How To Help A Novice Beer Drinker
by Jim Hartman Jr.
Do you have a friend who doesn't like beer, not even a bit, but wants to give it a try
because he sees the multitude of options available in craft beer? It's so ubiquitous he
can't avoid it so he asks you where to start. Not an easy question to be sure. What
beers would you recommend he try to hopefully expand his palate and find a type of
beer that he would actually like ?
It's safe to assume that you could convert your friend into someone who enjoys beer
if you found the right style for him. Most likely his dislike for beer is simply because
he has'tt tried many types of beer. Considering all that's out there it's safe to say
there's one out there for him.
First thing you might find useful is to seek out beers that match the flavors he likes in
food. For example, if he likes pickled and tart foods, he might find the citrusy acidity
of some sour beers enjoyable. People with a sweet tooth might fall in love with the
milk chocolate, coffee creamer, or caramel notes in dessert stouts.
Be aware that there is no need for you to worry too much about the beers’
appearances; they can be deceiving. Some light-colored beers have very intense
flavors, while some dark beers are mellow and smooth. Just have the person pay
attention to the sensation of the beer on his tongue and let his instincts take over.
Talk to the person about his particular palate’s preferences and see if any of these
The resurgence of craft lagers means more breweries are brewing easy-drinking, low-
ABV beers that have a similar profile to mass-market Budweiser, Coors, etc. Try an
American-style pilsner made by a small brewery—you might find it has just a touch
more flavor than you expected, but is still relatively light and refreshing.
When I’m invited to a party full of people I don’t yet know, amber lagers (usually
Negra Modelo) are my go-to beer contribution. They’re slightly sweet but still finish
crisply, with not a lot of overwhelming hops or roast or bells and whistles. They’re a
There’s a reason MillerCoors hit a home run with Blue Moon when it debuted in 1995:
Wheat beers have been the “gateway beer” style for plenty of Americans. The best
versions are softly bready with a lemon-like flavor from the wheat, generally with a
touch of sweetness and lots of carbonation. If you like fruit, try one with added citrus
or berries (though beware they might be a bit sweeter than the un-fruited versions).
People tend to be intimidated by dark beers, but oatmeal stouts are actually smooth,
creamy, and not overly bitter. I wanted to include a stout on this list because people
new to beer might enjoy the lightly roasted flavors and notes of chocolate (this is
especially true for coffee drinkers). Maybe steer clear of bourbon barrel-aged stouts
or imperial stouts until you know whether you like their less-intense relatives.
Sour beers are often presented as esoteric and challenging, which they can be, but
I’ve also known friends who don’t like any other type of beer except sours. I’d start off
with a Flanders red, which is wine like, tart, and fruity. (I find cocktail drinkers also
tend to appreciate this style.) Unfortunately, Flanders reds aren’t usually hanging out
on the grocery-store so you might have to go to a big liquor store or specialty beer
shop to hunt one down.
India Pale Ales
This style might be difficult for a beer novice to appreciate because of it's hoppy
bitterness. As such ty a New England style IPA. They're soft, juicy, fruity, and do not
have the bitterness associated with other IPAs.
Perhaps the best way to have your friend plunge into the beer world is to take him to
a decent craft bar and order a flight of the different styles so he can judge for
himself. If he doesn't like a beer just have him leave it. You can always finish it!
Last thought - no one should be forced to drink something they don't like. If after all
you help your friend still doesn't like beer just remember that doesn't make him a bad
person. Well, not a really bad person.
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