Send It Back!

Bob Barnes – Don’t let your bartender ruin your beer.

Maybe I’m getting more cantankerous as I age, or maybe I’m just tired of seeing the same practice occur day after day, month after month and year after year. What I’m grousing about is restaurants and bars (and even some brewpubs) thinking they’re doing us a favor by serving a finely crafted beer in a frosted, ice cold glass.

So, where does the antiquated assumption come from, that an establishment will do well if it brags about it serves ice-cold beer at or just above freezing temperatures? It predates the craft beer renaissance when virtually all beer made in American came in one style, light-hued lagers with very little hops and full of adjuncts such as rice and corn. Although we’ve moved on from thinking this constitutes the only definition of beer, the remnants of this way of thinking still lives on, and many establishments plop an iced mug in front of us, without giving it much thought.

The problem is, only beers with little flavor, such as the aforementioned lightly hopped lagers, should be served ice cold, as excessive cold masks a good portion of the excellent flavors in craft beer. How can we stop this misguided, misinformed practice? When placing your order, ask that your beer be served in a room temperature glass.Or if you forget and you are brought an iced glass, send the glass back. If it’s a draft and like me, you believe it’s a sin to waste beer, then be patient: warm the glass with your hands and wait a bit till it warms up. You’ll notice the flavor change and improve as the beer recovers from its icy chill.

Another gripe of mine is ordering a Hefeweizen and having it delivered with a lemon swimming in the beer without my asking for it. Slightly less offensive, is having the slice of citrus positioned on the rim of the glass, but even in this case, some of the juice will have mixed in with the beer. Although, as I stated earlier, I consider it a sin to waste beer, having lemon juice added to a Hefeweizen, and especially a Bavarian hefe, has already wasted the beer and by contaminating it with the fruit will completely mask the yummy banana, bubble gum and clove flavors that are magically imparted from the yeast, rendering these delicate flavors null and void.

With an American-style Hefeweizen it’s not as distasteful, as this style is known for being milder in flavor, minus the Bavarian Hefe’s added flavors, and the addition of lemon may help the flavor for some. To determine if your palate prefers this, do a taste comparison by trying a Hefe without first and then adding lemon to your glass.

Although some believe the tradition of adding lemon comes from Germany, this is a myth and most Germans would consider it a sacrilege if such a practice took place on their home turf; but it is common to mix lemonade into sour beer in some parts of Germany, as their Reinheitsgebot (German Purity Law of 1516) prohibits beer being made with any ingredients other than water, malt, hops and yeast. Furthermore, the sour flavor of lemon can be a wonderful thing in a beer, such as that found in a Berliner Weisse, but in such a case it is a natural occurrence from the yeast, not one artificially added.

Now I’m not such a beer snob that I would deprive you of enjoying your beer in whatever way you choose, but I suggest it’s not fair to have a bartender or server decide for you that your beer needs a lemon.So, what to do? If your beer arrives with a lemon you didn’t request, send it back. Eventually servers and bartenders will learn to ask first, once enough patrons stand up for their right to enjoy their beer in the manner they choose to.

The Author:

Bob Barnes is editorial director of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional, regional correspondent for Celebrator Beer News and writes the Top 10 Beer lists for He welcomes your inquiries and can be reached via e-mail at

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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