Special Issues » Coldest Beer in Boise

Releasing beer's wild side


Beer is one serious business.

Sure, you might think of it as just a refreshing beverage following a hard day's work (or play) or a necessary ingredient of any social gathering, but it's no trivial matter.

According to beerhistory.com, beer has a long history—from biblical references of Noah packing beer on the ark, to ancient Egyptian breweries and Roman soldiers spreading the wonders of beer through conquered lands.

Over the millennia, beer fans have become even pickier about their brews. These days, it's all about the temperature. While most of the populace thinks the frostier the better, beer purists involuntarily shudder at the thought.

For them, every beer has its perfect temperature at which the true flavor of the brew is released ... and it's probably warmer than most would expect.

John Grizzaffi, president of Stein Distributing in Boise, said the optimal temperature for most draft beers is between 38 and 40 degrees.

"A lot of people think it needs to be ice-cold, but that's not particularly true," he said.

Kegs arrive at the Stein warehouse in refrigerated trucks, are stored in a cooler separate from bottled and canned beers and are delivered across the valley in refrigerated trucks. Once there, Grizzaffi said most bars have fully refrigerated systems that keep the beer cold from keg to glass.

Grizzaffi is a student of the school that teaches how each type of beer has its own temperature. He recently attended a brewmaster dinner in which each variety of beer was served at its optimal temperature and he was surprised by the difference it made.

"Some people may think that a certain type of beer, a dark amber bock, might actually taste better if served at 45 [degrees] than 35," he said. "But a Bud Light is more refreshing at 35 degrees."

The proper temperature of a Bud Light is something the folks at Front Door Northwest Pizza and Tap House know nothing about. The downtown restaurant/bar caters to the tastes of the most particular of beer connoisseurs.

There's nary a mass-produced domestic to be found among the 15 taps lining the bar. Instead, the pub features an array of microbrewery and imported offerings, all served warmer than usual. This is one bar that takes pride in coming in at or near the end of the annual coldest beer list.

Manager Jessica Price said the keg cooler is kept at a balmy 42 degrees and many customers allow their beers to warm up a bit before drinking.

"The warmer your beer, the more the flavors come out," she said. "The colder, it holds those flavors and aromas in. When you serve it at the right temperature, that's when you get the best beer."

Price said she doesn't consider herself a beer snob, and can even be found drinking a Bud or Bud Light from time to time, but she appreciates a good beer.

"We're just catering to a specific crowd," she said.

The temperature of a beer isn't Grizzaffi's biggest complaint about how beer is served—that's a category reserved for the pour. Nothing drives him quite as crazy as watching someone pour a beer down the side of a glass.

"The proper way is to have a head on," Grizzaffi said as he expounded on the center-of-the-glass pour. "A 16-ounce beer should have a three-quarter-inch head."

The benefit? "You can drink more [beer] and not feel bloated," Grizzaffi said.

—Deanna Darr


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