Happy June, hot stuffs! Let’s celebrate with a couple cold ones. But not too cold. According to this article by Chicago Tribune reporter Josh Noel, most of the beer we drink is at least 5 degrees colder than it should be. It seems most bars set their draft systems at 38 degrees, whereas beer-appreciation scientists say temperatures this low mute the flavors of your fancier brewskis; most recommend you drink nice beer at a minimum of 43 degrees, and they claim that higher-proof, more-complex, and barrel-aged numbers taste best damn near room temperature.
This contradicts our most basic notions of beer and freedom, as both Budweiser ads and the Constitution have spent several generations convincing us that ice-cold beer is our national birthright. This is why the boobier, more heavily Buffaloed restaurant chains take such great pride in serving beer in frosted mugs. They take that 38 degrees and dial it all the way down to 36 in a naked display of patriotism that all but screams, “Go back to England if you want warm beer, commie!” But alas, for all their meritorious service to fried mozzarella and noncustodial parents, our great nation’s most influential restaurants have led us astray when it comes to beer temperature.
Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, mask flavor. That’s great when you’re drinking cheap, shitty beer with the explicit goal of getting drunk, which is a perfectly noble pastime, but not the one we’re addressing here today. Right now we’re trying to figure out how to drink a couple of quality beers at the beach. (It’s June!)
You shouldn’t get drunk at the beach, because it’s hard enough to walk in the sand as it is. But all honest beach trips need to be commemorated with at least a couple of beers to celebrate the fact that you’re not at work. (Although I suppose you could be a lifeguard, in which case you should check with your union representative regarding on-the-clock drinking. If you work in the ice-cream shack or whatever, then you should of course feel free to do what comes naturally.)
You’re going to want your beach beers to start off as cold as possible, because they’re going to heat up awful quickly as soon as you get them out of the cooler. Furthermore: Come on, man, enough with the flavor science. You’re at the beach! No need to be shy about icing those babies down as thoroughly as you can. I recommend Shiner’s Ruby Redbird for this sort of pursuit.
I put Texas icon Shiner Bock on a list of overrated beers last year, and subsequent reinvestigation has confirmed the decision. That is not good beer. But Shiner makes some other decent-to-good stuff, my favorite of which is the ginger- and grapefruit-spiked Ruby Redbird, an erstwhile summer seasonal that has just been promoted to year-round. The label says, “For best results, serve ice cold,” which is ominous for all the reasons summarized at the top of this post, but perfectly suited for the beaching scenario we invented as soon as we got out of that Hooters a couple paragraphs ago.
Ruby Redbird is a 4-percent alcohol-by-volume lager, which is the ideal strength for not drowning. The aroma is mostly ginger, which made me question the old adage that “Everything is grapefruitier in Texas.” Don’t get me wrong—I came for the ginger. But also the grapefruit, which is pretty faint on the nose. Grapefruit hits the tongue first, though, before the ginger quickly reasserts its dominance, which lends some semblance of balance.
I’d say Ruby Redbird’s overall flavor breaks down to about 60 percent ginger, 20 percent grapefruit, and 20 percent basic-ass beach beer. Both of the added flavors taste relatively fresh and real, and they are potent enough to withstand the injudicious chill mandated by a lazy day of sun in your eyes and sand in your crevices.
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Image by Jim Cooke.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.