Pint/CounterPint IV – Frosted Mugs

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Pint/CounterPint was created when Adam Watson (Against the Grain Brewery) wrote a loving response to the first Baylor on Beer article, Know your Enemy, written by Roger Baylor (New Albanian Brewing Company). At first we laughed whole-heartedly and admired the conviction and stance of both parties, and then we thought, “Hey, wait a minute… remember that old 60 Minutes segment called Point/Counterpoint?”

For those of you that don’t, Point/Counterpoint was a segment of the CBS Television News Magazine, 60 Minutes. Point/Counterpoint was a debate between spokespeople for the political right and left, respectively. This segment pioneered a format that would later be adapted by CNN for its Crossfire show. LouisvilleBeer.com adopted the format for an online debate between Adam and Roger. Welcome to Round 4. DING!

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Pint/CounterPint 4:1
Frosted Mugs – PRO
By: Roger Baylor, New Albanian Brewing Company

The rural locale outside New Albany where I grew up wasn’t very far away from civilization, but to travel west bound and down, not very much of note lay between my house and Evansville, except for open roads, fields, woods and the occasional sparse settlement.

Once I had my driver’s license, there was frequent access to a country bar and grill conveniently located a few miles away across the county line, one that I fancied for two reasons: First, because an incredible number of buxom blondes of German extraction inhabited the town’s small and fiercely independent high school, and more importantly given my youthful ineptitude with the ladies, owing to the bar itself being routinely lax about examining that very same driver’s license for clues as to my real age.

Generally, my plan of action when visiting was to emulate the older men and order longnecks of Pabst, and to mimic their level of mature, sage attainment by asking for a small straight-sided glass in which to pour the beer that reputedly once made “Mel Famey Walk Us” (it’s a really old, really bad baseball ‘n’ suds joke).

Now, these many decades later, here’s the thing I remember about the experience of drinking Pabst from those sparsely elegant glasses: They were never frosted, not even once.

I’ve no idea whether it can be known with any certainty when frosted mugs first appeared, although if it isn’t an American notion, I’d be surprised. It always was my assumption as a long-haired suburban country boy that frosted mugs hailed from the big city, but perhaps the idea of placing a drinking vessel in a freezer came from somewhere like Texas, along with the perennial excuse about hot climates precluding beers of any color other than yellow.

When I was nineteen, I began frequenting a pizza place serving draft beer in frosted mugs, and it was here that I was taught the trick of salting bar mats and cocktail napkins to prevent unwanted adherence. At the time, a frosted mug seemed positively providential, in that it enabled the sacred writ of asking and receiving communion … otherwise known as drinking “the coldest beer in town.”

And so it came to be, painstakingly played out over long periods of time during my formative drinking education, that finally it became clear: Circa 32-degree beer served to me in frosted glassware ensured an immediate frigidity of lips and numbing of taste buds, with a concurrent reduction of those flavors approximating corn, rice and thrice “hopped” magic industrial pixie dust.

Given the value of this insight to my subsequent drinking career, can the training wheel utility of frosted mugs be sensibly denied?

I’m sorry … what was the question again?

Pint/CounterPint 4:2
Frosted Mugs – CON (or “Why Frosted Mugs are Bullshit”)
By: Adam Watson, Against the Grain Brewery

I feel the need to open by thanking my compatriot and pseudonemesis, Roger, here at the outset.  The topic of frosted mugs came up, and I immediately grabbed the “anti” side, leaving him to defend these monstrosities.  While I do love watching him flail with arguments he may not really believe, I imagine a reckoning is imminent.  Don’t be surprised if my next topic ends up being something akin to “I’d Totally Share a Beer with Pol Pot, Who Wasn’t Really Such a Bad Guy After All”.  Fair warning.

Now, on with the show.  What’s so bad about frosted mugs?  In short, they are bullshit.  To expand upon that, many important people think they are bullshit.  Allow me to explain.

Firstly, brewers think frosted mugs are bullshit.  Anecdotal evidence: I’ve never seen a frosted mug in a brewpub.  No brewer worth his or her salt ever brags about how cold the beer is, much less how cold the glassware is.  Glassware may be chilled with cold rinse water, and beer is served at whatever the brewer or bar manager deems to be serving temperature.  Think about the places that you have seen frosted mugs.  Go on, I’ll wait . . .  Was it a place with “Brewery” at the end of the name?  Probably not.  And the beer you had in it probably ended with “Lite” or “Light” or “30” or some other nonsense.  One possible reason for this is that frost is made of ice.  Ice is in frosted mugs.  Liquid beer is probably above freezing.  Melting ice is water.  Who in their right mind adds water to a beer in the glass?  If the brewer wanted to dilute the product, it would have been done a lot earlier.  I know it’s just a little water, but we have principles, dammit!

Secondly, science thinks frosted mugs are bullshit.  Taste buds, the little guys all over your tongue and mouth that help you to enjoy the beer you are drinking, are nerves.  Like all the other nerves in the human body, they are susceptible to numbness, which limits their functioning.  Cold can numb nerves.  If you don’t wear gloves on a cold day, it’s harder to feel your fingers.  If your drink is overly cold, the same thing can happen inside your mouth.  Numbness of the taste buds impairs your ability to discern the finer details of flavor.  Useful if you are trying to avoid the taste of Aunt Bertha’s Seafood Medley Surprise, but not so good when sampling a fine ale or lager.  More specifically, the tongue’s ability to perceive sweetness and bitterness (two primary flavor components in beer) is hampered by cold far more than its ability to perceive saltiness and sourness (uncommon, but not unheard of flavor components in beer).  Just ask these brainy Oxford individuals.

Most importantly, I think frosted mugs are bullshit.  Cold glasses suck.  Really cold glasses really suck.  I saw “A Christmas Story”.  I learned a lesson from poor Flick.  Don’t stick your tongue to really cold things, even on a triple dog dare.  I don’t want the cops and the fire department rolling into my favorite bar to tear my stupid head from a glass, wrap my tongue in gauze, and send me back to Miss Shields’ class just in time for math.  That’d be bullshit.

BONUS:

John Wurth
John Wurth started LouisvilleBeer.com back in 2008 as he and some of his friends were getting into craft beer, then it sat dormant for a couple years. He resurrected the site in the Summer of 2011 when he noticed how big the craft beer scene was blowing up in Louisville. With a little help from his friends, LouisvilleBeer.com has become *the* place for craft beer news, reviews and events.

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