Jun 23, 2018

Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 3, No. 14
Spreading the good beer gospel

Jan. 16, 2003

There are practical reasons to work on converting your friends into craft beer drinkers. First, the more customers there are for specialty beer the better the chance you'll find it more places. Second, you won't have to drink alone.


However, when you introduce friends unfamiliar with flavorful beer to your favorite beverage then you should consider what they are ready for. Perhaps they drink only light beer, perhaps only wine, perhaps only rum and coke. They might tell you they love the taste of beer but have tried only light American lagers. They might tell you they hate the taste of beer but have tried only light American lagers.

Think of it like fixing up a friend on a blind date. The match has a lot higher potential for success if you base it on his or her tastes rather than your own. With that rule in mind, here are five exercises that should smooth out the introduction to flavorful beer. Feel free to adapt them and allow them to inspire similar ideas.

What's not to like?
Start by finding out what your friend doesn't like about beer, and either prove there are better, similar beer flavors or offer an alternative. Is it the musty smell of cigars and stale beer remembered from Dad's basement poker games? Offer a fresh (but not too hoppy) pilsner. Is it the in-your-face hoppiness of another friend's homebrewed India Pale Ale? Consider something like a Bavarian weiss beer or a less extreme member of the pale ale family (Fuller's London Pride, for instance).

The beer shake
Thanks to Stephen Beaumont for this one. He creates a shake by mixing a robust beer with gourmet ice cream, for instance McEwan's Scotch Ale and a local vanilla ice cream. In this case, the rich caramel character of the beer perfectly complements the intense vanilla beans. No matter the pairing, the mixture is a great example of the role "mouthfeel" plays in beer.

The magic word is 'brew'
The coffee-beer crossover is so obvious that Redhook made a stout with Starbucks coffee, but you may still have to point that out to your friend who has grown used to the more intense flavors (and higher price) of gourmet coffees. A stout made with some black patent malt (providing a different sort of bitterness than hops) is a fine place to start. Also, consider introducing a latte drinker to the beer shake.

Perfect pairings
Ask your friend for some favorite dishes and find out what she or he usually drinks with them. Then serve one of those dishes, an appropriate beer and the usual drink together. The beer won't win every time, so it doesn't hurt if you pick a beer-friendly pairing. Some examples: fried seafood and pilsner, oysters and stout, pork rouladen and Vienna lager, or grilled vegetables and weiss beer.

The taste challenge
Use two similar beers. You'll have to gauge how intense their flavors should be. Maybe you'll pick two Oktoberfest beers (this works well with Spaten Ur-Märzen and Paulaner Oktoberfest), or perhaps two brown ales (try to find two hopped to the same level). Fill two small glasses with one beer, and pour the second beer into a third glass. You should know what is in each glass; your friend shouldn't. Ask him or her to pick out the beer that is different. (To be fair, you might then have the friend pour the beer and you see how you can do.) This exercise will get him or her focusing on the flavors. When you've done that, more often than not you have a convert.

Tasting notes

Stephen Beaumont recently tasted 1992 and 1994 vintages of Thomas Hardy Ale side-by-side. His notes on the former:

The 1992 vintage was testament to the difference a couple of years can make. Notably lighter in colour than its younger kin, the '92 had some notes of tanned leather and resinous herbs on the nose, along with fainter suggestions of raisin, chocolate and mint. The body showed some sweetness but was notably more complex than the '94, with bitter chocolate, dried fruit and earthy and herbal notes on display, along with some obvious alcohol. The finish held chocolate mint with warming alcohol. As good and well-developed as this beer tasted, I felt it could have easily taken some more age.

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