Contributed by guest beer blogger Nathan:
As I was sitting in a restaurant in St. Augustine on Mother’s Day, I got to thinking about craft beer; mostly because there was a flyer on the table promoting craft beer, and a particular keg they intended to tap for American Craft Beer Week. Surveying the bar, I noticed that most of the barfly’s with me were drinking what I refer to as “beer water”; the Budweiser, Coors or Miller beers that are so very popular these days. Few were drinking the locally brewed craft beer or any other craft beer available. Even though there were advertisements promoting craft beer, and a local craft beer on tap, most patrons hadn’t strayed from their comfort zones. I pondered the question: why aren’t more people enjoying the very same IPA or Maibock my wife and I were drinking? My answer: they simply don’t know about beer. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably been in a similar situation before. Let’s change the scenery. We’re with the same people, only this time we’re in Stubbies & Steins or Tipples Brews – two prime examples of Gainesville craft beer retailers at their finest. You won’t find a Budweiser, Miller or Coors product in the coolers. You will find hundreds of other beers from America and the rest of the world dominating their inventory. We’ll be fine – but what about our new friends?
Helping someone select a beer that they will like is a difficult task – mostly because people don’t know what they like. As craft beer enthusiasts, it is our job, nay calling, to educate. But how? There are so many great beers available and if people generally don’t know what they want, how can we recommend something? Some of my general rules:
- Find out what they usually drink and try and relate it to something on the craft beer menu. If they’re a Miller/Coors/Budweiser drinker, they might be happy starting with a Pilsner. It would offer a similar color, texture and mouthfeel. Look for a Czech style beer. Perhaps they like their stouts, and Guinness is a staple. To be sure, Guinness is an amazing beer, but you could easily move someone into the avenues of porters or imperial stouts.
- What’s on the menu? Beer, like wine, can be paired with meals for a culinary extravaganza. Going for something hearty like a stew, well a Stout would go well with that. Spicy food? Well a Pale Ale or India Pale Ale might be the way to go.
- What do you crave? If someone is after a fruity beer, there are plenty of fruit flavored wheat beers on the market. Feeling more adventurous, perhaps a Lambic is on the agenda. Maybe they’re into something a little spicy, and a witbier with some coriander flavors might just tickle their fancy. Something sweet? Maybe a Belgian could be considered. There are so many different options to choose from. Like banana? You might get a Banana Bread Beer, but more likely, you’ll be served something like a hefeweizen. What if they want wine? Well, there is a beer for that, too – a barleywine, a mead or even a brut.
- What color do you like? In many cases, color is an important factor. If they like their beer golden and yellow, then a blonde or pilsner may be the way to go. Don’t forget, though, that many a Belgian-Style Ale has this same color characteristic. Maybe it’s penny colored and any of the amber ale’s might be a good choice. They like dark beers, well you have your choice of porters and stouts, or even scotch ale’s.
Obviously, this is a very general series of suggestions, and the list should go on and on and on…
For those who are new to craft beer and have a difficult time making a decision, my advice to you is to talk, ask questions and experiment. Ask your server, publican or craft beer retailer about recent releases or popular beers. Tell them what you’ve had before and that you’d like to try something similar. Also consider that just because something is dark, it doesn’t mean that it is heavy or has high alcohol content. A porter looks surprisingly similar to a stout and in many cases has lower alcohol content but shares a similar rich characteristic. A Belgian Style Ale might look similar to Budweiser, but might back a punch of 7% ABV. Still not sure what to get? I used to start with the cool names!
I’m Nathan. I grew up in Australia and have lived in Japan and the UK before relocating to the USA when I got married. My first visit to Stubbies back in 2003 got me hooked on craft beer, though I had been drinking craft beer on and off for a while. In order to remember even half of the beer I try, I keep a blog. It can be found at http://its12oclocksomewhere.blogspot.com . It basically details exactly what I was thinking/experiencing/feeling/tasting in the first moments I drink the beer. I take notes on the first smells, pour and tastes. I do most of my tasting at Stubbies & Steins or at Tipples Brews in SW Gainesville. Beer is a hobby for me: I dabble in home brewing. My day job is a training coordinator for a nonprofit organization. I have a wonderful wife and two great daughters.