What Would You Give a New Craft Beer Drinker?
On Twitter the other week I asked people if they had a friend who was new to craft beer and you had to give them one beer in hopes of getting them to try other styles, what would you give them? There were some common answers but also some more out of the box ideas.
I should also note I added a stipulation on Twitter that you didn’t know your friends taste preferences and you weren’t going to ask them. Of course, know this is ridiculous because in any real scenario you’d talk to the person about what they like and don’t like and recommend an appropriate beer. It’s what makes craft beer and those that work in breweries and bars so awesome. There’s a craft beer out there for everyone, but have some fun with me and for now we don’t know anything.
What I Wouldn’t Give Them
Again, there are no wrong answers but here are few things that I would shy away from.
Anything Aggressively Hoppy
I got some responses for some West Coast IPAs and even some American IPAs that are known to be pretty hoppy. I’d avoid anything that is aggressively hoppy and bitter. We might love it because we’ve grown into the style having been drinking craft beer for however long. I’m guessing you didn’t jump right into a West Coast IPA – I know I didn’t.
These IPAs can be fantastic beers and I think our friend who’s new to craft beer might eventually get into, but for now I’m avoiding them. But I’d love to share with them a Bear Republic Racer 5 or a Two Hearted from Bell’s in the not so distant future.
You know and I know that dark beers are delicious and can actually be quite light in alcohol, but there’s a stigma we need to be mindful. How many people think Guinness is this overly heavy beer when it’s actually the same ABV as Bud Light?
There are so many great styles that are dark that I’d like to introduce our friend to in this fictional scenario. Brown Ales, Oatmeal Stouts, Barrel-Aged Stouts, and the list goes on and on but if we have someone who’s brand new to craft beer I want to give them something golden that won’t turn them off from the first moment.
In the responses, there were three beers that stood out. These are all great options and ones that I could definitely see getting people into craft beer but they weren’t what I was thinking.
Easily the most popular response and rightfully so. Many would call Allagash White the most iconic craft beer on the market and I wouldn’t disagree. Just before writing this I had two. It’s low ABV (why I’m able to write so well), notes of citrus, and a hint of spice and dryness that combined all work so well together.
There’s no good reason why not to give an Allagash White, but I have my thoughts on something else.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Another popular response and we’re getting closer to the beer I’m going to offer up. I like the idea of introducing a hoppy beer but one that is more subdued. Keep it lighter here and you can slowly introduce hoppier options based on the feedback you get. I think this is a great option and when I get to the beer I’d pick you’ll see why I think this route makes a lot of sense.
New Glarus Spotted Cow
For only being available in Wisconsin, it’s amazing the following this beer has. This Farmhouse Ale is iconic and is the beer most people open up immediately upon crossing the state line. I like this beer but I go for Moon Man or Two Women when I find myself in the Cheese Head state.
Spotted Cow would be a nice option because it’s very light and really highlights the role malt plays in beer and not just hops. I think anyone trying a craft beer for the first time would like Spotted Cow and probably want to go on and sample more from New Glarus.
Ok, time to get to my pick. I gave this some thought and I really took to heart the goal to get my friend to want to try other styles and evolve with their first sip. For my beer it would be a mass-produced Hazy IPA. The two that came to mind are Revolution Brewing Hazy Hero or Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing IPA.
Let me explain.
Hazy IPAs are the most popular style in craft beer right now. So there will be a lot for them to try. But I wanted to go with one that is more mass-produced to cut down on the aggressive hop notes that some of the smaller breweries make with their small-batch IPAs. Yes, those beers can be really good but it can be like going 0 to 100 with the style.
I actually had a couple of people tweet at me exactly what I was thinking too. Making me think I wasn’t absolutely nuts for my pick.
Hazy Hero still features those nice tropical fruit notes but there’s great balance in the hops without being over the top. It’s a very well-balanced beer and it opens the door up to so many other options.
If the feedback from Hazy Hero is that they like the hop bitterness we can start to go down the path of American IPAs and West Coast IPAs. Maybe they really dig those big fruity notes, say hello to HopButcher’s Tavern Cut or Alarmist Brewing’s Le Jus. If they like that fuller body that opens up the Milkshake IPA to see how they like introducing lactose into the IPA. Hazy Hero is a great barometer of what they might like in the future.
In the end, this was a fun question to pose and the responses were great. It actually was a positive experience on Beer Twitter which if you’re familiar isn’t always the case. If you do have a friend who’s interested in craft beer learn what they like and make some recommendations.
Today a Hazy IPA tomorrow a Brown Ale – I can only hope so.
What would you give someone for their first craft beer?
Wait, did someone just ask a question about craft beer and then determine the answer was “Hazy IPA”? I’m shocked! Shocked! Well, not that shocked.
I don’t think that style is anywhere near the right choice to get people to try more. Just because something isn’t bitter doesn’t mean the overwhelming hop presence wouldn’t be an instant turn off. I would go with something like Bierstadt Slow Pour Pils. Something accessible, that immediately shows how much a brewer can put into such a pale beer. Most non-craft drinkers are familiar with pale lagers, and don’t know what they’re missing. Show them. Without making them think they’re drinking a glass of bitter orange juice.