14 Dec 2008

To warm up

For many, beer means a yellowy drink of low ABV that is drunk at artic temperatures, many others, however, know that that isn't the way beer showld be enoyed, regardless of what the macros would like to make us believe. Yet few are those who would consider drinking beer at room temperature. The question then is: can you enjoy a beer at the same temperature you would drink red wine? It depends on the beer, of course.

The idea for this "experiment" happened almost by accident. One afternoon I fancied having a pint (strange, isn't it?) only to realise that I had nothing cooling in the fridge. I didn't feel like waiting for one to chill in the freezer, so I took a bottle of Bernard Černý that I had in the cellar (actually a little room under the stairs that keeps a few degrees cooler than the rest of the house), thinking that maybe it won't be bad. Even before opening the bottle I thought I could make a selection of dark beers to taste them at room temperature, all of them old friends. The results are the following:

Bernard Černý: The nose was of coffee sweetened with plenty of caramel, sweeter than when it's cold. It still tastes roasted and dry, though a bit silkier, followed by a mild acidity that fortunately is well balanced by a caramel base. I like it better cold, I prefer its roasted notes to the sweet.
Herold Tmavé: This might be my favourite Czech dark beer. At room temperature it's a lot less aromatic and it tastes rather sweeter, in fact, I noticed it quite tuned down, almost like a tmavé from a keg that is not so fresh anymore. No doubt, I prefer it cold.
Pardubický Porter: I've always liked a lot the prune and port notes of this beer, even from the first sip I had long ago. Warmer, it is a very different beer, keeps its identity, but improves considerably. Together with the prunes, I felt also cocoa and black sugar in the nose, which I don't remember having noticed before. There is more cocoa and something akin to gingerbread and a lot less fruit in the taste. The alcohol is just as well integrated as in the cold version. I loved it! It feels warmer, makes you drink it very slowly, an ideal winter drink.
Primátor Double: It is the one that changes the least, though it feels somehow more mature. The only thing that bothered me was its excessive carbonation when pouring the first half of the bottle. There are still licorice, black sugar and some ginger notes. It tastes less sweet. The finish is short and dry, and it's the only moment that I noticed its 10%ABV. The effect it has after drinking is the same as when it's cold, mild drowsiness.
Of the four, I liked the stronger ones a lot more, with the one from Pardubice taking the top honours. I see them as excellent pairings for the Christmas biscuits that my wife is already baking, and the ones that my mother in law will bring (Man! Do I love those!). It will be nice to sit down and gorge with the biscuits and wahing them down with Porter or Double while watching the same pohádky as every year.

Which beers you normally drink cold would you like to taste at room temperature?

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9 comments:

  1. I would often get a pint bottle of Guinness Extra Stout "off the shelf" when I was back in Dublin, and when there was little in the way of choice. An auld lad's order normally, almost traditional, and it works very well indeed. Mmmmm

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  2. Interesting idea -- because it's cold now, I've been thinking a lot about this. Pretty interesting that the tastes change so much with different temperatures.

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  3. Patrick from Korea15 December 2008 at 19:05

    What a interesting and creative experiment!!! I thought about this before myself and like your idea a lot. I'm also curious how other beers change taste and flavour according to temperature. I'm also intersted in cooking dishes using beer and which beer is suitable for which dishes...

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  4. Adeptus,
    I remember, many, many years ago, drinking Guinness Extra Stout at room temp, because I liked it more than cold. Specially togehter with some Dutch top quality Gouda with pepper. Lovely!

    Evan, and Patrick
    It is really interesting how the beers change with temperature. I must say that Porter has become my favourite winter drink. Though I must still go to U Slovanské Lípi and have a bottle filled of that lovely 18° and try that one at room temp. I bet it will be awesome!

    An Argentine brewer once told me that they taste every beer at 18°C to try to catch the "mistakes" they might have. A sample of Svijanský Rytíř and X33 did very well in those tests.

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  5. I agree that all this is on a beer to beer basis, some tase better colder, some warmer, but generally, I prefer dark beers a little bit warmer, especially when I want to enjoy only onee or two beers.

    When it comes to drink a bit more of pints, especially with friends, than I prefer them a bit colder, somehow they sip more easily.

    I definitely don't like Guinness cold, as the label on the bottle says: "Serve Extra Cold" or as they usually serve it in the pubs, all of the aroma simply diminishes, so I even prefer it to take some time to warm up before fully enjoyed, and most of my friends roll with their eyes: "You beer freak!" :D

    But, as you said in the beginning, the macros wants us to believe that beer is something you drink extra cold, which of course eliminates all of the aroma and taste in almost any beer, and actually, people are used to it, and many people who usually wouldn't drink so much beer, because we don't have all similar taste, and some people don't like the aromas of a good beer. But, this is one of the way that macros make their beer "more accessible" to the mass market. I think it is simply their strategy to sell more beer, it is quantity that counts in their heads... :(

    Looking at those beers you tasted, my taste buds are becoming sort fo nervous right now... ;)

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  6. Lots of good comments above! Typically, I'll take a beer out of the fridge and let it sit for 10 minutes or so, and depending on the beer a little more or a little less.

    I've never understood the message of drinking beer @ taste bud-killing temps, but so many people are resistant to try beer some other way.

    The power of marketing!

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  7. Yeah, I also like to let the bottle sit for a few minutes and then open it and drink it. Or even sometimes pour it into a glass and let it rest for a few minutes, some beer even feels better on the mouth this way.

    All of this reminded me of a anecdote:
    I remember that a cousin of mine who lives in New York likes to drink Beck's.

    He thinks of it as the greatest beer in the world (I guess because it is "premium" and european :D), and he likes to drink it "the right way": first he puts the beer in the freezer so that the beer cools just until the moment before it will start to crystalize.

    But that's not all, he also rinses the beer glass and puts it in the freezer so that the glass gets chilled too and gets that "icy touch"..., well, when he was visiting me, I tried, and, well..., extra cold soft drink with very few traces of beer aroma, but for him, that's the only way to drink beer, because, the beer has only one purpose: to quench the thirst. What about the water, then? :D

    I still like to feel the taste of the beer I am drinking, otherwise, what's the point?

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  8. I just microwaved a beer. Anyone ever try this before? It's cold up here in New England.

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  9. Nuking a beer? That is something I've never tried? Which beer was it? And how did it come out?
    Boak & Bailey have an interesting post about Mulled beer. It is something that I am still yet to try at home.... But Nuking it? Never thought of it...

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