If you’ve ever been to a sports bar, a franchised “family restaurant” with tchotchkes plastered over every inch of the wall or one of the slightly nerdier frats on campus you’ve probably been served beer in a frosted, frozen or chilled mug. Chances are, you were probably pretty excited about that incredibly cold glassware.
“Frozen glass? It makes the beer colder as I drink it? Honey, look at this!”
What a time to be alive.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with a gimmick from time to time. Watching a Hibachi chef create a fire-shooting volcano with oil and a stack of sliced onions is pretty great. Drinking from a plastic half coconut adorned with pointy mini umbrellas (the eye surgeon’s special) and hula ladies is a solid life choice. Birthday candles that don’t blow out, a free bottle opener with your purchase or the collectibles at the bottom of the cereal box… they’re fun, occasionally useful and above all, harmless.
But frosted mugs are not harmless. Sure, they make you feel like Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin, which is a great thing, but they’re also messing up your beer, and that’s bad.
When our taste buds come into contact with things near the freezing point, numbing occurs. It happens to our gloveless hands in a snowball fight, to a set of toes stuck in wet socks and (unsurprisingly) to our tongues, too.
Thus, when our mouth gets frozen out, we lose the ability to taste as effectively. Extreme cold (the life mission of the chilled tankard) masks flavors, and when it comes to beer, flavor is a good thing. You don’t want to drink a beer that’s too warm, and you really shouldn’t want to drink one that’s too cold either.
Too cold? This concept may come as a shock. After all, almost everywhere we turn we are told to dream of impossibly cold beer.
Beer is something we’re supposed to bury in bags of gas station ice and pack into the cooler. Is it kosher to crack a can until it’s too hard to hold without a koozie? Shouldn’t the stuff be as cold as the rockies? Is beer not the liquid form of a chrome train careening through a blustery, iced-over valley? Dare we sip on this substance before we pass the prestigious bar exam?
If cold really masks flavor, then why does almost every beer advertisement you see on TV tell you that their brew should be served as frosty as Claire Underwood?
The answer is simple: that beer tastes awful.
The big, bazillion-barrel-per-year breweries want your beer to be as close to frozen as possible because they don’t want you to taste it. Makers of bad beer want you to chug, slug, guzzle and continue to purchase high quantities of the low quality, low alcohol, cheap-to-produce suds they churn out- which is so much easier when you can’t taste just how lacking it is.
If you live for drinkability, the frosted mug is your friend. It’ll help you remain in a state of blissful beer ignorance, and that’s truly fine. But if you’re getting a pint of your favorite beer, something crafty to savor, consider, contemplate and appreciate, make sure that beer is somewhere between 45-50 degrees. And of course, make sure your mug has no chill.
Literally no chill.