By Cold, Hard Football Facts contributor Lew Bryson
Take a trip to Europe and sample some of the local beers; it's a pleasant and rewarding subcategory of tourism. In fact, it's the only reason many of us on the Cold, Hard Football Facts crew leave the cardboard-box world headquarters.
But when you come home, be prepared for folks to ask: "So ... they drink their beer warm over there, don't they?"
You could get hard-nosed with them and ask them to define "warm," but it's a relative term. Here in mid-February, a 40-degree day would be "warm." In August, it would be considered frigid.
But is European beer served warm? Relatively warm, yes. There are a large number of American beer drinkers who like ice-cold beer. They'll have an ice-cold, frosty brew, brewed cold to be served cold! We serve beers in frosted glasses, which mostly just water down the beer as the ice melts.
The truth is that many Europeans these days drink their beer cold. Some of the last holdouts are British consumers, who drink what's known as "real ale" – this is the beer poured from those antiquated hand pumps you might have seen if you've ever been to England, or ever been to certain American beer bars and brewpubs that offer British-style ales. This beer needs to be served at what's called "cellar temperature." It's warm relative to ice-cold American "frosties."
But good beer should never be served too cold.
Truth is, extreme cold numbs the taste buds, which makes beer taste different: sweeter and less intense. The Germans serve their lager beer around 40 degrees; the Brits, as we noted, serve their "real ales" at about 55 degrees.
There's a reason for those temperatures. A simple rule of thumb is that beer tastes best at the temperature at which it is matured. Ales, for instance, mature warmer than lagers, and they taste better at those temperatures. But is that beer warm?
Well, stand around outside in your underwear on a breezy 55-degree day this spring, and you'll soon agree: Warm is a relative term.
Past lessons at Samuel Adams University:
Feb. 2, 2007 - What it means to brew
Jan. 26, 2007 - Is your beer hoppy?
Jan. 12, 2007 - Tiny Bubbles in the Beer
Jan. 5, 2007 - All About Malt
Dec. 28, 2006 - India Pale Ale
Dec. 21, 2006 - Ale vs. Lager
Dec. 14, 2006 - Dark Beers