Beer improves with age in the lagering vats but not after it's in the package -- so those of you saving that bottle of '72 for some special occasion are in for a major disappointment. The fresher your beer is when served, the better it will taste. So our first word of advice is to start with fresh beer. We suggest Coors, Miller, Sierra Nevada, Mendocino or any of our other brewery fresh beers.
Cool temperatures (38 - 40 degrees F) are best for storing package beer. At lower temperatures there is always the danger of freezing. If beer is frozen or exposed to multiple freezings, ingredients break down and separate, forming flakes in the beer. And nobody we know likes flaky beer. (And no, that is not the way you make your own ice beer.) These flakes will not go back into solution when the beer is thawed.
When beer is lightly frozen only once, the water in beer separates to form ice. Such beer can usually be saved if it is clear after thawing. After it thaws, gently turn the can, bottle or barrel over, end to end, to remix the contents.
The storage place for your beer should be clean, dry, and dark--beer cartons/packages must also be protected from dampness. Damp cartons can allow bottle breakage or can damage, and a spilled beer is not a happy beer.
A dark storage place is especially important to bottled beer to prevent it from becoming light-struck and taking on an undesirable flavor and aroma. The speed at which beer becomes light-struck depends upon the intensity of the light and the color of the bottle. Exposure to direct sun rays will noticeably affect beer in only a few minutes.
Beer that is light-struck will have an odor similar to that of a skunk. This condition is known as "skunky beer." While canned beer is not affected by light, direct sun rays cause overheating which may change the aroma and taste.
Draught beer is not pasteurized, so it must be kept cold at all times, preferably between 36 degrees and 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures above 45 degrees may cause the beer to turn sour and cloudy. Therefore, adequate refrigeration is the surest way to protect that great draught beer taste.
Put your draught beer in a refrigerator immediately upon delivery. Ideally, this refrigerator should be used exclusively for draught beer, not for foods. There are two important reasons for this:
1. Frequently opening the door can raise the beer temperature.
2. Unpleasant food odors, drainage, or fungus growth can adversely affect the taste of the draught beer.
To get an accurate measurement of the temperature in your refrigerator, start by checking your thermometer-submerge the bulb in a container filled with chipped ice water, it should read approximately 32 degrees F.
Then put your thermometer in a small jar of water to be sure of an accurate reading. Place it on a shelf where it's easy to see. Remember to check and adjust the temperature seasonally, too.
Why is temperature control so important? Because most people prefer their beer at a temperature between 38 degrees and 40 degrees. Also, when beer is colder than 38 degrees F, flavor, aroma, and foam are reduced. When it's warmer than 42 - 45 degrees F, it draws wild, and quickly loses its zest.
Pressure is another important factor. Pressure should be at 12 to 14 pounds of CO2 gas. Too low? You get flat beer. Too high? The beer draws wild.
Remember that the beer will absorb some heat from the glass, so the drawing temperature must compensate for this. An unchilled, rinsed, thin-shell glass will raise the beer temperature by about 2 degrees. An unchilled, rinsed, heavy-shell glass or mug will raise the temperature by four to six degrees.
A "beer clean" glass is an ideal way to serve beer. Beer served this way appeals to all your senses...with its frothy collar, appealing aroma and full flavor. Beer is made from quality ingredients, make sure all that quality comes through by serving it in a "beer clean" glass.
Although many people polish their glasses until they sparkle, that effort doesn't mean the glasses are "beer clean." The result is glasses that may look clean but may contain an invisible layer of film, odor, or bacteria. Film can be caused by several factors, such as grease-based residues from lipstick, food in the wash water, finger-prints, smoke from cigarettes, or smoke from the kitchen. Odors may be left on glasses from contact with bar towels, stale air and refrigerated environments. As a result of these problems, the beer can be "flat," produce a "false" head, or have an "off" taste.
- Flat Beer: Caused by film or grease residues that actually attack the foam on a head of beer. As a result, the head rapidly disappears, releasing carbonation and causing the beer to look and taste "flat."
- False Head: Caused by film, soap or grease on glasses. As a result, the head foams form overly large bubbles that quickly disappear.
- Off Taste: Occurs because of the close relationship between taste and smell. A glass with an odor can actually give the beer an "off" taste.
Be sure your glassware is "beer clean": First, empty used glasses into an open drain and rinse with water to remove any remaining beer and foam. This prevents the dilution of your cleaning water.
Then wash the glasses in a sink containing warm water and a solution of sudsless, non-fat cleaning compound (like dishwasher soap). To make sure glasses are "beer clean," thoroughly brush all surfaces, inside and outside, including the bottom of the glass.
Rinse the glasses in a sink containing fresh, clean water that flows continuously. Make sure you place the bottom of the glass in the water first. This prevents air pockets from forming inside the glass. Then take the glass out of the sink, bottom first. This "heel-in, heel-out" method assures complete rinsing.
Finally, let the glasses dry upside down on a stainless steel wire rack or deeply corrugated, free-draining plastic surface to allow maximum air flow and complete odor free drying. Then make sure it stays "beer clean" until it's used.
Next time someone serves you a beer, watch closely. A knowledgeable server can be your friend for life. Everyone else, regard with caution.
Rough handling can cause beer to gush over when it's opened. Other causes of gushing include keeping the temperature too low, and old age, which is caused by not properly rotating stock. When opening bottled beer with a wall-type opener, hold the bottle up at the shoulder--not down at the bottom. Take it easy when removing the cap so you don't damage the bottle neck.
The pleasing brewery-fresh aroma and taste can be fully enjoyed only when beer is properly poured into the glass. Beer should be poured to produce a nice head, or collar, of foam. This releases the natural carbonation of the beer into the air. Pouring the beer down the side of the glass traps this carbonation in the beer and ultimately in you..
So place the neck of the bottle, or the lip of the can, over the edge of a sparkling "beer clean" glass. Quickly raise the bottom of the bottle or can to a high angle, causing the beer to gurgle and agitate into the glass until a fine dense-textured head is created.
Finally, lower the bottom of the bottle or can, reducing the flow of beer into the glass until the foam rises to the rim.