| Flights of (Beer) Fancy
by Linda D. Coffey
Hi Bob and hello to all his readers! I wanted to share something about
beer drinking that's easily one of my favorites- flights or samplers of
beer. Ever since my first introduction into the wonderful world of beer
flights I’ve been hooked. In my opinion there is no better and easier
way to cover a lot of tasting ground then through a beer flight or two.
The glasses used in beer flights I've had ranged in size from 2 ounces
to 6 ounces. Personally I prefer the lower end of this range because it
allows me to try more samples without worrying about getting “three
sheets to the wind,” just because I wanted to try a couple beers.
The glasses themselves can be several different shapes. In my own
experience beer flights are often served in an economical, single shape,
such a mini-sized pint or stange. But, as beer flighting has become a
more common practice the variation of glass shape has also increased.
I’ve seen mini mugs, snifters, and pilsners out there. And though I’ve
never seen a brewpub do it, it would truly make my day to see a beer
flight served with each beer style matched to a mini version of its
appropriate glass. That would be pretty cool.
How the samples get from the taps to you is also wide open to
creativity. I’ve seen flights simply delivered on a tray and lined up on
the table. I’ve seen several variations of the classic wooden paddle. At
one place I was served my flight on a two inch tall round cut from a
stump, with shallow holes drilled to accommodate the glasses. I’ve
also seen metal wire stands where the glasses are held in wire circles
either in a horizontal display or a vertical display
The one rule I usually adhere to when enjoying a beer flight is sample
the beers lightest to darkest. Generally the lightest beers have a gentler
character, lower ABV, and lower hop bitterness, then the darker beers.
If a dark beer is sampled before a light “quieter” beer, it is likely that
much of its character will be lost behind the forward charisma of the
dark one. I'm sure there are contrary opinions but that's what I do.
Beer flights are a great way to widen your beer knowledge or help a
friend broaden a narrowly focused viewpoint. I am often disappointed
when I go into a place that has great beer selection but doesn’t offer
flights. If the only option I have is regular pints I usually stop around
two, maybe three on the outside. On the other hand, if flights are an
option, I can try anywhere from 3 to 6 (depending on glass size)
times the number of beers I could otherwise.
If you really want to educate yourself about the nuances of a beer
style try this formation. First, pick your subject of study. Do you want
to explore the differences between several breweries’ year-around
IPA’s or are you looking for a real challenge… how about the subtle
variances between a group of porters or saisons? Whatever you
choose it is guaranteed to be an astonishing education, one that will
help you work through what you like and don’t like in a style.
You can even explore a given brewery on your own, either at home,
or at a quality taproom. Pick a brewery you’d like to know better,
select four to six of their beers and create a flight. This formation will
give you inordinate insight into the different flavors the brewery offers.
A good way to entertain a few friends at home is by putting together
an “in-house” flight plan. Here you can share notes and ideas about
different beers, take as much time as you like enjoying the flavors, and
actually talk without having to yell. Most of the above flights can easily
be put together at home; horizontal flights, shades of a single style, or
a set of completely random, but new beers.
So there you have it Bob. I'm really hope you print my article since
ordering a flight is a great way to increase anyone's appreciation for
craft beer and to bring new people over to our side and away from
those watery lagers that far too many people think is good beer.
Many thanks for sending your article Linda. I agree with you that
having a flight is the single best way to learn about beer. There are a few
caveats however - the small glass usually doesn't allow for a head
(which helps aroma) and might not show the true level of carbonation.
Also, and this is just a personal quirky view, sometimes the beer simply
tastes different in a bigger glass. Nonetheless, I too almost always
order a flight at a new place or when tasting a few new beers.
I'd like to invite everyone to send me their own columns about
anything related to beer/drinking/booze just as Henry did. I select
the best and publish them here. So join in and get writing.
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