Excellent beer deserves to be enjoyed fully. I realize that not everyone means to make their casual beer consumption into a fine event, or that everyone is terribly picky about the quality of their beer. But for those who want to taste and smell the character of their beer, here’s a guide to make sure you’re not missing out by making small mistakes in the way you serve your beer.
1. Avoid frosted glassware
It feels like this point has been made time and again, but it bears repeating. I still see beer shots of perfectly good beers being poured into icy steins, where their flavors surely go to die. What am I whining about? Well, when you pop glassware in the freezer for later beer enjoyment, that glassware can take on the flavors of other items being stored in that freezer. So, if you’ve been storing pheasant in there for months and months, your glassware, and in turn beer, could start to taste a bit… pheasant-y. Not ideal.
Even if your freezer only store ice cubes and a coiled up old sack of blueberries, that frosted glassware can ruin your beer. The ice that has formed inside of the glass will melt as you enjoy your beer, and water it down. It’d be like putting ice cubes in your beer. Not a great way to assess flavor.
2. Remember that beer should never need to be served ice cold
While the words “ice”, “cold” and “beer” seem a marketing trifecta that has existed since the beginning of time – they shouldn’t necessarily be. If anything, those three words evoke a time when American beer was so watery and flavorless that we had to drink it cold enough that we could get a brain freeze. Though I’m not endorsing lukewarm or hot beer, I would suggest a temperature where your taste buds can still function. When you chug an ice-cold beer – 1. You are refreshed, because cold drinks are refreshing, but 2. Your tongue gets so cold that you aren’t tasting the liquid you are consuming.
If the beer you’re drinking costed next to nothing and doesn’t taste like anything to begin with – go right on ahead doing what you’re doing. But if you mean to enjoy the aroma and flavor of your beer, keep its temperature around 44 degrees Fahrenheit (though the ideal temperature for each beer style varies).
3. If you can get to a glass instead of drinking directly from the bottle, do it
Sure, it’s less fuss to just pop open the beer and start drinking, but you’re not getting the full effect. By that I don’t mean “full effect” as in feeling fancy because you whipped out glassware, I mean that you will not smell your beer or get its full flavor. Part of tasting any food or drink is its aroma, so when you put your mouth to the bottle and start drinking, you skip out on smelling it. Free your beer from its bottle!
4. Opt for a glass meant for the beer style you’re sipping
Now if you’ve gone so far as to keep glassware on hand for beer drinking, I’d suggest considering the different types of glassware for each style. Though pint glasses are revered as the good-for-every-beer option, I’d argue against that. Any strong beer fan knows that a snifter or tulip style glass makes for a much better drinking experience. Glasses with the tulip/snifter/chalice shape do a much finer job of collecting strong aromas and getting them to your nose so that every sip of that Quad or Russian Imperial Stout is packed with the bold smells and flavors for which you chose it.
5. Be sure you’re tasting the beer, not your glass
What I mean in short is – wash your glass well. Sound simple? It should be, but I can tell you I have had many a beer where I smelled something off and realized it was the glass. If you live somewhere where the water is particularly hard or odorous, this one is sure to be a pain you’re familiar with. However, beyond the water used to wash the glass – harsh or aromatic soaps and not-so-fresh drying towels can also cause unfortunate smells and tastes to stick to your glass. If this tip sounds like it’s calling for unnecessary amounts of detail – I urge you to picture drinking your favorite brew from a glass that smells/tastes like last night’s roasted Brussels sprouts. Consider using a fragrance free dish soap, and skipping on scented fabric softener for your drying towels to avoid imparting undesirable flavor to your drinking glass.