You’ve finally come out of the closet and have admitted that you are beer-curious. Or maybe you, a committed beer lover, know someone who is interested in dabbling in the wonderful world of craft beer.
Here are a few pointers to make sure you (or your beer-curious friends) get on the right track:
1. Seek help: It’s a big beer world out there. You would benefit from assistance from an experienced craft-beer mentor, or at least someone who knows his or her way around a taster tray. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends, co-workers, cousins — even the bartender. Remember, we all started out as beer-curious, too. And most of us enjoy sharing the love.
2. Play Match Game: A great way to start finding beer styles you like is to think about what flavors you enjoy in other beverages and foods. Like strong, dark coffee? You probably would enjoy a roasty porter or stout. Love lemonade? Try a Belgian-style wit for starters. Head over heels for chocolate? There’s an ale (or several) for that. Your beer mentors can help you play the matching game with what you like to a beer with similar flavor profiles. The beautiful thing about beer is there’s a flavor for everybody — from caramel-y nutty-toffee to jammy fruit and from mocha to bracingly sour. And that’s just the beginning!
3. Don’t be intimidated: Just because everybody else you know is ooh-ing and ahh-ing over a beer, that doesn’t mean you have to like it. But remember the converse ground-rule, too: Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s a bad beer. It’s just not your beer.
4. Don’t be afraid of the dark: I’ve taught beer classes for women (and co-ed classes, too) for more than a dozen years, and invariably, there will be one person in a class who balks at the first dark beer I pour, because they think it will be extremely bitter. (I intentionally make it one that’s extremely approachable, with lots of chocolate and/or coffee flavors so it proves my point.) I always talk them into taking at least a sip, and at the end of class, that’s the person that wants more of the “first dark beer.” Looks can be deceiving!
5. Use keywords: Once you’ve picked up a few flavors you know you like, use those keywords to further explore styles with those flavor profiles. Don’t be afraid to ask your server questions about the beers they are serving so you can pick up on styles and flavors. Use those keywords as your compass for setting your own beer journey of discovery.
6. Get Shorty: You can hit more styles in a “research” session if you order smaller sizes. And if you’re OK with sharing sips with friends, that’s a good way to go, too.
7. Be adventurous: Step outside your favored style zone every once in a while. As you explore craft beer, your palate is sure to develop and change. Try new stuff and revisit some you weren’t too fond of earlier on. You will probably surprise yourself.
8. Have fun: Yep! Beer is fun! Really fun. Enjoy it responsibly and you will have a great time getting educated. And here’s the best part: as you continue to learn and grow, you will find that the more you know about beer, the more you realize what you don’t know. It’s a lifelong education!
9. Share the love: Eventually, it will be your turn to be the mentor. How cool is that?
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