We’ve all seen it, some of us have had it: The Frosted Glass.
Some bars swear by it as a means to get that ice cold beer even colder, but the problem is, there is no good that comes from doing it.
First, consider the source of the ice. We’ve all made ice at home, and the smells and flavours the ice picks up are usually not great. Onion, garlic, and more strong flavours are easily forced into the ice in your tray, and the freezer the glasses are in is no different.
If ice can pick those flavours up, and you’re coating the inside of your glass with it, you’re adding those flavours to your beer. Onion and garlic may go well with beer, but not when they’re in your beer.
Second, we pour beer down the side of the glass for a good reason: It’s smooth. By pouring it down the smooth side of a glass, we reduce the amount of foam generated, keeping a balanced amount of carbonation in the beer. Picture skating on ice, and now picture skating on pavement. Second option doesn’t work so well because the road is so rough. Ice on the side of a glass is rough, and gives ionization points for bubbles to form as you pour the beer down the glass.
This excess foam pulls the carbonation out of the beer, and can leave you with a flat glass of beer, changing the flavour profile from what was intended.
Third, beer doesn’t need to be served ice cold. Yes, it’s nice and refreshing, but it hides the flavour of the beer to serve it so cold. There is a reason so many American Light Lagers are served in frosted glasses, and usually poured overly cold to begin with. This is an easy way to mask flavours generated from green beers, adjuncts, and mass production. By adding an ice cold glass, your taste buds can’t register a lot of the off-flavours that are prominent in some of those beers.
Ultimately, a nice room temperature glass rinsed with cold water is the way to go. It brings the beer temperature up slightly after it leaves the tap, allows a proper amount of carbonation to escape while not leaving it flat, and also allows some of the hidden flavours of the fermentation come through, like esters and non-fermentable sugars.
So when served a beer in a frosted glass, be polite, and ask that you get a new beer served in a clean, rinsed, room temperature glass. The brewer wouldn’t want you to have it any other way.