You intuitively know this. There’s a reason we enjoy our coffee hot, our red wine room temperature, and our white wine cold. And the same is true for beer. Different styles of beer taste better to most people at different temperatures. Here are some general guidelines:
- 35–40°F (2–4°C): Mass market light lagers
- 40–45°F (4–7°C): Czech and German Pilsners, Munich Helles, wheat beers, and Kölsch
- 45–50°F (7–10°C): IPAs, American pale ales, porters, and most stouts
- 50–55°F (10–13°C): Belgian ales, sour ales, Bocks, English bitters and milds, Scottish ales
- 55–60°F (13–16°C): Barleywines, imperial stouts, Belgian strong ales, and Doppelbocks
When in doubt remember this rule of thumb: light body and low alcohol beer tastes better cold while full body and high alcohol examples are better warmer.
Whether you bottle or keg your homebrew, it’s unlikely that you’ll devote different refrigerators to different styles. So the easiest thing to do to enjoy a pint at its best is to pour your beer and let it warm to your liking before you dig in.
Another good rule of thumb is
- the colder the beer, the more the alpha acid comes forward,
- the warmer the beer, the more the malt comes forward.
- The higher the IBU’s, the more you’re going to taste nothing but bitter at the low end of the cold range.
I think regardless of style, ales taste best balanced at 52-55° F, with the exception of barley wines and strong ales, which are better at almost ambient temp. A beer that is higher in dextrinous sugars will have a better mouthfeel at closer to 52°. I’ve tried some beers that were near water at 50° or below that had much better mouthfeel at the higher temp.