This is an often-neglected area of home brewing, but is vitally important.
In the last section we talked about fermentation, priming and conditioning following which your beer should be ready to drink. Serving is about more than just getting the beer from the barrel or bottle into your glass, though.
Real ale is best served a temperature of between 12C and 14C. If the temperature is much colder than this (i.e. if you put your bottles in the household fridge which will be around 4 or 5C), the beer will taste more bitter than it should. Conversely, if you serve the beer too warm it won't taste bitter enough. This is due to way the bitterness sensors on your tongue are affected by temperature.
If you serve from bottles, the only way to control this is at the priming stage. Likewise with a homebrew keg (although you can release condition by letting off the pressure relief valve and increase it by adding more priming sugar).
However if you have a Cornelius keg or similar, and a CO2 supply you can control the pressure in the keg which will in turn (once things have had time to equalise out) directly determine the amount of CO2 dissolved in the beer (this is also affected by temperature, but charts are available that allow you to use both temperature and pressure to determine the actual amount of CO2 dissolved).
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