Beer is exceptionally good in summer. Anyone who loves beer will nod their heads in agreement.
But did you know that lager beer is even better in winter?
There is a proper drinking temperature for beer.
Why is it that beer tastes so much better when you drink it at a restaurant? One reason is that a post-work beer soaks into your body, but another reason has to do with the temperature. Although it is not well known, there is an “appropriate temperature” for drinking beer, including craft beer.
For example, lager beer should be served at around 5°C (41°F), which is the ideal temperature for enjoying the “thirst-quenching” and “refreshing” sensations that lager beer has to offer. The cooler the temperature, the harder it is to taste the sweetness, and the bitterness and acidity are more pronounced. Carbonation is also less likely to occur, so the sharp lager flavor can be enjoyed for a longer period of time.
On the other hand, ale-type beers, such as craft beers, are best drunk at a slightly higher temperature, such as 7-10℃, so that the full aroma and flavor can be more easily perceived (it is easy to understand if you remember that they are drunk at the same temperature as the alcohol content).
Many lager beers served in restaurants are served chilled to nearly 5°C from the beer server. Furthermore, since the glass is also chilled in advance in a refrigerator, the temperature of the liquid does not rise easily, and the balance of flavors is not lost as the drink proceeds. This means that even with a large beer mug, you can enjoy the first sip to the last drop with a gulp.
Lager tastes better when chilled. So what does this have to do with winter? If it is better to drink beer chilled, why not just chill the beer and the glass in a refrigerator or freezer?
Another thing that needs to be considered here is the “glass” (some people drink directly from the can, and I am not a naysayer, but I urge you to try pouring the beer and drinking it in an environment where a glass is available, because it tastes better). (Some people drink directly from the can, and I am not against it, but I would like you to try it because it tastes better if you pour it in an environment where there is a glass).
In fact, the biggest enemies of beer drinking are dust, scratches inside the glass, and grease. If the glass has these things on it, the beer will taste much worse. Beer is a carbonated beverage, so from the moment you open the cork, the carbonation will continue to be lost. In addition, if the glass has scratches or dust on it, carbonation will escape from the liquid from that point, which will speed up the carbonation process and cause the aroma to volatilize with it, resulting in a flat-tasting beer. You have probably seen streaks of bubbles forming on the sides and bottom of a glass. That is one of the signs that there are still scratches and dust on the glass = the glass is dirty.
Oil and grease make beer foam and hold up poorly. In addition to affecting the taste of the beer itself, as the saying goes, “A dish is 80% what it looks like,” and a beer with fluffy, pure white foam is much more appealing to drink than one with ragged, crabby foam. Therefore, most specialty restaurants that are particular about their beer have their glasses dipped in water before serving (or use a “rinser,” a device that sprays water to clean the inside of the glass). This is not a problem as long as the glass is clean, but it can reduce the risk.
■”Winter Tap Water” for Better Beer
Have you guessed it by now?
Lager beer tastes better at lower temperatures.
Rinsing the glass with water before pouring will not spoil the flavor of the beer.
In winter, tap water is so cold that ‘just holding the glass against the tap water for 30-60 seconds’ will make the beer taste significantly better!
Furthermore, washing the glass with a glass sponge (a sponge sold at a 100 yen store and ordinary neutral detergent will do) and leaving the beer in the refrigerator the day before will bring it closer to the right temperature and allow you to enjoy the fine, slightly carbonated taste of the beer. The beer will be at the right temperature the day before and you will be able to enjoy a finer carbonation.
You can also chill the glasses in the freezer, but it is not recommended to pour the beer straight from the freezer because of ice, frost, and the smell of the freezer. In summer, when tap water is not cold, it is better to chill the beer in the freezer until just before drinking, and then lightly run it under running water before drinking.
If this one simple change can transform the taste of beer, there is no way not to try it.
Interview, text, and photos： Shohei Sato