Beer me brah
February 9, 2020 5:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm 43, and so far not much of a beer drinker. I want to change that because its something that I would like to expand my horizons on. I'm not looking to get drunk, or anything of the sort. I'm a mature adult who wants to learn more about beer and needs a place to start.

Things I've tried:

Corona: Not a huge fan
All the American Lights: Meh
Blue Moon: ok
Guinness: I've had several and have enjoyed them
Ciders: I enjoy these

I really want to be able to try more, but don't have any friends that I would go to a brewery tour with.

I'm not sure where to start and what types of beers to start with. I'm also not keen on buying packs of beer to try when I really don't know what I like. Worcester and Central MA filter. If you know of a good venue I could get a flight while having a meal with my family that would rock. Or if you know of a good liquor store that I can go to so that I can buy individual beers to try that would be great. I've tried researching and haven't really had any hits.

Thanks in advance for any tips or tricks!
posted by Draccy to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh one last thing! Please talk to me like I'm an idiot. I don't know all the fancy names yet. I want to learn them though!
posted by Draccy at 5:17 PM on February 9, 2020

Best answer: Trader Joe's, at least in California, lets you buy any beer they sell by the bottle or can.
posted by alexei at 5:19 PM on February 9, 2020

Best answer: Well, if you're in Worcester, you're not far from Treehouse, which makes some of the most sought after beers in the world. They are particularly known for their Northeast style IPAs, which tend to be juicy and sweeter, as opposed to bitter and drier in a traditional IPA.

If you like Guinness, you might also like other dark, malt-forward beers. Stouts, porters, scotch ales.
posted by Lutoslawski at 5:20 PM on February 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Worth giving the local standards a try: Harpoon IPA, Harpoon UFO, Sam Adams Boston Lager.

If you don’t like the lighter lagers then Narragansett is probably not for you.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:27 PM on February 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Pretty much everywhere here will do both flights (either they or you select a bunch of beers and you are given ~4 ounce pours) and/or tasters (just enough to taste of one or more beers). Those are great ways to try a few before committing to a pint. (Tip nicely if they are giving you a bunch of tasters.)

Ideally you would have some taphouses nearby— places with a bunch of taps from a range of breweries, which lets you try a wide range of styles in one place. Going to breweries is fun but usually the range of beers is more limited, obviously.

And I agree that trying out the larger labels (like Sam Adams) is an excellent approach to establish your personal baseline before going obscure.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:36 PM on February 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

I learnt to like beer through having friends who liked beer. But in the absence of friends, bar staff are a handy substitute. If you ask them for recommendations, they're generally happy to share their knowledge/enthusiasm if it's not a hugely busy time. Most bars with good beer will do little tasters before they pull you a pint (or a half).

If you like cider, try a pale ale with Citra hops. Hop varieties have their own names and distinct flavours; Citra is sort of grapefruit-y.

You might also like alcoholic ginger beers. Some of these I find too sweet, but Lowlander do a nice one with ginger and kaffir lime.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:37 PM on February 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's a lot of different styles of beer and the best way to figure out what you like -- and don't like -- is to try a bunch of it.

Some good books for guiding your way: Jeff Alworth's The Beer Bible, Joshua Bernstein's The Complete Beer Course, Randy Mosher's Tasting Beer.

Trader Joe's, at least in California, lets you buy any beer they sell by the bottle or can.

Yes, and they rotate pretty quickly so there's often something new to try. Note though that TJ's own-brand beers -- and their Boatswain and Campanology private-label stuff -- are mostly mediocre, with the exception of their Belgian styles (which are brewed by Unibroue and which are great).

Total Wine is also really good for buying singles or for making up a mixed six-pack; a good way to try a lot of different stuff without committing to an entire six of anything. Looks like there's a branch in Worcester MA. And now I think of it, they used to produce a free book of beer styles that you could pick up in-store; don't know if they still do.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:48 PM on February 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would recommend going to a brewery! Breweries are some of the most fun places to do tasting because someone who works there can walk you through the ideas behind each beer, the style, the tasting notes. You'll usually get to try a bunch of styles at the same time, next to each other, in a way that I've found really helpful in figuring out what I like.
posted by capricorn at 6:11 PM on February 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I don't have specific recommendations, but if you like Guinness, trying porters and stouts (although there's a huge range among those) is a place to start. (Porters are, generally, less high in alcohol than stouts, but it depends).

If you like ciders, you may like a lot of sour beers ("sour" isn't always the best name for them -- they're usually pretty fruity). Beers also called "Saison" or "farmhouse ale" may be worth trying. There is a huge degree of fruit beers (usually overlap with a lot of other styles) but beers called "lambics" might be worth trying.

I can't help with specific stores, but yes, if you find a place where you can buy individual bottles, do that! If you have a bar that's happy to give samples (most should -- I hope!) or small pours, that's a good way to taste a bunch of things. And if you find a good bar with a lot of taps, they'll begin to steer you in the right direction as they get to know you.

I think it's also helpful to find a brewery -- local or otherwise -- that you like and just drink all their beers. You begin to find a taste profile or a style you like and you can go out from there.

Mostly, though, it sounds like you're not into IPAs (and I don't blame you). So ... just start drinking things that aren't IPAs. Your local breweries might be a good place to start (but also might not be great). But mostly, just start trying some beers. It's a fun thing. You should enjoy it.
posted by darksong at 6:14 PM on February 9, 2020 [4 favorites]

Go (preferably with a pal or two) to a pub with a lot of different on-tap beers. Most places will tolerate giving you a small taste of a few different beers, as long as you end up buying a pint (or sometimes a half-pint might be available). As Lutoslawski mentions above, start with dark ales/porters/stouts and branch out from there bit by bit. Go with the expectation of having a few tastes and buying a pint or two, maybe liking one, and having a nice time with your pals; then coming back another evening to try a few more. The process and the journey should be fun! Over time you'll develop your palate and learn what things you like and dislike.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:22 PM on February 9, 2020

Best answer: I googled "taproom" in your area and there's lots of results. Go into a place like that and start trying stuff. You can always get a taster of anything. The bartenders and the folks around you are always happy to talk about what's on tap.

Follow your own taste.
posted by humboldt32 at 6:26 PM on February 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Depends on your tastes. I've sampled a variety in the past, but now I just mostly prefer mellow European style light lagers.

IPAs are where the excitement is in craft brewers, some of them are in a race to make the most hoppy-est IPA brew ("like licking a pine tree"); this path is a taste adventure for the adventurous. But there are also subtler IPAs worth a taste.
posted by ovvl at 6:33 PM on February 9, 2020

Sounds like you should start with stouts (like Guinness) or Belgian style beers (Blue Moon is basically an example), and avoid IPAs. I personally love sour beers, which you may also like since you like cider. Keep an eye out for goses (low ABV, salty) or Berliner weisses (also low ABV, wheat beer). I nth everyone's recommendation of going to a brewery if you can. Enjoy!!
posted by ferret branca at 6:41 PM on February 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Try Heffewizens, various wheat ales, blonde ales, etc. In beginning you should probably skip IPAs. Maybe decent lagers as well.
posted by pyro979 at 6:45 PM on February 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I like beer, but I can't keep up with the many varieties and styles. You can go to Beer Advocate and look stuff up, so you know what a Belgian or a Hefeweizen or IPA or malty, hoppy, sweet, sour, dark, red, etc. Visit breweries/brew pubs, bars with wide beer selections. You can usually get a taster of beers(Tip Well).
posted by theora55 at 6:50 PM on February 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Learn the attributes you like and don't focus on any particular brewery.

The two main ones are ABV (alcohol by volume) and IBU (international bitterness unit).

Find your comfort level on those two aspects and then try different types of beer.

Talk to bartenders - especially at brewpubs - liquor-store employees, and friends. Ask whatever questions you'd like to. Go to beer-tastings and taprooms and bottle shops - anywhere you can buy one can or one bottle of a beer you want to try.

Here in Oregon there are beer and wine and liquor-tastings in grocery and liquor stores generally on Thu-Fri-Sat early evenings. The sales reps are eager to tell you all the details about their booze and can also be reasonable sources of information.
posted by bendy at 7:14 PM on February 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also you can usually ask to sample a beer in a bar and you'll get a smallish glass of it to try.
posted by bendy at 7:16 PM on February 9, 2020

Best answer: Definitely ask for a “taster” of beer if you’re in a place with some decent beers on tap. And don’t be shy about having a glass or half pint of beer - less of a commitment and you can try more beers if you’re in the mood. You can definitely do a brewery tour on your own but any brew pub will likely have a tasting flight and a menu that describes all the beers. Go, have a sandwich and a flight and don’t feel like you need to finish any of the tastes you get.
posted by amanda at 7:47 PM on February 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

There are basically two types of beers: lagers and ales. The vast majority of mass market brews are lagers (most are a specific sub type of lager, first brewed in the Czech city of Plzen, called a Pilsner). The vast majority of craft brews are ales. The Guinness that you enjoyed, while not a craft brew, is also an ale. Blue Moon is a Belgian style wheat beer, also a type of ale.

Lagers are more complicated to make, as they need "lagering", a process that requires the brewer to store the beer at a specific temperature for a relatively long period.

Ales tylically have more complex, nuanced flavours. However, a good European lager can be delicious and refreshing. Unfortunately North American mass market brewers have bastardized lagers to the point where most mass market domestics taste like watered down dog piss.

Based on your stated preferences, I would suggest trying a variety of ales: pale ales, extra special bitters, stouts, porters, Belgian ales, and wheat beers. Avoid India Pale Ales for now, as they tend to be very bitter these days. India Pale Ales have more hops, a bittering agent, than most other ales, and craft brewers have been on a bit of a hops arms race recently, it's gotten somewhat out of hand. You can dip your toes into IPAs when you have more pints under your belt, so to speak.

Ciders are a type of fruit wine. Nothing wrong with liking ciders, and I personally enjoy a nice dry apple cider, but they are not beers.
posted by sid at 7:58 PM on February 9, 2020

Beer tastes better when your body is tired and trying to recover. I recommend trying flights at local brewpubs after exercising or doing yard work or the like. The only way to figure out what you like is to sample broadly.
posted by pmb at 8:34 PM on February 9, 2020

Fabulous! My then-husband and I went through this ourselves a few years ago after years of Miller Lite and Bud Light consumption (still my day-in, day-out really).

One of the first things I learned was that darker colored beer wasn't necessarily more bitter. As you like Guinness, you've already learned this.

We really took big leaps forward in learning by going to a couple of 'beer fests' where you pay one admission and get a lot of samples. However, we also got drunk really fast at them.

At tap rooms/breweries I suggest (as no doubt others have) getting small samples and tastes - but the thing that's really important to me is looking at the IBU, which is the 'bitterness' scale. Personally I don't like 'bitter,' and finally learned that that's the hoppiness I'm tasting. High IBU beers like IPAs (pale ales) are not my thing. What I'm really getting at is to pay attention to the menu, which should have a good description of each beer. Is it a stout, a lager, an ale? Does it talk about sweet, dark, crisp, sour? Maybe take a picture of the menu or jot down a few notes in your phone to help you sort things out.

If you take note of that kind of thing you ought to be able to find some stuff you like as you learn, and to learn while enjoying some beers you like! I hope you have fun!
posted by Occula at 8:41 PM on February 9, 2020

See if you can find a beer dinner with pairings. I went to one at Granville Moore's (D.C.) in 2018.

I've always hated beer, couldn't see the appeal, hated the carbonation. That dinner, with five beers, was a whole new perspective.
posted by jgirl at 8:57 PM on February 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're a cider fan, there's a style called "saison" (or sometimes "French country ale") which is made with wild yeast or a simulacrum thereof; this style tends to be on the sweet/sour/fruity end. Domaine DuPage is one that I have liked. Lambic is a similar style which is often flavored with fruit instead of hops - Lindeman's Framboise is a good and easily obtainable example.
posted by jordemort at 9:20 PM on February 9, 2020

Best answer: Given your examples of what you like (Guinness, ciders) I'd like to make a couple of suggestions.
Sounds like hoppy IPA's aren't going to be your thing.

Probably more to your liking are the slightly yeasty & smoother side of beer like Belgian style beers and darker beers in general.
North Coast's Pranqster (belgian style),
North Coast's Brother Thelonius (belgian style)
New Belgium Trippel (belgian style)
For something like Guinness, Sam Adams Cream Stout has a much better, deeper flavor (slightly chocolate).

All of these are delicious sipping beers.

Maybe a trip to Sam Adams in Jamaica Plain would be a good start.
posted by artdrectr at 11:27 PM on February 9, 2020

I’ve gone from not a fan of beer to a drinker of malty pale ales, then stouts, then very slowly to hoppy IPAs over the course of the last eight or ten years. There are a ton of beers out there, and something that pretty much never fails me is talking to clerks at liquor shops that have proper craft beer sections, usually with staff dedicated to the section. Talking with them, explaining what you’ve had that you liked, and what recommendations they’ve got based on that is a solid way to expand your horizons.

As far as liking Guinness, that’s a style called dry Irish Stout, and there are a fair number of them, and that’s as good a starting point as any.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:56 AM on February 10, 2020

All the American Lights: Meh

This is kinda what they were designed to elicit in individuals so don't feel bad there.

Anyway, I'd say you could/should try some sour beers or saison or lambic styles. Berliner Weisse is a decent start to dip your toe in and comes in flavored varieties as well. It's a bit of different take on beers as compared to your FAR more common stouts, lagers, IPAs, ales, or porters.

I love fringe beers. Don't get me started on Barleywines or Braggots or Mead. Oooh, try mead! It's not a beer but who cares as it is delicious.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:22 AM on February 10, 2020

nthing you should try sour beers and saisons (go with fruity ones, citrus in particular if you can find them) and watch the alcohol content because saisons can get dangerous.

if you're just finding you need to acquire a taste for beers overall, when I started trying to like beers (I really like them now) I drank a lot of things like:

-crown float (cider with Guinness floated on top)
-snakebite (half harp and half cider with two dots of grenadine)
-radlers (lager beer of some kind and grapefruit juice)
-shandys (lager beer and ginger ale or lemonade)
-beer & clam (about an ounce of clamato in your beer, sometimes with lime - I don't know if the USA has clamato, maybe this would still be good with tomato juice?)
-beer that comes with a slice of fruit like orange (lots of Wits come with a slice of citrus, I would ask for a few extra and squeeze them all in)

which are all just ways to reduce the "beery" flavour a little while you acquire the taste!
posted by euphoria066 at 11:39 AM on February 10, 2020

Best answer: Spring is coming, try a mai bock or a Berliner weisse. If you can get that mit schuss (some places here in the States do this, yes!), I like that. Go for the green one.
Also, as the weather warms, a kolsch, the suggested saison, the Belgian wit. A good Mexican lager is a treat, too. A good number of breweries around here do those in the summer.
posted by oflinkey at 2:57 PM on February 10, 2020

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