Why Does Cold Beer Taste Better?

If you have lived in America, been to America, seen TV shows about America or heard about America, then you know that Americans love cold beer.

Yes, there’s nothing more American than cracking a cold one with the boys.

But why are we cracking cold ones? Why not warm ones, or just “ones” in general? At what point did American scientists figure out that cold beer is the best beer in the world?

As with most things, the answer isn’t as one dimensional as we’d like it to be.

What The Cold Doesn’t Do For Beer

The cold doesn’t make your beer taste better.

If anything, the cold just stops your beer from tasting bad.

The colder something is, the less likely we are to pick up subtle flavors on our taste buds. Cooling our taste buds makes them work less efficiently. Similarly, eating some super spicy hot sauce will dull your sense of taste for a bit.

So why do we drink cold beer? Because it tastes less bad!

No, seriously.

All those cheap beers you see that advertise just how cold they are should be seen as a sham. They want you to drink it cold so you don’t taste the beer. This is probably for two reasons:

  1. Their beer is cheap and sucks. If it’s cold, you won’t notice just how awful it is.
  2. They mass produce beer, and the less flavor it has, the easier it is to match flavor can to can.

At some point, a marketing genius realized that beer companies could produce gross beer and market is by saying “hey, drink it cold!” It’s super clever and works, and now it’s ingrained in American culture. Go marketing!

But more about drinking warmer beer.

If you have a rich, fruity beer, you’ve probably noticed that more of the subtle notes come out as the beer warms up. This is called science.

What The Cold Does Do For Beer

When you get any type of carbonated drink – beer, soda, seltzer, fizzy water, whatever – you immediately go to put it in the fridge before you drink it. Does this even do anything?

Well, yes. But the key here is the carbonation, not the drink that’s going in your refrigerator.

Carbonation occurs thanks to CO2 in drinks, and I think most people can agree that a carbonated drink tastes better than a flat drink. By placing your drink in a cold place, you are expanding the usefulness of its carbonation.

This is especially true for when you open a beer, soda or fizzy drink and decide you don’t want to finish it. While the damage is already getting done, covering the drink and putting it in the refrigerator can expand the life of its carbonation.

So, if we could keep our drinks perpetually cold (say, by putting ice it in), then we can enjoy the carbonation for longer. This is one reason why people put ice in their soda when they go to a soda fountain.

The only problem is that beer and ice aren’t really great together, so we don’t do that.

Can you make beer taste better by making it cold?

Trying to find a way to make that not-so-tasty beer a little more tasty, are you?

There are a few tricks you can use to try and make a beer taste better, with the first being a nice cooling. Ok, cold doesn’t make beer taste better, just not as bad.

Anyway, the second way to try and make beer taste better is by pairing food with beer. This can actually make both the beer and the food taste better. Two wins in one!

When You Actually Want Cold Beer

In the USA, our standard for beer is that it is served cold – and to some brewers’ delights.

Some beers stay better for longer when they’re cold. A brew made with living ingredients can funkify (real word, trust me) and get gnarly.

Basically, your IPA is going to lose its edge if you keep it warm for too long.

However, beer is also expected to be cold, so brewers create complex beers with the intention that they are enjoyed at a specific temperature. This is why some warm beers are completely overwhelming in every sense of the word.

Is keeping your beer cold good for it? Yes. You’re probably doing more good keeping it chilled for a little bit – depending on the beer, of course.

One thing’s that for sure: if a beer says its cold it in NO WAY AT ALL means it’s good.

Thomas Short
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