How To Match a Friend with the Perfect Beer

You know they’re made for each other: how do you bring them together?

Scene at a brewpub: A group of friends gathers on a Friday afternoon after work. Many are wearing beer-related T-shirts and most seem to know the beer lineup well. They tend to order the darkest and hoppiest beers on the menu. One member of the group has a Bud Light in his hand.

A few minutes later, the brewpub owner stops by the table with a small taster of kölsch and hands it to the Bud Light drinker.

Does this story end with our drinker stepping up to more flavorful specialty beer? Perhaps even having an IPA or Imperial stout with his buddies? That we don’t know. But the chances seem better now that he has had a craft beer he was ready for as opposed to trying to start with something from Hopland.

If you want to introduce friends unfamiliar with flavorful beer to your favorite beverage, then you should first consider what they have experienced. Perhaps they drink only light beer, wine, or rum and coke. They might tell you that 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 your friend’s 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 writer 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 that “mouthfeel” plays in beer.

Brews all day long. 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 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 about some favorite dishes and find out what she or he usually drinks with them. Then serve one of those dishes along with an appropriate beer and the usual drink. 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 roulade 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.

—Stan Hieronymus

Post time: Aug-26-2019

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