Cold beer

Hello Everyone,

I would guess for most of history beer was served and sold warm. When the means to serve cools beer came to be was it readily accepted or did the beer industry have to “sell” customers on the idea of cold beer?

Let’s move this to Cafe Society.

General Questions Moderator

I don’t know if beer was necessarily sold and served warm historically. Before mechanical refrigeration, beer had to be consumed fairly soon after brewing because it would spoil. In Munich, beer was stored in underground cellars to keep them cool. Chestnut trees were planted on the grounds above the cellars to provide shade and keep the temperatures even cooler (these places eventually became beer gardens).

I am not sure I can agree with this.

First, I guess it all depends on what you consider “warm”. Above 75-80F (24-27C)? That’s pretty warm for storage, particularly is areas where beers and ales are common. Below 70F (21C), beer isn’t going to spoil in a moderate time frame (6-8 months). As most foodstuffs that are not considered all that perishable need to be kept at around 65F (18C) or below (think potatoes, jams and preserves, etc…) or their shelf-life is considerably reduced, keeping beers at these temperatures isn’t really that difficult and does not need mechanical refrigeration most of the time.

The Germans developed a process called lagering where the beer is fermented at lower temperatures and stored at even lower temperatures to help them clear. These beers, called lagers, would be served at or near the storage temperatures, low 40s F (around 5C). The ales popular in England are stored at the above mentioned mid 60sF to mid 50sF (think cellar temperatures), so that is where they were typically served.

Much of the advertising, particularly in the US, will often claim “Coldest Beer in Town”. This is usually the retailer, not the brewer, although even some brewers will make to snow-capped mountains or other references to being cold. These are almost always those who sell lager beers (as opposed to ales).

So, to answer the OP, beer has been considered a “hot” beverage. Some beers that some people might consider being served “warm” are actually cool, just not as cold as the ice-cold lagers are served in the US. Note that even in Germany, they typically don’t serve their lagers below 40F. The ice-cold beer is definitely something is is pushed by advertising, but with the light, low hopped ultra-clean lagers, the low temperature increases carbonation and tastes better to many people when is is very cold.

You could easily claim that these light lager beers have been brewed specifically to taste best when ice-cold. The brewers have found that these beers outsell others, particularly when it’s hot outside, so they brew more of this type. Because this is what they brew more of, it’s what they advertise more. Because it is advertised more, more people buy it. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

Or it could be the near freezing temps numb the taste buds.
[beer snob] Which is a good thing.[/beer snob] :smiley:

In the US, you’ve also got to consider the icehouses. If you wanted ice cold beer in Texas, the icehouse was just about the only place to get some. They eventually sold diverse enough items that they became convenience stores (apparently, this was the origin of 7-Eleven). You aren’t getting any good long-term storage temps for beer in Texas until the icehouses sprouted up.

Oh, and I forgot to say: Cold beer (cold anything) sells itself here for most of the year. The same is true for large parts of the country.

Dammit, now I’m craving an ice cold beer, and I don’t have any in the house, and it’s too late to go out and get one. Damn you! shakes fist

when dad was in Germany with the army hed laugh at the people who bought the overpriced bud miller ect at the base store because of the warm beer thing
he said it “was like going to Bordeaux in france and buying md 2020” …
on the rare occasion he drank beer hed go to the brewery beer gardens and drink it fresh …

When my dad was stationed in Germany during the 60’s, the local beer man came around just like the egg man and milk man. IIRC, you’d put a sign up in your window indicating that you wanted some, and it indicated how much. No reason to go to the base. :slight_smile:

Beer from the barrel should be stored and served at between 10 and 14 C. When I was a cellarman in a London pub, back in the 60s, we used to buy ice in the summer to keep the temperature down, and keep everything down there soaking wet. Only bottles were served chilled then, but they did install a cooler for a new light lager that was popular with younger people.

No beer in the house? I’d heard stories, but thought they were made-up tales designed to frighten me.

Agreed. In a hot (or even hottish) climate, no elaborate marketing scheme is needed to get people interested in cold beer.

“Ice-cold” beer didn’t become a thing until American brewers started diluting their offerings post-World War 2. Your basic German lagers are best served at a warmer temperature than 33 degrees. But American macros taste best when you can’t taste them at all.

I agree it depends on what the OP meant by “warm.” But reading the context of the OP’s post (which mentions the days before “the means to serve cool beer”), I think it’s reasonable to question the OP’s assumption that beer was historically served warm.

Not questioning but wondering. One of the advantages of alcohol based products in the days when clean water was less than a sure thing was that the alcohol based product was less likely to contain harmful bacteria. Hence hard cider was a better choice than was water in much of the West. (Although the stories of beer in the Middle Ages in preference to water seem to possibly be inaccurate.) Hops as an ingredient supposedly acted as preservative as well.

How long would a tapped keg last until used up in a typical early brewhouse and how long from being tapped until spoilage is a serious concern?

excavating (for a mind), one can add to your explanation that the nature of lagers with extended cold storage also made them more “shelf stable” and thus a more natural choice for earlier mass sales.

It seems that mass scale commercial breweries and refrigeration technology went hand in hand.

Also this timetable:

The beer industry was birthed on beers served cool and large scale production required, and was possibly a main market demand for, early refrigeration equipment.

If you go to a Thai-oriented place in Thailand – I mean one that is not frequented often by farang (Western) tourists – they have the odd practice of putting ice in your beer mug even if the beer is already chilled. At least, I did think it odd at first, but once you get used to it, it’s actually kind of nice. Rather than ice cubes, it’s more a single block of ice that was pre-frozen there in place.

“I have no beer in the house.”

I recognize all those words, but I am completely flummoxed by the construction of the sentence.

It’s a sentence only ever uttered immediately after a visit by kayaker and/or Ukulele Ike.

I admit to this happening to me on occasion, but I usually have enough ales or hard ciders to tide me over until the store opens the next morning.