Looking to get into craft beer but don’t know where to start? Here are three easy do’s and don’ts for novice beer drinkers from a bartender’s perspective. I’m sharing my best tips for when ordering at the bar to ensure you don’t look like a total noob or snob.
“I’ll take whatever has the highest ABV.”
Don’t judge a beer by its alcohol content. I personally get bummed out when someone pours over the beer selection at the craft beer bar I work at and simply says, “Give me whatever is gonna get me drunk the fastest.” Beer enthusiasts enjoy the craft mostly for its variety, the array of flavors, and the camaraderie. The buzz shouldn’t be the primary objective.
“So the samples are free?!”
Try, try, and try again. Honestly, as your bartender I want you to be happy with the beer you get, and I’m always glad to give you samples before you commit to something. But if you’re just going to ask for a taste of this, a taste of that, and oh—how ‘bout one of those too, and then end up defaulting to whatever cheap light beer is on special order, maybe consider ordering a flight (i.e., a beer sampler) instead. Flights are a lot of fun, not to mention a much smaller commitment than a 16 oz pour, and you’ll be able to sample different flavors to find something you like. Don’t forget to take notes or download Untappd to record what you thought of each beer! If you decide on a flight, ask your bartender what order they recommend trying the beers in as well. Some beers (I’m looking at you, sours and imperial IPAs) can wreck your palate, throwing off the flavor of anything you try after.
“This beer menu sucks.”
Beer is more than just a fizzy acquired taste. Trust me, I get it. I was once a craft beer noob who made weird faces any time I tried something even slightly hoppy or dark. So when you go to a bar and realize you don’t recognize a single beer on the menu, know it happens to the best of us, and don’t panic. Take a deep breath and trust your bartender. If they’re anything like me they are going to be absolutely thrilled at the idea of finding a beer for you and helping to expand your beer tastes. It’s actually one of my favorite hobbies.
Just be sure to help them to help you by being clear about the flavors you do or do not like. Try not to say broad statements like “I don’t like hops, I don’t like dark beers.” Instead, say whether you like sweet or dry drinks, chocolatey or smokey, sour or tart, light or heavy, fruity or earthy. Pretty much any direction you can think of will help your bartender when choosing a beer you’ll love. If you’re a cocktail fan, mention your favorite beverages to give your bartender a clearer idea about where your palate’s at. You’d be surprised at how many beers have comparable aspects to other popular types of beverages.
If you’re on the fringe, or want to dip your toes in the water, consider joining BDC’s Universal Mug Club. Currently, it’s centralized primarily in Michigan. So, if you’re in the neighborhood, it will give you an awesome opportunity to feel like you’re one of the gang while you’re brushing up on the craft. Otherwise, join any number of Facebook groups local to you and learn from those who may have a couple years of experience on you. If all else fails, ask the person sitting next to you at the bar what they’re drinking and why they dig it. It could be your next favorite thing, and they could be your new best friend.
Join the Universal Mug Club for $5/month or $50 for a year and enjoy membership perks on craft beer at our supporting establishments.
About the Author
Chelsey is a Craft Beer Enthusiast who loves adventures, Star Wars, the San Jose Sharks and her cat, Torpedo. Recently engaged to her best friend and fellow Craft Beer lover. She loves brewing and drinking beer as well as sharing her passion with others.