Oct 15, 2018

Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 22
Beer fridge basics

Feb. 1, 2000

We like to joke that the difference between beer and wine drinkers is that beer drinkers don't spit when they taste. In fact -- particularly if you hold to the notion that drinkers of flavorful beer are just "regular folks" willing to spend a little more on their beer -- how beer and wine drinkers store their favorite beverage may make a stronger statement.

Beer drinkers keep their beer in a beer fridge, wine drinkers store wine in a temperature and humidity controlled "wine cellar." One costs a lot more than the other.


Have you ever seen the advertisements in wine magazines for those wine cellars? Something akin to a small refrigerator -- but with a wood case and a glass door -- that holds a modest 30 or so bottles can run you $600. If you want a cellar that stores 250 bottles then you can easily spend north of $2,000.

One reader dropped us a note asking if she and her husband could use one of these to store beer. The answer is yes. The question is: Why would you?

You can buy a used refrigerator for $50-$100 and a temperature controller for another $50. Check the classified ads to find a used fridge or contact an appliance store (the advantage of the latter is they may deliver). Your local homebrew store (check online if there is no store near you) should carry temperature controllers.

You plug your refrigerator into the controller and the controller into the socket, then set the thermostat to the desired temperature. You'll put a probe in the fridge side, which means you won't control the temperature in the freezer area.

If it's summer, when the fridge is running more, and you have the temperature set relatively low then the freezer may be very cold. If you keep the temperature set closer to 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) and the refrigerator is in a cool spot (like the garage in winter) then the freezer will be closer to the temperature of the controlled area. In fact, if your fridge is in the garage it may not run at all in colder months. You'll want to monitor the temperature because both sides can get quite cold.

Sound tempting? More to consider before you jump in:

- Why a beer fridge? Maybe you've got too much beer to keep in the refrigerator in your kitchen. More important, that fridge is probably set around 40 degrees. A lager is going to taste better served in the high 40s, an ale in the 50s.

- If you want to "lay down" different vintages of beer you should keep it at a constant temperature, probably in the mid to upper 50s. We'll discuss cellaring beer, including beers suitable for cellaring, next week.

- If you are a homebrewer you'll be able to better control fermentation temperatures.

- If you live some place with a basement that is dark and cool (upper 50s to lower 60s) that may be all you need. You can't keep a bunch of beer cold and ready to serve for a party, but to chill a lager to the high 40s won't take long, and ales will take even less time. We point this out because refrigerators run on electricity, which is in short supply these days.

Tasting notes

Brewed by Stoudt's Brewing Co. in Adamstown, Pa.

Lew Bryson's tasting notes:

The Pils pours a brassy gold with a fine white head, clouds of Saaz hop aroma blowing off it like ice off the crest of Everest. Brisk, almost fruity, softly malty, evenly hoppy, but at no place overwhelming, this is all-day beer. The only place the hops show their edge is in the long, relentless finish that is an on-and-on of moderate, pleasant bitterness. Very soft and unassuming up front, it gains interest as it goes in classic Bohemian pils style, like a stream down a mountain. Ahhh, if the GABF were worth a tinker's damn, this beer would medal every year.

Brewed by Lost Coast Brewery & Cafe, Eureka, Calif.

Tasting notes from Richard Stueven (a.k.a. gak):

Nice dark brown, great head. Chocolatey-malty aroma ... Cascades? Thick and smooth. Lots of malt sweetness, but not cloying at all. Mildly bitter finish. Defines the style.

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