I admit that I don’t really keep IPAs in the house. I have a fairly unsophisticated beer palate (I’m not proud of it) and tend to stick to wheats for weekend drinking. In the past, when I’ve taken a chance on a sixer of some slickly packaged West Coast IPA, I’ve pulled an ice-cold can out of the fridge and immediately taken a swig. That’s where I get into trouble. “Bitter, bitter, bitter,” I mutter, shuffling around my kitchen like a scorned old forest hag. Turns out, I’ve been shooting myself in the foot: IPAs aren’t meant to be enjoyed ice-cold.
Per Craft Beer & Brewing, the preferred serving temperature for IPAs is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s much warmer than the beer pulled directly out of your fridge. Craft Beer & Brewing notes that allowing the beer to warm will “peel back layers on the palate,” revealing the IPA’s more delicate flavors and aromas.
Puesto Cervecería head brewer Doug Hasker agrees. “For most beers the ideal temperature is what is known as ‘cellar temperature,’ which generally ranges between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit,” Hasker says. “For IPAs, a little bit warmer beer ensures you will taste all that beer has to offer. All components will be more subdued at colder temperatures, whether malt, yeast, or hops.”
Revolution Brewing barrel program manager Marty Scott echoes Hasker’s thoughts. “Most beers, and IPAs in particular, will become more expressive as increasing temperatures drive CO2 evolution and hop compound volatilization from the liquid,” Scott says. “Too cold, and you won’t experience the maximum flavor/aromatic intensity locked in fragile solution. Too warm, though, and your nice refreshing cold beer is anything but.”
Short of pulling out your handy thermometer and checking the beer’s temperature, how do you know when your IPA is ready to drink? It’s not as complicated as it seems. “It’s fine to take a beer out of the refrigerator, open it, and pour it into a glass,” Hasker says. “By the time you find a seat and put that beer to your lips, it will be perfect.”
Revolution Brewing brewmaster Jim Cibak agrees. “Brewers spend a lot of time, effort, and money on the ingredients and the way they come together, and below a certain temperature a lot of those flavors and nuances are numbed,” Cibak says. “But it’s not going to be unpleasant by any means.”
For Scott, that last bit is key. “At any temperature, an IPA will be best enjoyed if kept cold and consumed fresh,” Scott says. “No need to fuss; sometimes a cold beer can just be a cold beer.”
When it doubt, let your IPA sit for a few minutes, especially if you’re sensitive to bitter flavors like me. But if you’re already an IPA devotee, a cold beer isn’t hurting anyone.