Friday, October 11, 2013

The Proper Way to Serve a Stout

Many things in life can be done several ways, and in many cases there's nothing really wrong with taking one course over another. There are some things, though, that can be done the right way or the wrong way. Today, I'd like to address one such thing.

Stout beers should not be served cold. Within the European context beer in general is meant to be drunk at room temperature. This convention isn't always the best course, since many popular American beers taste atrocious when served warm, but when it comes to stouts it is absolutely correct.

You see, there are only two reasons to chill a beer. The first, which applies to those popular American lagers I just mentioned, is that it masks the taste. Flavor is harder to detect in a cold beer than a warm one, and since Coors Light tastes like piss, when it gets warm enough to really experience the flavor it's basically undrinkable. Served cold, though, it's tolerable because you can barely taste it.

The second reason to chill a beer is to make it a cooling, refreshing drink. After all, on a hot summer afternoon, nobody wants to take a break and sit down with a warm beverage. This is understandable, but it's also not really the time for a stout. These situations are why we have lagers, because their thinner, lighter, sharper nature makes them ideally suited to enjoying cold. A cold lager is crisp and refreshing. A cold stout is not.

Stouts are, at least in my (correct) opinion, cold weather beers. When I come in from sweating my ass off in the yard on a scorching July afternoon, I want a frosty Yuengling. When I come in from trudging through the snow on a bitterly cold December night, that's when I want a pint of Guinness. It's a thick, hearty beverage which serves as the beer drinker's equivalent to a nice hot chocolate or a steaming cup of coffee. That's not to say it should be served hot, but it's certainly not going to stick to my ribs and warm me up if it's served a few degrees above freezing. At that temperature I can't enjoy the taste, I can't enjoy the desired warming effects, and I can't imagine I'm sitting in front of a toasty fireplace in a little cottage in the woods.

If you're drinking it at home, obviously you can handle this however you like. To all you bars out there, though, take a look at a good Irish pub. If there's anybody in the world who knows how to brew and serve a good stout, it's the Irish, and you'll notice they set down a pint glass that's just as warm and cozy as their establishment's oak-paneled interior.

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