We all have favorite beers and beers that got us into craft. But what are the beers you would serve to a craft-curious friend who’s ready to take the plunge? This week, members of the Fervent Few tell us about the four beverages they’d serve in a first timer’s flight.
Manny Gumina: “1. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: Hoppy, but approachable and quaffable.
2. Samuel Adams Boston Lager: A Lager that's crisp with a nice hop character and a full body. Perfect compare and contrast to macro Lager.
3. Guinness: Proof that dark beer doesn't have to be heavy. I still find people who say Guinness is dark and heavy without trying it.
4. Saison Dupont: Approachable, yet so much different than the typical thought of ‘beer.’ It opens people up to slightly ‘off flavors’ derived from high fermentation temps while being tame in that area compared to many of the beers on offer today.”
Bryan Arndt: “I usually try to suggest beers based on flavors that people already enjoy and are familiar with. In addition, I try to introduce them to options that are readily available since they’ll probably want to seek it out again if they enjoy it. If they prefer fruity flavors or white wine, Goose Island Sofie is a great choice. Bell’s Two Hearted is a great option for fruity with a touch of bitterness. If they like coffee or chocolate, Bourbon County is a great option for showcasing those flavors in a unique offering with a compelling story. If all else fails, I’ve had a lot of success with a great crowd pleaser like New Glarus Spotted Cow. It’s simple with nuance, and has a little something for everyone.”
Rob Cartwright: “1. Victory Prima Pils: Assuming they already like Lagers, this is a gentle way to nudge them into more hoppy terrain. Easy to drink, but with more flavor than they’re probably used to finding in a beer.
2. Left Hand Milk Stout: Everyone who has ever pretended to be Irish on March 17 has downed a Guinness, but many probably weren’t impressed enough to order one the next time they went to the pub. This milk Stout is just sweet enough that it can be a gateway into the wonderful world of Stouts (of which I believe Guinness is a big part of).
3. Dale’s Pale Ale: Assuming the Prima Pils went over OK, it’s time to move up the hop ladder. Dale’s provides plenty of malt to soothe the transition, but enough bitterness to let you know you’re into a new style of beer.
4. SeaQuench Ale: In the spirit of providing our friend with a wide variety of choices, I’d include SeaQuench. Not my usual cup of tea, but it’s tart and refreshing enough to make that category look interesting and provide an additional view into all that beer can be.”
Brandon Morreale: “My dad’s a Bud Light and Bud Light Lime drinker almost exclusively, so I deal with this on an almost constant basis. Luckily he’s always been happy to accompany me to a new brewery and get a flight or try whatever’s in my fridge (because I ain’t stocking Bud Light for any reason). Which means I’m generally offering beers that show off flavor and quality rather than going straight to hops.
1. Central State Table: Light and crisp with some sweetness and a detectable amount of funk. To me, there’s not much in it that may turn someone off, but it does present flavors most aren’t expecting, and because nothing is front and center it allows you to absorb it in your own way.
2. Allagash White: It’s a classic Belgian Witbier. Sweeter, with a fuller body and a more robust mouthfeel. Unlike Table, White is very forward with it’s flavor: heavy on the orange peel and coriander, with a considerable amount of bread-y yeast. It’s more accessible than Table, but has more classic Belgian characteristics.
3. Wicked Weed Red Angel: It’s like drinking straight up raspberry puree, ain’t nobody got a problem with that. Fruited sours may not necessarily be a gateway to heavy hop profiles, but they’re a section of beer styles that I’ve found the most success introducing to new craft drinkers.
4. Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout: At this point all bets are off, I’m in my cellar and I’m swinging for the fences. If I’m going to get someone to enjoy a big, robust, 10% barrel-aged Stout I need to make sure all the flavors play well together, and I think of all the BCBS beers, coffee is the most well rounded. Punchy, with a bitter, coffee-forward profile and balanced enough to hide the bourbon heat. To me, it’s the quintessential coffee beer that tastes of fresh coffee rather than the stale coffee ‘essence’ I get from most coffee Stouts.
Runners up: Saison Dupont, Jester King Foudreweizen, Surly Coffee Bender, Boulevard Tank 7, Jolly Pumpkin Weizenbam, 5 Rabbit 5 Lizard”
Rob Steuart: “I made my way into craft the ‘old’ way. Went from macro domestic Aussie Lager to euro Pils, german variants (Weizen, Dunkel etc.), Belgians (Blondes, Dubbel, Tripel, Saison), sours, and hops. I think that way is still the best, as it allows for appreciation of the different elements that give rise to to the variations within beer styles. My four would follow the same path, except for the first, where I would go for an easier transition beer, the Pacific Ale:
1. Stone and Wood Pacific Ale: Light malt, tropical hops, low bitterness and highly accessible throughout Australia.
2. Weheinstephaner Korbinian Doppelbok: Shows the darker malts with a Lager-ish background and higher ABV.
3. Saison Dupont: Really highlights the yeast-driven flavors that are possible, but maintains the familiar light malt, low bitterness background.
4. Nail VPA: This is a West Coast of Australia special. Pale malt, slightly sweet, big tropical hops, higher bitterness and higher ABV. It's an amped up Pacific Ale: big, balanced and crushable.”
John Gross: “Scooting away from styles and specific brands, I’d lean heavy into the story aspect of beer as a hook in to the wider world of what’s out there. With the number of breweries there are, I’d start this imaginary friend off with something close to their part of town. Sell them on the local aspect and point out the tastiness that it being crafted in their zip code. That’s something to be proud of!
The personality behind the local brand can often resonate as well. Anything from a pretty label, to lore about the mom and pop owners, etc. can snag attention and earn buy-in. When a style from that brewery resonates and tickles their taste buds, you could expand out from there with other similar mainstays in that category. Oh, you dug the local juice bomb? Now you gotta try this other NE IPA jam!
Are they traveling anywhere soon? Prepare this hypothetical friend for what to look at their destination in terms of breweries. Share your excitement (IE: jealousy) of the beers that they’ll be around that you won’t be able to get back on the homefront!
Share a beer that’s been in your fridge on the reg as a go-to for you. Explain why and speak honestly about why ya dig it. Something cool about the ingredients? Something cool about the process? Something cool about the story of the goofy name? Let them in on why you are feeling it and why you keep coming back to it.
Conversely, have you been saving a special beer to enjoy with others? Nothing’s more friendly than to pop that sucka open to share it with this friend. Explain what you are smelling, seeing, tasting, and your thoughts on it. Where did it come from, how did you get it, what does it remind you of? Imagine how great it would be if their gateway beer they look back on in years was something dope from your cellar and that you were there to clink glasses with them as they caught the bug. That’s a story!
The craft world doesn’t have to be all intimidating—folks might just need someone to help dip their toes in to help them get their bearings.”
What about you? Do you have a flight of beers you would serve to someone looking to explore the craft world? Let us know by joining the Fervent Few and help support all the Good Beer Hunting content you love!