Should Beer Glasses Be Chilled? (The Do’s & Don’ts for Proper Flavor)

You’ve probably been to a bar or restaurant and ordered a beer that was served in a frosted mug or glass. Why is this? Should you chill your beer glass? What does it mean to chill your glass and what does it do for your beer? 

The type of beer you’re drinking will dictate whether or not you should chill the beer glass. Light beers like light American lagers are okay for chilled glasses – darker and stronger beers are not. Whatever the case, always make sure your glass is ‘beer clean’ before chilling it. An improperly chilled glass can dilute or even contaminate the beer.

For more on why you should or should not chill your beer glass, continue reading. We’ll cover everything you need to know from what it means to chill your glass and the best beer styles for a chilled glass, to how to get your glass ready for chilling.

Should you chill or frost beer glasses?

When is it appropriate to chill or frost a beer glass? Well, that depends on a few things.

Chilling a beer glass can come down to personal preference. In general, chilling a beer glass will mute the flavors and aromas of beer – this is acceptable for a few lighter beer styles. On one hand, chilling a glass can add water to your beer and potentially cause contamination. On the other hand, it can help keep your beer colder for longer – which is why it’s a bad practice for darker beers that taste better at slightly higher temperatures.

In short, different temperature glasses do different things for different beer styles. Let’s dig into what these things are and if it’s appropriate for you to chill your beer glass.

Difference between chilled and frosted beer glasses

Once you know the difference, it’s easy to spot the difference between a chilled and a frosted beer glass.

Next time you’re at your favorite bar or taproom, take a look at the type of glass your beer is served in:

  • Frosted glass – This glass was dunked in water and then left to freeze, leaving water on the inside and outside of the glass, resulting in watered-down beer.
  • Chilled glass – A glass that was dry before it was stored in the freezer. The glass is cold on the inside and out but without excess water getting into the beer.

Hopefully, you’ll get your beer in a chilled glass, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without it’s caveats. Keep reading to find out exactly what happens when you drink your beer from a chilled glass instead of a room temperature one.

3 things that happen when you use a chilled beer glass

Being served an ice-cold beer to go with your piping hot pizza can feel like peak indulgence on a Saturday afternoon, but what exactly is that cold glass doing to your favorite brew?

A chilled beer glass:

  • Adds water to your beer, diluting it and changing the flavor profile.
  • If not cleaned properly, chilled beer glasses open up the door for potential contamination from bacteria or cleaning materials.
  • Make your beer colder. This can be a great thing for some beers, but may hinder your experience with others.

Don’t worry! I’ll cover how to properly clean your glass after we go into each of these effects in a little more detail.

Adds water content to the beer

If you chill a beer glass, it adds water to the beer.

Water content in beer is increased when you chill the glass. Adding water to beer can dilute it and promote unwanted flavors in the brew.

Potential contamination

Chilling a beer glass can also lead to contamination in your drink.

Once a beer glass is chilled, it can be hard to tell if the glass is clean enough for drinking. If a glass is not allowed to air dry long enough before being placed in the chiller or freezer, sanitization chemicals can freeze inside the glass.

Makes the beer colder

No surprises here – chilling a beer glass makes your beer colder.

A chilled beer glass will make your beer colder. It’s also a good way to turn a room-temperature beer into a cold beer quickly.

One beer drinker recalls checking the temperature of a beer in a chilled glass and seeing it drop 15℉ in just two minutes.

Should we be using a chilled glass, though? How does this affect the beer’s taste?

How temperature affects a beer’s flavor and aroma

Temperature plays a vital role in drinking beer. Certain styles benefit from warmer temperatures and vice versa.

Lighter beers like light lagers and cream ales should be served cold and will benefit from a chilled glass. Dark and strong beers like IPAs and barleywines should be served in a room-temperature glass.

If it helps, you can think of it along the same lines as wine. Just like white wine should be served chilled, lighter-bodied beers should also be served ice cold. When we think about red wine being served at room temperature, the same goes for darker beers with more complex flavors and aromas. 

Which beer styles can you drink from a chilled glass?

Generally, beer styles to drink from a chilled glass include lighter beers with less delicate flavors and aromas. These are beers that are low ABV and easy to drink.

Here are some of the best beer styles to drink from a chilled glass:

  • American Light Lager – This is a beer with a massive emphasis on drinkability. If you bring it to the tailgate, pretty much everyone will be happy. With very subtle or even nonexistent hop or malt notes, this ‘beery’ beer is the #1 contender for a chilled beer glass.
  • Blonde/Golden Ale – With more flavor than an American Light Lager, these beers still do well in a chilled glass. Blonde ales have a fruity and floral hop profile but still, maintain high drinkability. They offer a more complex profile than light lagers but can still excel in a chilled glass.
  • Cream Ale – This is a beer that has a smooth mouthfeel and pale, light-bodied appearance. It has a mild taste similar to lagers and often is brewed with lager yeast. Cream Ales are very soft on the palate and can be enjoyed in a chilled beer glass.
  • International Lager – International lagers like Stella Artois, Heineken, and Peroni Nastro Azzurro are phenomenal candidates for chilled glasses. They’re sweeter beers with low hop profiles that won’t be harmed by the cold temperature of a chilled glass. 

Which beer styles should use a room temperature glass?

In contrast to the previous section of beers to be served in a chilled glass, the beers to be served in room-temperature glasses are often darker and fuller with more intricate and delicate flavors.

Here is a quick list of beers that should use a room-temperature glass:

  • Hefeweizen – Hefeweizens are beers brewed with at least 50% wheat. Their flavors are heavily influenced by the yeast strains used and offer notes of banana, clove, and bubblegum. They should be served in room-temperature glass to promote the delicate flavors and aromas present in these beers.
  • India Pale Ale – India Pale Ales have loads of flavor and aroma. They’re all about the hops used and should be served in room-temperature glass to let those flavors and aromas breathe.
  • Double and Triple IPA – Just like IPAs, the double and triple IPA should be served in a room-temperature glass. With even more hop flavor and aroma than a normal IPA, it’s important to let the hop flavors and aromas shine.
  • Imperial Stout – An imperial stout offers loads of flavor and bitterness. They have a strong and rich malt profile with bitterness from either roasted malt or barley, or hops used. A room-temperature glass enables these flavors and aromas and doesn’t hinder them.
  • Porter – The porter has a roasted flavor that’s reminiscent of cocoa but not quite the roasted and almost burnt taste of strong stouts. With so much flavor present in these beers, they are best taken in from a room-temperature glass.
  • Doppelbock – The doppelbock has a lightly toasted taste that is comparable to lightly toasted bread. The sweetness from the malt pairs well with a lot of food. The malty sweetness and dark berry flavors of these beers should be enjoyed in a room-temperature glass.
  • Barleywine – A barleywine packs a lot of flavor in a glass. They contain caramel notes and hints of toffee with some malt sweetness. It’s also hoppy and bitter with fruity esters. Barleywines should always be served in a room-temperature glass.

How to properly chill a beer glass

The process of chilling a beer glass is easy. You can do it at home in just a few short and simple steps. It starts with sanitation and ends with a foam mustache.

To properly chill a beer glass:

  • Make sure your glass is ‘beer clean’
  • Let the glass air dry
  • Place the beer glass inside a freezer on a flat and roomy shelf
  • Wait
  • Enjoy your beer

It sounds straightforward, but let’s dive into each of these a little more!

1. Make sure your glass is ‘beer clean’

Making sure your glass is ‘beer clean,’ requires a bit more care than just dish soap and hot water.

You want to make sure your glass is free of oil and other sediments that will alter the taste, aroma and appearance of your beer. To do this:

  1. Create a mixture of baking soda and water: 2 tsp. of baking soda 4 tsp. of water and a pinch of salt will do.
  2. Coat the inside of the glass with the solution, making sure to get every inch.
  3. Once covered, use a sanitized brush to scrub the inside of the glass.
  4. Rinse the glass free from all of the paste with cool, soft water – hot water might cause the glass to explode in the freezer and hard water will leave unwanted minerals and sediment in your beer.

2. Let the glass air dry

This step is extremely important.

By allowing the glass to air dry completely and by avoiding using a towel, there won’t be any water in the glass to dilute the beer and there won’t be any bacteria or fuzzies from a cloth or paper towel.

3. Place the beer glass inside a freezer on a flat and roomy shelf

Inside the freezer, it’s important to leave space for the cold air to circulate and surround the glass for it to chill properly. This ensures the entire glass is chilled and that it happens quickly. 

You can use a glass holder inside your freezer dedicated to beer glasses, or you can put them on your freezer door – just make sure there’s enough space between each glass.

4. Wait

This step won’t take long – let the glasses sit inside the freezer for about 15 minutes or until they obtain a frosted look.

5. Enjoy your beer

Once your glass is clean and frosted over, it’s time to pour your beer and enjoy your ice-cold drink.