In general conversation, the words “ice cold” and “beer” go together as easily as Thanksgiving and turkey, or popcorn and peanuts. It just seems like the way it’s supposed to be.
But as any true beer lover can tell you, ice cold is not actually the best temperature for storing or serving your favorite brew. This goes double if you use a kegerator to refrigerate and serve beer, because the temperature can affect how well the beer is dispensed.
So how cold is too cold?
Beer freezes at 28°F, so that’s definitely too cold. When beer is too cold it won’t foam properly – the carbonation gets trapped in the beer and doesn’t release until it’s in your stomach. If you feel bloated and gassy after drinking a beer, it’s a good chance it’s because was too cold.
And then there is the whole question of taste. Drink a beer that’s too cold and it shuts down your taste receptors – it doesn’t matter what the beer tastes like if all you can taste is “cold.” To truly enjoy the flavor of a good beer – especially a finer craft beer—it needs to be warm enough to allow it to “open up” and release the subtle nuances of taste that the brewer has formulated so carefully.
On the flip side, if your beer is too warm, it will foam too much. Cold temperatures traps carbonation in the beer. When the temperature rises, the pressure in the keg isn’t enough to keep the carbonation from escaping, and it can start to foam even before you pour it. It’s possible to lose as much as 25% of the beer in a keg to foam. That’s just a waste of good beer!
Experts agree: the ideal temperature for most lager-style beers is 38°F.
That’s the temperature of the beer itself, not the setting on the kegerator. This balanced temperature both preserves the quality of the beer and creates the optimal pouring conditions. A liquid thermometer inside your kegerator will help you monitor the actual temperature of the beer, adjust the thermostat for seasonal variations, and protect against fluctuations that can affect the taste of the beer over time.
Ultimately, of course, the serving temperature will depend upon the type of beer you’re drinking and your personal preferences. Generally speaking, the darker the beer, the warmer its serving temperature should be. When in doubt, check with your keg supplier on recommended serving temperatures!