There's a general rule you can follow for beer served cold vs. room temperature: The lighter the beer, the colder it should be served. Seems logical, right? Right. Think colder for light and warmer for dark.
As beer warms in the glass it has been poured into, the flavors unfurl and evolve, creating intricate, complex aroma and taste that would otherwise be hidden—your reward for drinking it at the right temperature. That's why serving temperatures are merely the starting point. Once a beer leaves the fridge or cooler, it’s inevitably going to warm up.
Beers like pilsners and Kölsch should start around 38°F. These beer styles have complex aromas and flavors, but they’re best experienced at cooler temperatures; if they get too warm, these same flavors can become off-tasting and astringent, like a skunky beer left out in the sunlight too long. IPAs and stouts should start closer to 45°F. (Your farmhouse ales and saisons should be around there, too.) On the other end of the spectrum, big, alcoholic beers like imperial stouts and barley wines should be closer to cellar temperature, about 55°F to 60°F, because their robust nature will be muted by the cold.
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But, this rule doesn't always work; in some cases, dark beers, like German schwarzbier and dry Irish stouts, should be served on the cooler side while boozy, light-colored ales like Trappist tripels and some saisons should be served a little warmer. While beer served too cold can be a major faux pas to in-the-know beer drinkers (and your palate!), a slight chill doesn't hurt any bottle, light or heavy—just be prepared to let your glass warm up a little to smell and taste the good stuff.
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