Beer Temperature: Do Germans Drink Warm Beer?

Even though beer has been around for thousands of years, there are still plenty of myths about it. Some of the biggest myths involve various countries and how they drink their beer. Today we aim to debunk the myth that Germans drink their beer warm.

As a nation of beer lovers, here in the US, we like ice-cold beers, the colder the better. So why would anyone want to drink their beer warm?

The Germans don’t actually drink their beer warm, with a few exceptions which I’ll cover in a couple of minutes, but German people just prefer their beer less ice cold and a little bit warmer than here in the US.

So, where did this myth come from? Let’s look at the German brewing tradition for cold beers, especially those well-known pilsener-style beers they’re famous for.

many people are sitting at the table with glasses of beer
Photo by Katja Rooke on Unsplash

When Do Germans Drink Warm Beer?

In the winter, many Germans indulge in Gluhbier, which is the seasonal release of a warm beer in the vein of a Gluhwein you often sample at those German Christmas Markets.

But drinking warm beer isn’t a new or strictly seasonal idea. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the German public decided coffee was too unhealthy to be enjoyed every day so, as a result, Warmbier was created.

A healthy alternative to coffee, Warmbier was a beer concoction that included much more than the traditional grains of wheat and barley. A standard Warmbier was made by heating up a beer, then adding ingredients such as eggs, flour, butter, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and sugar to the mix.

The result was more like a protein shake than an actual beer, but it does help explain where the myth of Germans drinking warm beer originates.

Apart from this historical beverage, German beer generally isn’t served warm. However, they do tend to serve their beers a little warmer than American beers, with the average temperature of a German ale falling between 35 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which by US ice-cold standards is warm.

Perhaps the question should be, do we Americans drink our beer too cold rather than do Germans drink their beer too warm?

The Optimum Temperature for Drinking Beer

Many beer connoisseurs would argue that by chilling a beer down to almost freezing point, you lose a lot of the beer’s distinctive flavor and aromas, but different types of beer can taste better at different temperatures.

Irish Stouts should traditionally be served at around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, while lager beers should be served at temperatures between 40 and 45 degrees.

Dark beers, coffee and chocolate style beers, or stouts/porters are better at warmer temperatures of 50 degrees, which allows the sweeter flavors of the beer to shine through.

And as a rule, lighter beers or wheat beers are better served at colder temperatures of 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal temperature of the beer is very much dependent on the type of beer you are drinking as well as beer consumers’ personal preferences.

The next time you try an IPA at your local craft beer hangout, why not leave it for a few moments to notice the change in the hoppy aroma as the beer gets slightly warmer?

Do Any Countries Drink Warm Beer?

It’s always a standing joke with my beer-drinking buddies that the English like their beer warm and flat. Anybody who has ever enjoyed a pint of cask ale in a British pub will know this not to be true.

But the lack of force carbonation does lead to a less fizzy beer. With gravity-fed pumps, those long ivory hand pumps seen on the bar of many English tavern bars, the beer is at cellar temperature rather than ice cold, which gives many of us Americans that idea.

Likewise in England, there’s beer snobbery, with many Brit beer drinkers disapproving of keg “real” or craft beers that are force-fed CO2 to feed them through a flash chiller and electric pumps for an ice-cold fizzy beer.

Most of the Brits don’t consider their beers served warm, even those at room temperature, most English beer makers believe we Americans serve our beers far too cold and lose much of the quality.

Other European countries like Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Austria also favor cellar beers. Many European beers are brewed in such a way that they benefit from being stored at cellar temperature, with ale yeasts and natural yeast cultures continuing their secondary fermentation when a cask beer is stored in a cellar.

Belgium as a beer nation brews lambic beers using a family of yeast varieties which occur naturally in the air and would not survive in very cold temperatures.

Was Serving Warm Beer Ever a Thing?

In the past, especially before the 20th century, refrigerators and freezers simply weren’t available and the best people could hope for was a beer at cellar or room temperature. I still remember my grandparent’s house having a traditional larder cool room where Grandpa would store his beer.

However, since the introduction of refrigerators, devices like a kegerator, and other temperature regulation methods, beer is no longer served warm in modern times. As we stated before, beers are best served at an appropriate temperature to bring out the aroma and flavor profiles.

This lack of refrigeration actually gave birth to the German style of lagering, which was done in the cooler months of the year. Brewers brewed their beer in caves underground to keep it cooler while using a specialized lager yeast that worked better at colder temperatures.

The Famous Oktoberfest Beer was originally brewed in March as a Marzen beer, then left to mature for about six months to be ready in time for the big Oktoberfest celebrations where thousands upon thousands of liters of beer are consumed every year.

Are Oktoberfest Beers Served Warm?

a man with a beard drinks beer from a glass among people on the street
Image by Brett Styles at Pexels

Again the answer is no. Just like Germans rarely drink a warm glass of beer at any other time of the year, Oktoberfest Ale isn’t served warm either.

As a beer nation, with one of the highest beer per capita consumption rates in the world, Germany presents the gold standard of excellent beers which are copied all over the globe, even here in the US. Popular beer styles include the aforementioned Oktoberfest seasonal ale, Munich Helles, and of course the German-style pilsener beers.

Germany seems to understand that bringing out the best taste and quality in a beer means serving it at the correct temperature and not always being served ice cold.

Perhaps here in the States, we should take note of our continental cousins and try serving a few of our American brand beers at slightly warmer temperatures.

The Warm Beer Divide: Final Thoughts

To answer the original question, “do Germans drink warm beer?” the answer is definitely no. Tell a German that they only drink warm beers and he will point out that beer should not always be served ice cold.

While a cold beer might be okay on a midsummer afternoon sitting in a beer garden with friends, often you will be missing out on many of the qualities which turn an average beer into an excellent one.

Germans do drink their beer cold, just not ice cold. Among the reasons germans prefer their beer cold is the refreshment factor, higher carbonation levels at lower temperatures, and cold beer is less likely to spoil than warm beer.

Maybe we should ask do Germans drink their beer warmer? To which the answer would be a resounding yes, with most of Europe, especially the UK, following suit.

You are much more likely to be served a warm beer in Northern Europe than you would ever be here in the US, although again our friends over the other side of the Atlantic would argue it’s just slightly warmer, not warm.

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