One of the important variables of drinking a stout is the serving temperature. This variable and the incredible impact it has on our stouts was perfectly illustrated last night when I was out with my wife and some friends. They had a decent selection of beers and I ordered a bottle of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. It was brought to me ice cold and fortunately I knew that for the chocolate to really come out, it had to be around 55 degrees…..so I spent the first ten minutes with my hands wrapped around the glass that they brought with the beer (thankfully, it wasn’t a frosted glass!). Once it warmed, it was a very enjoyable experience, but had I not known that, I would have been very disappointed, as there was little to no chocolate taste at the temperature it was served at.
When I review a stout I traditionally do a couple of things – I follow whatever recommendations the brewer puts on the label and if there are no specific recommendations I like to start my review at around 50 degrees and taste the change in the flavor palette as it warms. As a rule of thumb, most stouts are best served at around 55 degrees, a temperature I would call “cellar temperature”. If you get the opportunity to travel to England, I highly recommend that you visit a few of their pubs. What you will find is that they serve their kegged or casked beer at this “cellar temperature”, because that’s where the kegs are stored – down below in their cellar. In order to get a serving, they pump the beer from the cellar to the pub and into the glass – it’s quite a fun thing to watch! They call it “pulling” the beer and it’s perfect for the higher gravity, higher ABV beers. Stouts and Porters pulled in this fashion come with a nice foamy head as when they pull the beer from the cellar, the air mixes with the beer and produces a wonderful cellar temperature stout ready to savor and enjoy!
(As an aside, I believe in serving a Stout with an inch or so of a foamy head. I know you want the most liquid for your money, but you can really get a good sense of the aroma of the beer by smelling the beer while the foam bubbles burst and the head dissipates. You should pour your beer at home this way as well….try it! OK, back to temperature.)
For immediate enjoyment, stouts are best served around 55 degrees. If you want to experiment and learn the variability temperature has, put your stout in the refrigerator for an hour or so and start your taste journey right out of the fridge. Take a few sips, mentally record the flavors and walk away for 10-15 minutes. Come back and enjoy the rest of your stout – I’ll bet that you think you are having a completely different beer! You’ll find that the variants (coffee, chocolate, spices, fruit, bourbon barrel aged) really come to the forefront with a bit of warming to cellar temperature. The natural warmth of your hand also helps with adding a few degrees to your Stout!
The only Stouts I am aware of that specifically recommends a colder temperature are the Nitro beers – Left Handed Nitro Milk Stout and the recently released Samuel Adams Nitro Coffee Stout. Both state a recommended serving temperature of 40-45 degrees. I have a feeling it must have to do with the Nitrogen release when these beers are opened. But these are the exceptions rather than the rule.
Give your Stouts a chance to show their best side- serve and drink them around 55 degrees and I promise you’ll savor the tasting experience you deserve in a Stout!
What are your thoughts and experience on temperature and Stouts! Leave a comment and share with the Stout community!