If you ask most people what the best temperature for beer is, you'll likely get a response of "cold." However, drinking a "cold one" I.E. freezing might actually be the wrong way to go about it. So, what temperature is best for beer? Well, the answer to that really depends on the type of beer you're drinking. However, cold doesn’t mean freezing and no quality beer should be served below 40 degrees. Here's a look at the situation.
The word "light" here applies to the color and body of the beer in question – say, a Kolsch or a pilsner. When drinking these types of beers, cold is a boon. Lighter beers actually benefit from being served at a low temperature, and it can enhance their flavor, as well as making them more thirst quenching (an important consideration on those hot, summer days). However, the cold rule doesn't apply to all beers.
If you're drinking a dark beer, like a stout, porter or a brown ale, then you need to crank the thermostat up by a few degrees. It seems that darker beers are best served in the high 50s. Actually some even taste better warm – right around room temperature.
If you are one of those who recoil at the thought of tossing back a warm stout or ale, you're not alone. Here in the States, warm beer is equated with the odd way that our cousins across the Pond do things. However, there are actually some good reasons to start drinking a warmer brew.
Cold temperatures equate to less overall flavor – a good thing if you need to balance hops and flavors (lighter beers). However, with darker beers, you need the flavors to come out more, you need warmer temperatures to create a greater harmony between the beer's various components. Serving a dark beer cold hides the beer's real complexity of tastes and aromas. The very characteristics that you love about dark beers are enhanced and amplified by being served at a warmer temperature, rather than being hidden at low temperatures.
A Course of Action
If you're interested in trying a warm beer yourself, you have only a few options. You're not likely to find a bar or restaurant that will bring you a warm glass of beer. So, you can order two and let one warm up. However, letting that one sit too long leads to flat, stale beer, which is never good.
In your own home, though, you can exercise control over things to a far greater extent. Store your dark beers in a dark, unrefrigerated place, and you'll be surprised at the results.