Home > Beer Myths > Why Brits Traditionally Enjoy Warm Beer

Why Brits Traditionally Enjoy Warm Beer

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 14 Feb 2021 | comments*Discuss
Why Brits Traditionally Enjoy Warm Beer

Like most nationalities Brits like their beer served cool, so why are they known for preferring it warm and how does temperature actually affect the quality of the drinking experience?

Warm Beer Myth Making

Americans and ex-Prime Minister John Major (“Fifty years on from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs”) might have you believe otherwise, but Brits don’t really enjoy their beer warm, and never have.

This popular myth is believed to have first taken root during the Second World War when American GIs stationed in Britain were disgruntled to find the refreshment on offer at the end of a hard day’s battle was not the crisp cold lager they were nurtured on, but rather the less chilly cask beer popular locally at the time.

The tease that Brits drank warm beer was, you would hope, meant in a humorously exaggerated manner, but nevertheless when the people back home came to hear the GIs astonishing tales of crazy Brits drinking warm beer they likely failed to pick up on the jesting tone and instead took it as writ.

The myth stuck and passed into popular belief, and even though GI-approved cold lager has long since taken precedence over from cask beer as the UK’s favourite, there are still people that believe that on a hot summer’s day Brits mop their brow and reach for a “warm one”.

Cool and Refreshing Ale

In truth cask beer isn’t warm, it’s not even supposed to be tepid; it should be cool, refreshing and thirst quenching. Its recommended serving temperature of between 10-13°C (stouts around 14-15°C) allows the richness and complexity of the beer to come to the fore. This is not room temperature, as some believe, but rather cellar temperature, which is where beer is traditionally kept and where it is able to stay cool without needing to be chilled.

This isn’t to say that cask beer is always served cool. When Casque Marque, a group that monitors cask ale temperature and freshness in the UK, undertook a survey of beer served across the country in 2005, they found that 44% of 2,000 pints exceeded the optimum drinking temperature. Nevertheless, although not pleasant, it’s still unlikely that any of these could actually be classed as “warm” – well, apart from one beer that was served at 35°C.

Few would argue that the serving of beer at too high a temperature is not a subject of considerable concern, but then serving beer extra cold similarly undermines the drinking experience, and that is the norm in the USA, Australia and other parts of the world.

Lager Temperature

Lager should be served colder than ale but not so cold that you are unable to taste the flavour of the drink. It is recommended that a good quality pilsner be served between 7-10°C to allow the hop aromas and delicate malt and citrus flavours to perform at their peak. Any colder and the beer may be more immediately “refreshing”, but those appealing characteristics start to disappear.

Of course, this only really applies to lagers that have flavour to begin with. The obsession with extra cold lager has in part been cultivated by mega brewers eager to hide the lack of flavour in the beer - as well as any unpleasant aftertastes - by distracting consumers with the dubious promise of even greater refreshment. The popular US lagers brewed by Miller, Budweiser and Coors would be less at their peak at 7-10°C, but rather nigh on undrinkable.

Extra Cold

All this would be well and good if Brits were unperturbed by all the warm beer name-calling, happy in the knowledge that they know how to enjoy good quality beer. Unfortunately the penchant for ‘extra cold’ has taken hold in Britain too. In an ironic twist, a nation known for its strange love of warm beer is a nation that gets excited when their favourite brand brings out an ‘extra cold’ version of their product.

What’s more, the obsession for extra cold has even pervaded the world of the ale, the original inspiration for the warm beer taunt and a style of beer spoilt by near freezing temperatures. Although there are some that would argue that products like John Smith’s Extra Cold, Guinness Extra Cold and Scottish Courage Extra Cold are not really ales at all.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
I was in Scotland way back 1974 and the most amazing thing I saw was the Scottish people putting their pint of lager on a burning stove. This was in August, not the coldest time of the year but with a lot of rain.
Peenvogel - 14-Feb-21 @ 2:26 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Peenvogel
    Re: Why Brits Traditionally Enjoy Warm Beer
    I was in Scotland way back 1974 and the most amazing thing I saw was the Scottish people putting their pint of lager…
    14 February 2021
  • Llndee
    Re: Is Guinness Really a 'Meal in a Glass'?
    Love Guinness! I am not a beer drinker since I prefer wine but Guinness is a breed of its own!
    26 November 2020
  • VJAY
    Re: Is Guinness Really a 'Meal in a Glass'?
    Hi everyone! I do have a vintage Guiness Foreign Extra Stout with a manufacturing no. 851212. Can anyone know the…
    11 November 2020
  • Professor Penis Rect
    Re: Is Guinness Really a 'Meal in a Glass'?
    Guinness pairs well with oranges, you can't "live off guiness" without some vitamin C to not get scurvy. Calling…
    27 October 2020
  • Anjalina
    Re: Licensing Laws
    I am a link builder & I've a good number of quality sites, where I can help you to build contextual links which helps you to get good page rank and…
    24 September 2020
  • JRBS420X
    Re: Licensing Laws
    Until the lockdown, Bedford town centre has been a no-go zone with pubs and bars open until 0400hrs. Students and thugs only setting out for a night…
    22 September 2020
  • Minty
    Re: Licensing Laws
    Our local pub is licenced from 12pm to 12am money to thursday . 12pm to 1am friday and 12pm to 11 pm sundsy What time should they be calling last…
    5 December 2019
  • Straycat
    Re: Is Guinness Really a 'Meal in a Glass'?
    I started drinking Guinness in the early 90.s I was badly anaemic and funny enough drinking Stout helped.Guinness…
    18 November 2019
  • Joy
    Re: Licensing Laws
    We have problems with noise level from the arrow pub. There is shouting and swearing until 12.30 - 1am can there be anything done as I cannot sleep
    5 September 2019
  • Jay
    Re: Licensing Laws
    Can a bar serve 1 person 4 pints on last orders knowing it just fof them and knowing they have only 30 minutes drinking time. Dont they have a duty…
    14 June 2019