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Berger: Too warm, too cold and just right

I love those TV beer commercials that emphasize the near-freezing temperatures at which some people seek to consume their beer. This is proof that the beer in question is so bland that taste is not what matters most.

What matters most is something else. (And what the heck is frost-brewed? Putting in snow in place of the hops?) Serious beer and wine lovers know that the colder you chill a beverage, the less you can taste it — which, apparently, is how the giant commercial beer companies want their products consumed — so all hints of its taste are wiped out.

People who drink fine-quality beverages like craft brews and fine wine seem to prefer these beverages at cool, not cold temperatures. At such levels, the aromas and tastes are accessible and allow a slow enjoyment of the nuances to replace the rapid downing that occurs with so much commodity beer and wine. (Ever see anyone swirl a can of beer?)

I once heard a friend who had just returned from London complain that the British drink their beer warm. In his view, 65 degrees was warm. I reminded him that he was used to drinking his six packs at 40 degrees and anything higher was, to him, an abomination.

The basic advice I give newcomers to wine is that, with a few exceptions, fine wine should all be served at about 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet some restaurant servers who should know better do both whites and reds all wrong.

Many say all red wine should be served at "room temperature." However, the "room temperature" they mention is drawn from the 18th century term "a chamber," which refers to drafty mansions without central heating. Not 85 degree sweatboxes.

I often ask for an ice bucket with some water added so I can cool down a too-warm red wine. This unnerves some servers who have told me that red wine isn't consumed chilled.

Cool, I say, not chilled.

Similarly, white wines in restaurants often are served too cold. One of the worst server tactics is when they constantly jam wine bottles back into ice buckets, even after the wine has been cooled down enough to enjoy it.

White wine that's too cold can also be a problem in many chain operations where most diners prefer their chardonnays ice cold. The poor quality of many wines at such places is masked by the cold.


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