reputable kegerator system should be able to maintain the proper temperatures in order to avoid these problems.

Pressure

Furthermore, a great draft beer depends on pressure, just as much as it does temperature. If the beer is kept at a pressure that is too high or too low, the over all taste and characteristics of the beer will be detrimentally altered. If the pressure is too low, the first few pours coming out of the keg will have excessive amounts of foam, and then gradually the rest of the pours will produce beer that tastes flat. On the flip side, too much pressure will cause the beer to come out of the keg at a faster pace than normal, and eventually produce beer that has too much foam.

Generally, the pressure regulator on your kegerator should stay at a consistent 10-12 PSI for American ales and lagers. Unfortunately, the proper amount of pressure may differ slightly between the various brands, styles and types of beer. Because of this, it would be wise for you to call the distributor from which you got your keg and ask what they would recommend.

Keg of Beer

Let It Settle Before Tapping

When you get your keg, try to be gentle with it. Try to limit how much you shake or roll it around. It’s always wise to let it sit idle for a few hours before tapping it. We all know what happens when you shake a can of beer and then immediately open it. The same principles apply to a keg, as it does a can.

Once you get in your keg set up in your kegerator, we would recommend letting it sit for at least an hour or two before drinking from it. This should be plenty of time to let it settle a bit. However, depending on how long it took you to get from the distributor to the kegerator, you may need to give it more time to chill a little long to reach the proper temperatures.

Takeaways

When it comes to draft beer, the flavor profile of beer is very much dependent on temperature and pressure. These two factors work together to retain the beer’s intended taste and aroma. Although there is an optimal temperature range that retains the qualities of draft beer, this may vary somewhat when you take the type of brew into account. It’s important to find the optimal temperature and pressure for your beer of choice prior to serving, and the distributor of that beer may prove to be an invaluable source of information.

What storage tips for draft beer would you add to this list? We’d like to hear your successes and failures in the comments below?