Wednesday, February 07, 2007
When is a Beer Too Cold?
We should expect more from the Metromedia Restaurant Group, which runs 800 Bennigan's, Ponderosa Steakhouse, Bonanza Steakhouse and Steak and Ale locations in 16 countries, but once again a major restaurant chain is letting consumers down when it comes to beer. News reports this week out of Metromedia's Plano, Texas, base of operations say the chain is testing a concept called the 29 Degree Tavern that it is considering rolling out nationwide.
The name of the new chain refers to the temperature at which beer will be served at the bar. The 29 Degree Tavern touts a special refrigeration system used to maintain the temperature of beer from the keg to the tap. There is just one problem: 29 degrees is just too darn cold. Look at any draught beer system manual and you see that the recommended temperature for draught beer to be properly served is between 36 and 40 degrees, with 38 degrees being optimum. Some brands, such as Guinness Stout, call for a slightly higher temperature range at between 39 to 45 degrees. This is also the case for real ales and some other types of craft beer.
The proper temperature is critical for a number of reasons. First and foremost, beer served too cold will chill your palate beyond the point where you can really taste the product. That might be a good thing for some beers, but for most brands I'd like the opportunity to taste the delicate hops and get the full impact of the malt.
There is also a physiological reason that 29 degree beer is a bad idea, for the consumer and the bar operator. Colder beer will dissolve more carbon dioxide, keeping it suspended in the liquid. That means the beer going into the glass will appear flatter. For the consumer, this is a visually less appealing drink. Once the beer is consumed and starts to warm, the gas is then released in the stomach. This bloats the customer and makes them feel overly full. For the bar owner, a beer with no head means more liquid in each glass and less profit per keg. Consumers who fill up too quickly tend to drink less and order less food, further cutting into profits.
Metromedia is calling its 29 Degree Tavern concept a steakhouse with a sports bar feel. The first location opened on Tuesday. They are likely to be advertising "the coldest beer in town."
Anyone want to bet 29 Degree Tavern serves its beer in frosted mugs?