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
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
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
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
- 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.
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.