Help Me To Start Drinking Beer
June 22, 2008 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Beer. I've never tried it. Or any other alcohol. And I'll be 39 next week. But I'm ready to start drinking! Where do I start?

I'm a married guy with a wife that drinks wine and mixed drinks. I'm by no means poor (a bit tight maybe...) and can easily afford to start buying booze. No religious objections either. I just never got around to drinking, I guess. But being the only guy at parties and social gatherings with a Mountain Dew in hand has grown tiresome - people assume I'm either a religious nut or a recovering drunk.

For reference, I'm a meat and potatoes guy, love starchy food but not so much sweets. Bitter foods are good (I love biting right into a lemon). I've also never tried coffee, smoked anything or taken any kind of illegal drug... But one thing at a time! I'm ready to start drinking, so where do I start?
posted by catcatwomanman to Food & Drink (77 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Go straight for a classic. Budweiser.
posted by josher71 at 4:53 PM on June 22, 2008

Go for local or microbrews. Skip over Bud, Miller, Coors, etc. Unless you like getting shitfaced and loosing your lunch onto the world, quality is so much more important than quantity.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 4:53 PM on June 22, 2008

Welcome, brother! Well, you'll probably like dark beers. Obviously Guinness is a must, but don't feel like you have a jump into one right away. I had a Samuel Adams Brown Ale the other day that was pretty good. Beer Advocate seems to have a lot of info for you to dig into.
posted by adamdschneider at 4:56 PM on June 22, 2008

Beer is kind of gross when you first taste it. Beer is delicious to me now, but I'm not sure I would start with Budweiser. It's kind of disgusting, even though I am a huge Bud Lite fan.

You might like Blue Moon. It's smooth and has a slight orange taste. Sam Adams Cherry Wheat is good too. I'm not sure if they still make it. My husband and I used to be fans. I'm not sure if it's seasonal or available year-round.
posted by LoriFLA at 4:58 PM on June 22, 2008

I would also advocate against Budweiser. It doesn't taste like much of anything. I lament that I've been out of the beer drinking scene for so long. I've been taking a liquor tour, lately, with favorites being Barbancourt 8 year Reserve Especiale (a rhum agricole), Mount Gay Extra Old (a very fine rum, but perhaps on the sweet side for a guy who loves bitter), and Gentleman Jack, from the makers of Jack Daniels and one of the most delicious liquors I have ever tasted. If you have to drink a cheap beer (and hey, sometimes we do), go for Mountain Creek, if you can get it. Very strong flavor for a very cheap beer.
posted by adamdschneider at 4:58 PM on June 22, 2008

If you enjoy bitter foods, look for local brews that are high in hops, like an IPA (India Pale Ale). Don't bother with wheat/weiss beers -- they'll taste sweet and starchy mostly.
posted by vers at 4:59 PM on June 22, 2008

Do. Not. Drink. Bud.

Seriously, most major advertised-on-TV brews in the US are just pee in a bottle.

Your best bet is to ask some local friends (or those on for a good brewpub. Then go there and try as many types of beer you can afford and stomach.

Really, the best way is to just start trying as many microbrews as you can. There's a lot of variety and flavors to choose from. A lot of subtlety and range, so it's all about finding what you like. But unless you like blandness, steer clear of the big national chains. They cater to the most common denominator, and so are devoid of most of the nuance (and flavor) of the smaller companies. is also a good resource for finding brews and pubs in your area. Then just go have fun!
posted by whycurious at 5:01 PM on June 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

One of everything? Seriously, nobody can tell you what you're going to like - get out there and experiment. (On preview - for example I'd run a mile from Guiness and... Budweiser? Jesus josher, are you out to ruin his first time?) If you're drinking for the experience, rather than to get drunk, I think you have a lot of interesting flavours ahead of you.

I'd start with cider (hard cider, I guess, in the US) because of the "kind of gross" problem Lori mentions. Choose something dry, chill well, drink slowly from a half-pint glass. Then maybe a Belgian white beer. Try an oak-aged Semillon, too.
posted by Leon at 5:01 PM on June 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh, how could I forget the fine people at Rogue? The Shakespeare Stout is simply excellent, with the Dead Guy Ale being another favorite.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:02 PM on June 22, 2008

As a San Franciscan, I am obliged to recommend Anchor Steam.
posted by gyusan at 5:03 PM on June 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cider and Blue Moon are both rather sweet, and he says he likes bitter, which is why I recommended some, uh, harder drinking beers. For IPAs, I've enjoyed Dogfish Head 90 minute.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:04 PM on June 22, 2008

Whatever you do, don't have a cheap beer on your first time out. Cheap beer is cheap for a reason; it usually tastes like shit and for many people, tasting a cheap beer as a part of their first beer drinking experience will put them off beer forever. In Australia, our cheap beer is a toxic brew called Victoria Bitter. It was my first beer but at the time I was an impoverished student and had little choice but to drink it to get drunk. Once I started earning money I started drinking better stuff and have never looked back.

What is better beer? Some say Budweiser but I have tried Budweiser and didn't like it. If you live in Australia, my first and only reccommendation is to try James Boag's beers. Especially the St. George variety if you can find it. It's the best beer I've ever had and in my opinion beats the pants off of anything else. If you're overseas you may find it can be imported. Just look around for it if you can.

Failing that, I'm led to believe by Wikipedia that Corona, a Mexican beer, is sold worldwide and should be easy to find. It has a similar taste to Boag's St George (though I still think Boag's is better).

Also, for the record, you say you're a meat and potatoes guy. That's good. Eating potatoes (in the form of wedges or chips smothered in gravy) is a great thing to do while drinking beer. Makes beer go down easier too and, I have found, let's you drink more too!

Let us know how you go and what beer you tried!
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:04 PM on June 22, 2008

Tiki drinks are good mixed drinks for a first-timer. As for beer, take the opposite approach: keep drinking one Guinness per sitting until you like it (or can at least stand the taste). Then you'll like any beer you see.
posted by cowbellemoo at 5:05 PM on June 22, 2008

Yuengling Traditional Lager, if you're around Pennsylvania. I'm not sure how far north you can get it, but I live in Jersey and we have it here, but not in North Carolina and below.
posted by InsanePenguin at 5:06 PM on June 22, 2008

Tons of people are going to tell you never to drink a specific type of beer, or brand, or regional brew or whatever. Screw them. Drink everything you can get you hands on and find stuff YOU like. If anyone ever gives you shit, online or in real life, about drinking a specific beer look them in the eyes, take another drink and say "Dude. It's just a beer." put your arm around your wife and bask in the glory of the unpretentious life you've built for yourself.
posted by Science! at 5:08 PM on June 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

Cider and Blue Moon are both rather sweet, and he says he likes bitter,

Yeah, but a dry cider is as close to "I love biting right into a lemon" as you can get in the alcohol stakes. I'll admit there might be a big gap between British and US ciders, though, so I could be off-base. It's a difficult question, you're not going to get much more than a long list of people's favourite beers.
posted by Leon at 5:08 PM on June 22, 2008

I'd recommend going for a Chimay or other Trappist. Why? Because it's strong, light, and mmmm-mmm de-lish.
posted by nitsuj at 5:11 PM on June 22, 2008

Difficult, indeed. Young's Oatmeal Stout may be another one to try (and I also enjoy their Double Chocolate Stout). My first beer was a Budweiser, and I drank it because I didn't yet know there were beers out there that tasted like something. The worst beer I have ever had was Lone Star. Ugh.

However, I heartily agree with Science!. Try everything, and don't give up if you taste something you don't like. There is an incredible array of beers, a vast constellation of flavors. Look around on that Beer Advocate site we linked earlier, check out some types of beer that seem like they might have flavors you would enjoy (from previous experience with other foods), then find one near you. Happy hunting!
posted by adamdschneider at 5:14 PM on June 22, 2008

Do you have a good laid-back local pub with ok food? They'll be able to give you good advice, and the atmosphere can make it a fun evening out.

Plan to have just one or two beers an evening, with dinner, for starters. Learn how alcohol affects you by taking it slow. Order a glass of water to drink alongside.

Do you have a good local booze store that carries a variety of beers? Often they'll be able to give good advice, and sometimes they'll let you create a miz-and-match 6 pack out of different types of beer so you can try them out.

Different kinds of beer are quite different in taste, so you'll want to try different types before deciding that beer tastes bad.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:17 PM on June 22, 2008

one or two beers an evening

That is, on evenings when you're planning to drink, only have this much. I don't mean that you should have one or two every night!
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:19 PM on June 22, 2008

Try everything. It might be helpful to learn a little about the more popular categories of beer (pilsner, stout, bock, wheat, IPA, etc), so once you figure out "I know I like bocks and hate stouts" you'll be able to fine-tune your experimentation.

That said, life's too short to drink cheap beer. If you've seen the beer advertised on TV, it's probably been formulated to be as inoffensive as possible to as many people as possible—meaning it doesn't taste like much of anything. Try stuff you've never seen advertised—it probably has some personality. New Belgium Brewery has a variety of different beers (fat tire, 1554, trippel) that I like, and is pretty widely available in the USA. Try some of their stuff.
posted by adamrice at 5:27 PM on June 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

You should definitely not pass up a Lindeman's Framboise lambic, but it's a very sweet beer.
posted by arimathea at 5:27 PM on June 22, 2008

Popular American brews like Coors and Budweiser aren't real beer. This isn't trumped-up, snobbish opinion but actual fact: Budweiser for one uses rice as fermentation base. That's why they taste so watery. Additionally, popular wisdom maintains that rice also intensifies your hangover, but as far as I know that's unsubstantiated.

While we're on the topic of Budweiser, though, you might enjoy the beer made by the company from whom Budweiser stole their name. Czechvar, as it's called in the US, is light in a good way, and really tasty.

A lot of people like Guinness. For being so dark, their regular beer tastes pretty weak to me, but their Extra Stout is nice and strong. Stouts are like the black coffee of the beer world, so they're something you might want to wait a bit before trying. Some people never get to like them, and though I enjoy them I can understand why.

Finally, in terms of price, I'm of the opinion that diminishing returns kick in pretty quickly with beer. Breweries like Unibroue charge pretty steeply, and while their products are tasty, you really don't need to spend that much to be satisfied. Snobbery abounds, though.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy your first beer. It's one of my favorite drinks in the world.
posted by invitapriore at 5:28 PM on June 22, 2008

I didn't like beer at all until the first time I tried a Franziskaner Hefe-Weisbier. So don't get discouraged if the first dozen things you try aren't to your taste, it might be lucky number 13.

Also, what Leon said, above.
posted by jtron at 5:28 PM on June 22, 2008

The worst beer I have ever had was Lone Star.

I always through Lone Star was pretty good for a bargain beer. There's also a reason that Budweiser sells more beer than anyone else. It's reasonably priced and decent beer.

Tons of people are beer snobs, just like tons of people are food snobs. (They may rave about caviar, but I'll take a bacon cheeseburger any day). My advice is to ignore them. Try lots of stuff and see what you like.

Some liquor stores will sell six-pack swaps, where you choose one bottle each of six different beers. You can also do this by getting together with six friends, and having each of you bring a different six-pack. It's a good way to try out a bunch of beer without breaking the bank.
posted by chrisamiller at 5:36 PM on June 22, 2008

Response by poster: OP here - I should mention that I live in the beer capital of America. Yep, St Louis. Home of Bud and toasted ravioli.

Can anyone recommend beer I've find locally?
posted by catcatwomanman at 5:38 PM on June 22, 2008

Try the Missouri Brown at Trailhead Brewing Company in St. Charles.
posted by nitsuj at 5:42 PM on June 22, 2008

I'm a fan of bitter beer, as well, and I got started on Newcastle. The quality varies, but I would encourage it as a first stepping stone. Guinness is also a good suggestion, but not as a first stop. First time out, it's a bit too sour and will sit in your stomach in an unpleasant manner, especially if you've never acclimated to coffee.

Like everyone above says, stay away from the cheap shit like Budweiser, Coors, Keystone, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Schaeffar's...anything that college bachelor's guzzle and/or wear t-shirts advertising. It's not out of snobbery. It's just truly, bafflingly, terrible beer.
posted by greenland at 5:44 PM on June 22, 2008

I saw Billy Bragg last week when he played Toronto, and although he went for tea throughout the show, he was drinking his usual Corona afterwards. Sometimes, he drinks Bud. Why? Because he really doesn't like beer, and he thinks those two brands are the most inoffensive flavours he can get -- they're the Coke of beers.

So certainly try out any of the neat beers people have suggested. But if you end up liking some cheap mass market beer, it won't automatically make you a bad person. (Hell, I started on Labatt 50, and I'm freaking awesome.)
posted by maudlin at 5:44 PM on June 22, 2008

On one hand I'd tell you what I tell my parents when they talk about starting drinking. You've made it this far in life without it, do you really need a reason to start?

On the other hand, beer is delicious. But, as mentioned above, not at first. I'd say it's like getting acclimated to the taste of coffee, but you haven't started on that one either.

Despite the general snobbery listed above, there's a really good use for the giant American breweries. When you're actually thirsty, a really watery beer hits the spot. After mowing the lawn, I'm not going to settle down with something that knocks my socks off with hops. It's also a good starting point to the world of beers, since it basically tastes like beer. Lambics and ciders taste like fruit punch, and won't do you any favors if you want to get used to beer.

If you want to get started with Guinness off the bat, you'll have to take the Guinness Challenge. Get a 4-pack of draught cans. Then, drink them one by one. You'll hate the first one, but love the last, and you'll enjoy the taste for the rest of your life.
posted by hwyengr at 5:45 PM on June 22, 2008

catcatwomanmanPoster: "OP here - I should mention that I live in the beer capital of America. Yep, St Louis. Home of Bud and toasted ravioli.

Can anyone recommend beer I've find locally?

posted by Science! at 5:46 PM on June 22, 2008

I can understand wanting a drink as a prop, just to cut down on the amount of awkward questions. Your body is probably pretty happy that you haven't poisoned it all this time, though. So if you're going to start, you might as well keep it light. And if you're not going to be drinking a lot, you might as well skip over the crap and go for the good stuff.

My theory is that nobody likes alcohol naturally. We start choking it down when we're young for reasons other than taste. And gradually our body begins to associate good tastes with the good feelings it gives us. But the point is that your early experiences are usually not like, "Mmm, yummy!" So you may want to start with the least alcoholy/strong-tasting and most accessible. Once you get used to those you'll be able to appreciate more complex ones

Beer was tough to get to like. I had to fight to get it down in high school and only really began to like it in college after zillions of cans. Liquor is the hardest to like at first by itself, but probably the easiest when mixed with other things that mostly mask the flavor. Wine is probably the easiest on its own, the least offensive, and white is probably easier than red at first.

For wines I'd start off with your basic chardonnay. It's the sort of generic white wine, not that you can't have very good chardonnay. But it's very accessible usually. You might even try a sweet Riesling or Gewurtztraminer if you need something sweeter to get started - they're often closer to sweet juice flavors than other whites. Maybe thence into Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio. As your tastes refine, you might venture towards the dryer side of the white house with Sauvignon Blanc and its cousins and see what's up over there.

In the red category, cabernet sauvignons and burgundies and the like will be the heavier and more meaty ones that might take more getting used to. Pinot Noir is generally lighter and might be a better intro, as might a mild/medium merlot.

For beer, the really great ones are the microbrews and many imports. The mainstream beers from the major makers, the ones who typically sponsor sports events, are comparatively really bad. Due to their wateriness, especially the Lite versions, they might be less intimidating tastes to get started on, and easier to drink due to the lack of stronger flavor, but I hate to recommend Bud Lite, Miller Lite, Coors Lite (water), or any of the other major labels to anyone, You only have about 40-50 years of life left - don't drink bad beer. It's not that those don't have their place at an outdoor event or ballgame or something, but for me that's mostly just because it's nostalgia from high school and college when I didn't know any better and was drinking for volume. So don't do it. Go for quality. Beer can be such a fun hobby too, and it can be a conversation item at those parties of yours. Check out sites like beeradvisor and beeradvocate once you start to get an idea of what you like. Good descriptions there about what thousands of different beers are like.

You might start with a nice citrusy hefeweizen (wheat beer) for a nice, light, appealing intro. Hoegaarden or Paulaner ought to be the easiest of that style to find in grocery stores, and there are lots more good ones out these days. In the summer, at pubs, you'll often see these served with a lemon wedge to squeeze into them. Purists will frown, but it's nice (and accessible). Brown ales can be a great smooth intro too because they're generally very mild and sometimes a bit sweet. Newcastle is the most visible brand of this style but I think it has very little taste. There are lots of other good ones out there. My favorite beer in the world is Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale. It's from Yorkshire, England and is just lovely. Very accessible and so rich and buttery and flavorful and wonderful. I love their whole line, really, especially the Oatmeal Stout and Imperial Stout. The Organic Ale and Organic Lager are great too. Their beers have the loveliest heads of any I've found. You could eat it with a spoon. It's in grocery stores more and more these days but if not, your liquor store should have it.

Btw, don't be afraid of stout. Guinness is an acquired taste IMO, and has a strange bitterness and flavor all its own unlike other stouts. It can be fun but there are loads of other great stouts out there. They look like they ought to be super strong but are often very mild.

Hops can take some getting used to as a prominent ingredient. High-hop beers can be kind of bitter. India Pale Ale (IPA), for example, is a generally higher-hop beer style.

Samuel Adams makes many quality beers, and they're very easy to find. You might like to try that mixed pack they have out there that has a brown ale, a black lager, and something else. Bit of variety to help you figure out what you like.

Heineken is a fake import. Okay it may really be from Europe but it might as well be a major label from here. Don't be fooled! Amstel Lite is its equally-faking cousin. You'll see them at weddings a lot.

As for liquor, you're probably best off drinking mixed drinks with vodka and rum at first, as they can be very neutral. They're very versatile and are in a wide range of cocktails. Gin is an acquired taste - many people think it tastes like Pine Sol. I used to think that and then just clicked one day and liked it, but it was gross before that. That's the main thing in martinis usually, btw. Tequila is usually a bit rocky to get used to. There are very fine tequilas these days that can be lovely, but your average sort can be rough. The party usually goes south quickly once the tequila comes out. Bourbon is great but might be kind of rough at first too. Jack Daniels is actually a bit sweeter than many others if you want to tiptoe into the category with a Jack and Coke. It's mainstream, and there are finer ones out there, but I would start with that over a Jim Beam, for example. If you come to like those, step up to nicer ones.

Whisky, as in single-malt scotch whisky, is not something you want to start with, but it's a great place to end up. Might want to save that for later down the road. Triple-distilled Irish whiskey blends are a bit smoother, usually, but still probably not for you yet. Ports, sherries, and brandies are probably best left for later too. Kinda strong and you don't mix them with anything, so they're better once you've come to appreciate alcohol.

posted by Askr at 5:46 PM on June 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh, and for a local St. Louis brewery, Schlafly is the tops.
posted by hwyengr at 5:46 PM on June 22, 2008

I'm also from St. Louis, and Bud put me off of beer for years. Anything that Schlafly makes is good stuff, and you can find it in any grocery store.
posted by zsazsa at 5:47 PM on June 22, 2008

Redhook ESB from Seattle and NH . Bells Two Hearted from Kalamazoo. Saranac brews a few good ones, you can buy a six pack sampler of 6 different brews. New Castle. If you like things bitter, try your local browns and ESBs (extra special bitters). Avoid the cheap american rice brews. Their is not much flavor in any of that stuff. It's all marketed to college kids and people who never learned to like good beer.
posted by Phoenix42 at 5:47 PM on June 22, 2008

Seriously, most major advertised-on-TV brews in the US are just pee in a bottle.

Seriously. Stay away from them.

Lots of good advice here (and in the earlier thread LoMit linked to); I'll add that I didn't take beer seriously as a drink until I was introduced to the infinite variety of Belgian beer. Presumably there's a store with a wide selection somewhere in your fair city; try 'em till you learn what you like. And do come back and tell us. Skål!
posted by languagehat at 5:53 PM on June 22, 2008

Check this out.

Beer is like bread. It's best when it's not dirt cheap. My beer bread analogy is like this:

Lager : White Bread. Light flavor, easy to overindulge in.
IPA : Jewish Rye. The more pungent the better.
Ales, in the Bass and Newcastle neighborhood: Wheat Bread. Flavorful, warm, nutty and satisfying.
Stout: Chocolate Bread Pudding or Plum Cake. Heavy, rich and bittersweet.
Belgian Ale: Scones. Sweet, bright and delicate.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:53 PM on June 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

The best American beer I have ever tried is Samuel Adams, for what that's worth. Damn that's a nice drop.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:55 PM on June 22, 2008

Wow, deja vu. I also went a quite a while in my life without ever trying alcohol, and without any real objections to it -- my family didn't drink and I just never picked it up.

In general, all three categories (beer, wine, mixed drinks) can vary *enormously*. Different styles of beer are very different. My first alcoholic beverage was a Guinness, and I still love it. But if you don't like Guinness it doesn't mean that you don't like beer. Even a specific mixed drink (say, a Cosmopolitan) can go from horrific to wonderful depending on how it's made, etc. So try different things and don't dismiss anything too quickly.

If you like bitter, that's a basic characteristic of beer and you should be in good shape to try out a lot of good-quality beers. Try a stout, an IPA, a hefeweizen, etc., etc. On the wine front, try what your wife likes and talk with her about it and/or find a top-notch wine store and ask for recommendations. Mixed drinks are enormously variable, even within one specific drink. I always recommend making them yourself from a good cocktail book. You can use better ingredients, you know how the drink was made each time, and you can tweak it to your own taste (particularly in sweetness and alcoholic strength). Try some classics. Say Cosmopolitan for fruity/sweet/tart, Manhattan for a whiskey-based drink, Sazerac if you like black licorice, White Russian for creamy/smooth, etc, etc, etc. Or, again, try what your wife likes :).
posted by madmethods at 5:55 PM on June 22, 2008

I dunno, group. Beer is a pretty acquired taste and the odds of just plain not liking it are high.

Since CCWM says he likes bitter and such, why not go straight for a gin and tonic, a manhattan, or a whisk(e)y sour?
posted by rokusan at 5:59 PM on June 22, 2008

(I mean come on, a guy who bites into a lemon is BORN to drink gin!)
posted by rokusan at 6:01 PM on June 22, 2008

Get Thee to a Beer Festival! You just missed the St Louis Brew festival which was back in May. At a festival like this, you pay one price, and get to sample TONS of great beers!
posted by stew560 at 6:07 PM on June 22, 2008

Try everything and drink what you like, but never stop trying new stuff.

Nothing is more boring than a beer drinker who has fallen into drinking the same thing over and over again.

You may like Bud. You may drinking it regularly for three months and then decide you never want to drink it again. Ditto for every other beer out there. You tastes will change as you explore, that's a good thing!

Welcome brother.
*does secret fraternal beer drinking cult hand shake*
posted by wfrgms at 6:16 PM on June 22, 2008

As for beers...I'll reiterate the above suggestions to just try a whole bunch and decide for yourself what you like.

How about wine? Especially if your wife likes it, it might be fun for the two of you to start sharing a bottle. A nice red goes splenidly with meat and potatoes!
posted by emd3737 at 6:17 PM on June 22, 2008

People been going on quite excellently about beers.

You need to have the whiskey sour. Prepare simple syrup by dissolving one part sugar in one part boiling water. Let cool. The syrup may be stored in the refrigerator.

Squeeze some lemons. Mix 2 parts bourbon whiskey (you don't need to be too fancy for a mixed drink), 2 parts lemon juice, and 1 part simple syrup. Strain and enjoy.

You can buy simple syrup in the store but you'll pay dollars on the penny for your sugar water. You can buy sour mix in the store but it is crap.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:29 PM on June 22, 2008

No matter what kind you choose, make sure you have your first beer in a comedy club and repeatedly heckle the performer onstage. That way, he'll tell the crowd, "You'll have to excuse my friend -- it's his first beer." And then everyone will excuse your inexperience.

Incidentally, lemons are sour, not bitter. But if you do like bitterness, I'll second the recommendation of pale ales, which are, in the UK, called bitters.
posted by heffalump at 6:39 PM on June 22, 2008

I have introduced non beer drinkers to beer before. I have found that Newcastle Ale is a good starter beer for most, or Corona with a good size piece of lime in it. The hardcore beer drinker may scoff at the Corona, but most places will have it and its a good start for the noob.

I concur with the Whiskey Sour. Classic bar drink that is pretty drinkable for the uninitiated.

After dinner drink, get a cup of coffee with a shot of Bailey's. Not hard for the non-alcohol drinker to get used to.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 6:44 PM on June 22, 2008

If there's a good brew pub near you, they might have 2 oz beer tasters; great way to try lots of new beers.
posted by theora55 at 6:55 PM on June 22, 2008

If you're hunting import beers, I can save you some time. Skip the major label ones from Japan, China, and Italy that are available here. If they make anything good, we don't import it. I think Italy only makes beer as a side item to accommodate tourists who aren't wine drinkers. It's a halfhearted effort. Moretti and Peroni might as well be the same beer and are pretty much like the major American lite beers. Japan's Asahi, Kirin Ichiban, and Sapporo are much like major label American beers. China's Tsingtao is the same.

Stick to Europe in your hunt - northern, central, and eastern - and to the US and Australia, though Australian ones are harder to find here (Foster's doesn't count). I don't know anything about Scandinavia.

One more comment on major label American lagers. Michael Jackson (the beer critic, not the HEE-hee, charmoan) had this to say about them. "Once, judging American 'light' lagers, I asked a brewing scientist colleague what flavours we should be experiencing. 'None,' she answered brightly." I think it was also Michael Jackson who once said that Corona was the worst commercially-available beer in either the nation or world. I think you can get around this by just reclassifying Corona as some other kind of beverage than beer. Then it doesn't have to meet beer standards and can just be a fluid that is easy to drink and gives you a buzz after a while. Doing lime in it is fun. Could all just be branding brainwashing.

oh, also, I meant above, not beeradvisor, which is a brand site.
posted by Askr at 7:02 PM on June 22, 2008

beer capital of America. Yep, St Louis. Home of Bud

Dude. Not even. Beer god will wallop you if you spout that sort of thing.

Franziskaner is a good place to start. Has flavor, has bitterness, but not too bitter.

New Belgium Fat Tire is pretty OK too.

You want a good Pale Ale, I don't think Sierra Nevada can really be beat.
posted by bricoleur at 7:18 PM on June 22, 2008

Seconding They have this great page which helps you find the best brews in your area. I also recommend that you read about beer--how it's made, its history, etc. All that helps you at least respect what you're trying to choke down until you learn to love it.
posted by keith0718 at 7:20 PM on June 22, 2008

I'd suggest finding a bar whose focus is good beer and start there. They will get all the little stuff right: the proper serving temperature, clean tap lines, proper glassware, etc. The little things do make a difference. They'll also likely have a lot of stuff available, knowledgeable bartenders, and might let you taste a few different things to see what you like. I don't know St. Louis all that well, but I'm sure such a place is there somewhere.
posted by spilon at 7:26 PM on June 22, 2008

Yeah, looks like there's a few to choose from in St. Louis. Have fun!
posted by spilon at 7:28 PM on June 22, 2008

Find out if you have a liquor store near you that's willing to do mixed 6-packs - 6 different single bottles of beer for one price. That would be one way to try many beers. If you don't want to commit to 6 bottles, go to a brew pub and try 6 different styles. Make sure you have an IPA and a porter/stout in your list to get two ends of the spectrum. I've just gotten into beer in the last year or two, and I seek out brewpubs to expand my beer palate. For me, I have a sweet tooth, and I love dark dark beers and hate anything hoppy, especially IPAs (India Pale Ale). From your description of your tastes, I think you might really like IPAs.
posted by booksherpa at 7:46 PM on June 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah. Corona, especially with the lime, is a delicious beverage but not a delicious beer. Several beer drinkers in personal experience have agreed with me.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:49 PM on June 22, 2008

Gah, the heat of the day has fried my brain, and I even previewed. What I meant about brewpubs is that they typically have samplers of their own beers available, and it's a good way to determine what *types* of beer you like, even if you're not going to be able to walk out with a bottle of your favorite. Different brewpubs offer different samplers, but most will probably be somewhere around 4-6 beers, 4-6 oz pours, $7-8.
posted by booksherpa at 7:52 PM on June 22, 2008

I'm totally going to second rokusan. Gin and tonic, and at least get Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire. If you want to really do it up right I recommend No. 10 or Hendrick's. Herbs + bitter + sweet + sour + fizz = win!

A couple of people have also mentioned hefeweizen, unfiltered German wheat beer, the artisan bread of beers. That'd be my other weapon of choice for a new drinker. Rather than recommending a specific brew I'd say find one on tap and go nuts.

In St. Louis, Growler's Pub on Olive is top notch for beer (huge selection!) and scotch (if you really want to man it up). I'd be surprised if they didn't have a wheat beer on tap. Awesome food too.

I actually didn't like anything at Schlafly's. :( Most of their beers seemed kind of weaksauce.

Have fun!!
posted by mindsound at 7:54 PM on June 22, 2008

Brewpubs are your friend...they have lots of styles on draft. Fer shure, try Schlafly here in town. The Tap Room downtown has all of Schlafly's usual suspects, and a few weirdos on tap. There's also Square One in Lafayette Square, Trailhead in Old Town St. Charles, and, well, O'fallon Brewing doesn't have a pub or bottling retail shop, but many music venues carry their stuff on draft. The five-day IPA is bitter and very, VERY crisp on tap (not as much so in a bottle).

I think I smell a beer-gathering meetup. What part of town are you in?
posted by notsnot at 7:55 PM on June 22, 2008

Well hell if you're in St. Louis, head down to Schlafly's brew pub (Tap Room) or their brew house and try any of their beers. (You can also find it at the grocery store)

I don't live there anymore, but I always do some serious damage to some Schlafly six-packs when I come visit family.

They make a great Pale Ale and an even better Oatmeal Stout. But really, all their beers are great.

Seriously, leave the Bud to the frat boys and the ballparks. Enjoy the stuff that actually has a (good) taste.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 7:56 PM on June 22, 2008

You've gotten plenty of good beer advice, here are a few other drinks to check out:

---Jim Beam and water, room temperature, no ice

---martini, 32 degrees (ish) in a frosty glass ( a real martini - gin+vermouth+olive)

---A Manhattan is also delicious
posted by jockc at 8:00 PM on June 22, 2008

Response by poster: OP here - I live in Fenton but work downtown (drive right past AB everyday on 55). I've heard of some of the pubs mentioned here from co-workers.

I'm not interested in drunk, I just want to taste as many beers as I can. I'd actually like to be able to down a whole beer by July 4th. What a goal to have in life!
posted by catcatwomanman at 8:59 PM on June 22, 2008

You've already been given a lot of good recommendations for different drinks to try. I'd like to talk about technique and experience.

Beer: Do not sip beer. N00bs like to approach beer delicately and sip a little and swirl it around. This is NOT how beer is best enjoyed. Sipping gives it too much time on the tongue, and the bitter hops take over. Beer must be drunk down like water. Even good beer. Hell, ESPECIALLY good beer, since the flavors tend to be more intense. Being a red-blooded American, I like my beer very cold for the same reason, but hey, give both ways a try and see what you think.

Booze: Mixed drinks are incredibly easy to drink, so there's no technique involved. But if you decide to go for something a little stronger, like a martini or a good glass of scotch, you need to know something. Distilled spirits tend to put out fumes, which will irritate your throat. That's why people unfamiliar with whiskey and such tend to cough when they first try it. To enjoy a really hard cocktail, breathe in, drink, then breathe out, so the fumes go up and out instead of down into your lungs.

Now get to it! Your first ride on the Incredible Tilting Planet will be a memorable one.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 10:05 PM on June 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

A lot of people have said what I came in to say, so I'll just nth recommend northern European wheat beers - they were the first beers I ever drank (and geniunely like, too - I had barely tasted alcohol before I was 18 or so).
I'd also like to recommend Hoegaarden - a low-alcohol witbeir with a finish that reminds me of bubble gum (some of the BA reviews call it "lemon cake").
And if you ever head up to Madison, I'll buy you a Spotted Cow - it's a local brew, and I don't think I've ever met anyone that didn't like it, even people who weren't big on beer.
posted by queseyo at 11:24 PM on June 22, 2008

Totally agree with booksherpa. Go for the sampler option at your local brewpub and try six different types of beer in one sitting. It only adds up to a pint or so, so you won't be getting toasted. It's how I started learning about beer.
posted by waxpancake at 11:34 PM on June 22, 2008

In Australia, our cheap beer is a toxic brew called Victoria Bitter

Oh we loves our green medicine, green medicine, green medicine!
Oh we loves our green medicine, we drinks it on down!
It comes in a green can, a red can a blue can,
It comes in a yellow can but inside it's brown!

But I'm ready to start drinking! Where do I start?

With a really, really cold beer, after being outside for a few hours on a really, really hot day.

If you're going to try Aussie exports, steer well clear of Foster's. Foster's is what we ship offshore because no bastard is stupid enough to drink it here. Go for a Boag's as recommended upthread, or a Cascade Pale Ale, or a Cooper's. But not the Foster's. Really.

Also: when you get around to getting stuck into the reds, start with an at-least-half-decent cabernet sauvignon, and keep in mind that the purpose of wine is not to taste nice, but to taste complex and interesting. Moving your taste preferences away from nice will take a while, but is definitely worth doing.
posted by flabdablet at 5:48 AM on June 23, 2008

the first beer i liked was corona (with lime). wheat beers are a good suggestion too for a first timer (blue moon is the most widely available, i really like allagash white) and yuengling is a good day-to-day beer if you're looking for a more classic beer-taste that doesn't suck (and much more widely available on the east coast than previously suggested - it's on tap -everywhere- here in north carolina)
posted by noloveforned at 7:20 AM on June 23, 2008

The beer that taught me how to like beer was Coors Original. Coors Lite is CRAP. Stay away. Coors Original is still inexpensive, yet tolerable. Then, you can experiment with the more expensive craft beers.
posted by achmorrison at 8:24 AM on June 23, 2008

Don't be that guy (the guy with the goatee, striped shirt and the sandals). If you choose beer, drink Budweiser.

If you don't like the taste, go the opposite route and try Guinness.

If you are across the pond: Heineken, Moretti and Beck's will do just fine as a Bud substitute.
posted by Zambrano at 10:46 AM on June 23, 2008

Zambrano's advice is incorrect, except to some degree for the Guinness.

You are bad at trolling, Zambrano. There are several around here, such as Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America, who you should study and learn from.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:39 AM on June 23, 2008

I fondly remember my introduction to the pleasures of fermented hops and barley. I didn't always like the stuff. When I was younger, I didn't like beer at all. I'd have a sip of someone else's, occasionally, but I couldn't say I liked the taste.

In my early twenties, I played a fair amount of ultimate (ultimate "frisbee" if you must), and while carpooling to a tournament, my teammate Shane (newly from Ireland) bought some Guinness near our destination and, fine guy that he is, offered me some.

"No," I said, "I don't like beer--this is Guinness! Thick, dark, like coffee--heck, I don't like coffee either--I'm not going to like it! Thanks, but no thanks."

He persisted, and I eventually relented, mostly our of politeness. I took a sip--and I was hooked. So, thanks, Shane, wherever you are. There's a lot of good stuff out there.

Still don't care for the weak large US brews, though. Or coffee.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 12:11 PM on June 23, 2008

In case you try beer (and other stuff) and find out you don't like it... I've found that, for me, the truthful answer "I don't like the taste of alcoholic beverages" is enough to convince people that I am not a religious nut nor a recovering drunk (as you put it). And lots of folks like having me around as the permanent designated driver. ;-)
posted by aroberge at 4:14 PM on June 23, 2008

While we're on the topic of Budweiser, though, you might enjoy the beer made by the company from whom Budweiser stole their name. Czechvar, as it's called in the US, is light in a good way, and really tasty.

To be fair, Budweiser actually existed before this brewery, so to say Budweiser stole the name isn't quite correct.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:48 PM on June 23, 2008

It sounds like you enjoy pop/soda currently, so I would recommend mixing a bit of Coke/Pepsi with a simple Rum. Rum can be one of the least expensive liquors you can spend a small amount on and still get a quality product.

If you are used to pop/soda this might make a transition into liquor easier and more comfortable. The nice thing about trying this before beer, is that you can mix the drink to your taste buds until you get used to it.
posted by dpollitt at 1:23 PM on June 24, 2008

"In Australia, our cheap beer is a toxic brew called Victoria Bitter."

Ah, Vic isn't so bad, certainly not great but it's a fairly honest cheap beer.

I am guessing you're in the USA - I've just returned from there and was delighted with the range of quality beers available. Find some friends who know a good pub and try that if you're into beers.

I second the mixed drink idea, I enjoy a nice strong rum and coke on a Friday night - dark rum is very nice as a mixer too.

Also try cocktails, you might find a favourite but beware of the high alcohol content.

You will have to learn your limits, and your recovery from excess won't be nearly as easy as it would have been if you were in your early 20s.

If you want a quick alcohol high that goes away fast, drink a glass of champagne or two on an empty or nearly empty stomach. I call this the `wedding buzz' because I often get a big glass before they serve a meal at the reception, but 20 minutes later I feel sober.

I say get some friends who like a drink, get some snacks and buy a range of different beers, small bottles of alcohol and experiment. Avoid a hangover on your first go, if you get sick from alcohol you may never touch it again, your brain is wired to avoid toxins like that.
posted by tomble at 2:00 PM on June 25, 2008

If you're going to try Aussie exports, steer well clear of Foster's. Foster's is what we ship offshore because no bastard is stupid enough to drink it here. Go for a Boag's as recommended upthread, or a Cascade Pale Ale, or a Cooper's. But not the Foster's. Really.

Seconded, but you know what else is great? Toohey's Extra Dry Platinum. Not because it's particularly delicious but 6.5%, in an eight pack? That's a nice evening of getting fucked up. But then my favourite cheap domestic beer is Melbourne Bitter so I don't know shit.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:11 PM on June 29, 2008

Beer, since you like bitterish things, I'd say start with Sam Adam's variety of beers, Bass, if you are looking for a good all around American Beer, have a Miller "High Life" everyone else, don't laugh, that's my all time favorite.

Mixed drink, lazy weekend midafternoons, have a Tequila Sunrise.
Dinner drinks, have a Gin and Tonic. Not Soda, not juice, not seltzer. Tonic is the way to go.
Stay away form mixed drinks that have sweet or juice in them, they will dehydrate you.

If you want (more) hair on your chest, have Scotch. Too rough on a regular basis for me.
I stick with Brandys. Warm, not on a flame, though, just room temp. Go for Christian Brothers Brandy. They know whats up.

You can never go wrong with a dirty martini - dirty is the olive juice mixed in.

If at a typical Chilis or Applebees as for a Heffy (beer) or Pyramid (also beer) with an orange wedge. Nice. A bit heavy, but its, unfiltered Beerjuice :)

( light - as in richness, not caloric intake- beers, i don't really recommend - if you want to try, get a Budweiser on tap, or a Red Stripe bottle from Jamaica. As light as they get withoutn being called Lite beer)

Once you try a variety of drinks, you will find that you will have a steady group of favorites.
posted by rero92 at 3:16 AM on December 2, 2008

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