This guest post comes to us from a local guy, Aaron Koenigseker, who we’ve seen around at all the local watering holes, and was super excited to write something for us! Look for more from him in the future! You might recognize some of the photos from our past articles!
One of the most pleasurable things about being a craft beer drinker – other than actually drinking a finely crafted brew – is when you bring someone in from the cold, cruel world of tasteless macrobrews into your warm, embracing world of artistic, delicious and ultimately better drinking experiences. I would compare it to an art teacher seeing the flash of insight in a student’s eyes when seeing a Monet for the first time, or a musician watching their crowd come to life during a set feeling the same. But how to do this successfully without coming off as pretentious or snobbish?
Know your audience.
There are many types of ‘beer virgins’, ranging from the die-hard macro drinker to the cautiously curious to the simply uniformed. Trying to break a die-hard macro drinker is extremely difficult and may not be worth your while (but bonus points if you pull it off). The rest often do not drink craft beers because they have bought into the many misconceptions or may be intimidated by the vast amount of selections, styles and even appearances. Once you have determined who it is you are working with, you can plan your strategy with these effective tools shared by some friends and fellow brew lovers:
Know your stuff.
Knowing your beer styles, the history, the brewing process and many of the myths is a great way to educate new drinkers without being pretentious or demeaning. One of my favorite myths is that all dark beers are heavy and are high in alcohol. Informing your friend that this is not true – the color is typically a byproduct of the malting process and in no way indicative of mouthfeel or ABV – in a kind and informative way could go a long way in breaking down any prejudices they may have and open them up to trying a new style, like a dunkelweizen or black lager. The more you know, the more you can pass on your passion and love of good brews which can make them curious and more willing to try new drinks.
Use familiar tastes.
Another tactic is to ask them what kinds of foods or even wines they like and attempt to pair a beer selection to that. Do they love heavy reds and chocolates? Suggest a nice barrel-aged or breakfast stout. More into spicy foods? Perhaps a hoppy IPA or a kolsch may be more to their liking. If you are eating a meal, choose a beer for them that complements their course and you are on your way to a new convert.
I personally loosely rank beer by levels of complexity: beginner, moderate and advanced or complex – feel free to choose your own categories. This helps you to avoid allowing a virgin’s first craft beer to be something very unexpected and perhaps losing them forever – a lifetime macrobrew drinker may not be ready for a oude gueuze or barleywine. Try them out on a Mexican lager, a malty amber or a crisp red and then work up from there.
Book a flight.
And last in our list, perhaps the greatest tool in any craft beer crusader’s arsenal: the flight. You would be hard pressed to find a brewery or taproom that does not offer flights or at least tasters which is a wonderful way to not only offer an array of flavors, but also mouthfeel, color, aromas and styles in one place at minimal cost. Most establishments will put together a great selection for you or allow you to select your own and once your apprentice finds one they like, bring on the pints.
I had my first craft beer in 1994 in a taproom in Tacoma, Washington when, after confronted with frightening pitchers of black, brown and hazy brews at our table, I asked the patient bartender for a drink. After asking me what I normally drank and seeing that I was a ‘beer virgin’, poured me a delicious, mild but still energetic local Duffy’s Amber. I still remember the taste of that beer and have not looked back since. I never had the chance to thank my personal crusader, but maybe by helping others find their way, my debt is paid.