I consider myself an equal-opportunity drinker. Craft beer, wine, and spirits, I view them all as a way to enhance what you’re experiencing—whether it be the food that you’re eating, company that you’re keeping…you get my drift. Being able to hit Freddy Mercury’s high notes on any given karaoke night is an added bonus.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because craft beer, the industry I’ve been a part of for almost six wonderful years, can be just as intimidating as wine or spirits. The Brewers Association recognizes over 3,500 craft breweries currently in operation in the U.S. and another 1,500 are in planning. That’s a lot of beer for you to choose from.
So how do you figure out what’s right and what you like? Drink up. You won’t know until you give it the old college try. And, if you’re so inclined, follow these tips:
Know that every palate is different:
If you’ve ever been to a [insert libation here] tasting and been told what you should be smelling/tasting, I hope it was prefaced with a qualifier or two. That’s because we all experience aromas and flavors differently.
Swirl, sniff. Swirl, sip:
Any craft beer deserves the wine treatment. Pour it into a glass, swirl it around to release those aromas, and smell it. I do a quick drive-by sniff to get oriented and then stick my schnoz in for a good inhale. So much of what we taste is through our sense of smell, so get in there and get some good whiffs before you sip.
Stop and think:
Beer doesn’t have the stuffy stigmas of wine or spirits, but some of us are so used to downing a pint with a burger, we’re not thinking about what we’re drinking. As you’re trying a beer, take mental (or even written!) notes on what you like and what you don’t like. Then, pull said notes out next time you have a conversation with someone about what you should order or buy.
…Then eat and drink:
Instead of eating and drinking separately, do it and think about it together. With palate-cleansing carbonation (as opposed to palate-stripping acidity), the inherent qualities of beer make it better with food than wine and spirits. The best beer and food pairings bring out the best in both of what you’re eating and drinking, so eat, drink, and be (oh, so!) merry.
This article was originally published in our Fall 2015/Premier issue.