At the Flying Saucer a few years back I saw a quote on their big chalk board, “Frosted glasses are for amateurs.” Of course that led to the debate: are they being beer snobs, or is there validity to the statement?
Obviously, the point of a frosted glass or mug is to keep beer colder longer. So is this necessarily a good thing? It is a general law of science that the colder a food or beverage is, the less flavor you actually taste. This is the primary reason that light lagers need to be served as cold as possible. I’m sure you’ve had a warm Budweiser, and it is anything but refreshing. (I find it helpful that Coors, with the blue mountains on their bottles, gives you a nice indicator as to when their beer is no longer repulsive.)
For higher quality beers that have a better, more intricate flavor, you don’t want to stifle that by serving it too cold. I found a nice overview on realbeer.com that shows you recommended temperatures for serving different styles of beer. The general rule of thumb is the darker and stronger the beer is, the warmer it should be served. Now, when I say warm, I don’t mean serving it like tea. We’re talking 60 or 65 degrees for stouts and porters. There’s a reason why the Brits and Germans have been drinking beer like this for centuries.
Here’s a practical tip for the home beer drinker: If you’re not in a hurry and are drinking a quality beer, try taking the bottle (or can if it’s an Oskar Blues) out of the fridge and leaving it on the counter for 10 minutes before you open it. It will still be nicely chilled, but more of the flavors will be released.
The bottom line is, when it comes to beer, just do what you like. Sometimes nothing is more refreshing than an ice cold beer after a hard day’s work or when you’re out in the heat, and that’s ok. I just encourage you to try something different and give it a chance. I know that when I order a beer out at a bar or restaurant, I want to get my money’s worth and often request an unchilled glass. Perhaps that makes me a snob, but I’m not scared to enjoy my beer the way I like it, and that is with delicious flavor.