Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: Heat matters for beer and wine

By JIM BEAUREGARD July 04. 2017 11:20PM

Has it been hot enough for you? The past couple of weeks have got me thinking about the issue of temperature, which is important for both beer and wine: The right temperature can enhance, the wrong temperature can detract, and too much temperature can destroy.

There’s also been a great deal written about climate and the temperatures at which vines, or hops or barley for that matter, can be grown. There is a mid/mild region in both the northern and southern hemispheres that’s good for growing grapes, and as you move north in the northern hemisphere or south in the southern hemisphere, you reach a point where it becomes too cold, especially for red grapes.

But the vineyard is not the only place to think about temperature. It is an important thing to keep in mind for storage of wine bottles.

Many newer homes, and many kitchen upgrades, feature a built-in wine rack somewhere in the kitchen. They look great, and many of them often even tilt a little bit to make sure that the wine stays in contact with the cork so that the cork doesn’t dry out.

Tear it out and use it for kindling.

The kitchen is typically the hottest place in the house, and the one that experiences the widest temperature variations. In other words, if you want a boiled wine to go with your boiled dinner, kitchen storage would be the best bet. In fact, the only better place would be right on top of the refrigerator, where all the heat from the motor rises.

Now, on the other hand, wine cellars aren’t called cellars for nothin’. If you are blessed with a basement, then you already know that it’s markedly cooler down there during the summer than the rest of the house. That makes it the best place in the house to store wine.

If you don’t happen to have a cellar, or if you live in an apartment, one of the best places to store wine is the floor of your bedroom closet. Particularly if you have a room air conditioner that keeps it at a relatively constant temperature during the hot weather.

Wines that are stored at higher temperatures age is faster and die sooner. It’s as simple as that. So, if you want to keep some wines for a while, the temperature needs to be lower and constant. If you want a rule of thumb, wine ages very happily between about 50 and 60 degrees Farenheit.

And yes, it matters for beer as well. Keeping beer happy begins at the brewery, where bottling temperatures can be around 40 degrees. Most stores can’t keep all their beer in cold storage, but short-term storage at room temperature won’t do it a great deal of harm. Still, it’s worthwhile cooling it down though as soon as you get home.

For beer, the best storage place is usually the refrigerator. Refrigerators’ purpose overall, whether it’s food or anything else, is to slow down microbiological or physical changes in anything we consume. The warmer it is, the faster those things happen, and the sooner it goes bad. (And, by the way, many beers now have a fairly obvious bottling date on them. It’s a good idea to buy it within six months of bottling — after that, you may find yourself opening a stale beer.)

When it comes to wine storage, there are specially designed refrigerators such as the Eurocave, that maintain a constant temperature of around 50 or 55°, however you set it, and that do a very good job of keeping wines stable over time. They can be expensive, though, and you’ll have to decide whether or not is worth the investment. If you’re buying wines you want to put away for a year or longer so that they continue to develop and reach their full potential, an investment like this can be a good one.

But whatever you do, don’t use that kitchen wine rack.

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Now in the interest of keeping cool, I want to mention Sam Adams Light (4.3% alcohol by volume, 10 IBUs). Since the Boston Beer Company takes quality seriously, they didn’t simply take a good beer and water it down to call it light. They did provide a beer with lower calories, but the whole creation process kept in mind the need to preserve flavor as well. The hops used to make this light beer are Spalt Spalter, originating in a town about 20 miles south of Nuremberg, Germany, where they’ve been growing hops since at least the 1340s. The brewery also developed its own malt to help the beer to be as rich in flavor as possible.

For a light beer, it’s fairly dark in color, a rich golden amber with a white head that’s fairly thick and creamy. The nose brings out both hops and some rich malt aromas. The head thins out fairly quickly, but carbonation is maintained throughout. It is definitely lighter on the palate, though both the hops and malt characters come through, in fact I would say the malt notes are even stronger, something both pleasing and somewhat less typical for light beer. Alcohol is low, in fact not even really noticeable, blended well. A long, pleasing but not overpowering malt finish wraps up the presentation. This is one to serve well chilled on a hot day.

Contact wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.


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