Aug 05 2011

How to order a good beer

Published by at 8:40 am under Beer,Food

I’m doing a small write up for a silent auction of “beer baskets” at work where I’m trying to help people who may be new to the craft beer scene get the most of out of a visit to one of our donor beer places. Below is what I have so far and I KNOW I’m over generalizing, but I don’t want to overwhelm people who are just starting. I describe how I help people who want to choose something new quickly, but I’m open to other approaches. Please drop your thoughts in the comments.

It is important to me that you get the most out of your visits to the restaurants and breweries. On the breweries tours, you will be presented with a spectrum of beers to choose at each location. At the restaurants, though, you will see menus (even books!) that list beer after beer. This can be very intimidating and I urge you to take this opportunity to try something new or unfamiliar. Most locations offer small “tasters” of a beer for $2, and some of them will even splash enough in a glass for you just to try for free.
Talk to your waiter or bartender and tell them what you like. These locations are well known for knowledgeable wait staff who can discuss beers quite extensively. There are books written about the myriad beer styles, but here is how I help someone decide what to try:
Decide if you’d like to go lighter or darker. While this is not always true, lighter colored beers often accentuate the hop flavors, which can range from bitter to grassy to floral. They are more often dryer than darks. The dark beer range starts with reds, browns, and ambers and extends all the way into barrel aged stouts. They can be heavier and contain more alcohol. They often have a lot of flavor, especially when they have aged for a while in an oak or bourbon barrel.
Next, if you’ve gone lighter, decide if you’d like floral or more bitter. Different types of hops are used to shape these flavors and your server should know the range. If you’ve gone dark, decide if you’d like bitter or sweet. Some really nice stouts are given a bitter flavor with unsweetened chocolate, and others are so sweet they can serve as a dessert.
These are REALLY rough guidelines, just to help you tell the server what kind of mood you are in and what you prefer. I highly recommend you try a range of what you think you’ll like. Then ask for a taster of something strange to you. There is a whole world of sour and fruit beers that is just amazing.

One response so far

One Response to “How to order a good beer”

  1. Shaneon 05 Aug 2011 at 9:02 am

    I really disagree with encouraging people to keep using the meaningless terms of “light” and “dark” beer. A bock is dark but is a smooth, easy-drinking lager. A black ipa/cda is dark but basically tastes like an IPA. You can make any beer dark by adding a tiny amount of dark roasted grains and it doesn’t become a boozy, malty monster. I think that thinking about light and dark will just keep people saying “I don’t like dark beers, they are too heavy.”

    I think that it’s probably better to encourage a basic knowledge of the fundamental styles, and go from there. For Americans it might make the most sense to understand some of the most common American styles that every brewery will have in the stable: Pale, APA, IPA, Porter, Stout. There is SOOOO much variety in that alone that you can find a style or two from those that you enjoy and explore them for some time. Hell, a few years ago I was only drinking IPAs and felt like I was having a new one every week.

    Anything that encourages a drinker to move laterally across styles, rather than vertically through one, is great, IMO. Like I said, about 4 years ago I was so closed minded that I was only really enjoying a few DIPAs, and then slowly began trying more things and realizing I loved a great many of them.

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