So, if you ignore the wanky title (we’re all still beginners in this big bad beery world), the contributors to MFBR have put their heads together to offer a few tips if you’re planning on leaving behind the world of pisswater and joining the infinite flavour galaxy that is craft beer & real ale. Having gone through several experiences of older gentlemen harassing me in pubs, telling me I wouldn’t know a good beer if I tried it (mainly because I was ordering something other than the Ruddles in front of them) I know that your first foray into the ‘scene’ can be a bit daunting, especially with so many beers to choose from. Unlike one beer with several names if you want lager (sorry, couldn’t resist..!). So here we go, a few Craft Beer for the Beginner tips:
- Figure out what you like first. My tastes evolved, from the trusty Newkie Brown to the darker, smokier beers (with a biased stop off at IPAs). I couldn’t immediately appreciate the dryness of dark beers. It takes time. With real ale there are so many flavours to explore and if you’re just getting into it you’re starting at a great time. The prevalence has grown massively so nip into your local supermarket and find a couple that you like the look of. If you’re in the pub and want to give it a go ask for the tasting notes of what’s on tap and ask for a taster!
- Try, try, try. Keep trying. It’s like cheese – you will find something you enjoy. And smell it. I know, sounds weird, but smell it before you drink it.
- If you’re a lager drinker, go for the lighter beers first, some blondes or pales. Ghost Ship started this whole journey and I am yet to come across someone who passionately dislikes it.
- Get to a beer festival. There’s no better place to see what kind of thing is on offer than a beer festival. They’re not that expensive to get into and usually you will pay less for a pint there than a pub. Don’t drink pints though, get thirds or halves, they’ll last longer and you’ll get to try more. Remember, this is real beer, not lager lout stuff.
- Ask someone who knows. Chances are a friend, relative or barman will be able to suggest something they think you might like. Soon enough, they’ll be asking you. (Or hit us up on Twitter, it’ll make us feel popular AND we might be able to help!)
Girl Alex’s tips
- There are no rules! And don’t listen to anyone who says there are. You can take, deal, and enjoy a beer as you see fit.
- Forums are good for advice, tips and different points of view if you can’t find anyone out at the pub to discuss beers with. If you’re opinionated and/or are into mass discussions forums will satisfy your needs all from the comfort of your own home.
- So many places are going crazy for craft beer and real ales at the moment. If you’d like to do something a little more adventurous other than sit in a pub, there are plenty of beer themed events such as pedibussing, biking pub crawls (but not near roads please) or beer floating etc. You can find events all over the Internet – sometimes Timeout has some good suggestions.
- Beer isn’t just for drinking straight. What else can you do with a beer? Try cooking with it or making beer cocktails. Be experimental!
- And lastly, have fun! Don’t take real ale too seriously. There is no need and you’ll most probably enjoy it more if you don’t.
- Don’t be put off if you don’t like the first ale you try. Ale’s can differ significantly in their taste from one another, especially when considering all the different types you may come across, so it’s possible that you may not enjoy the first ale you choose. However, don’t give up after one assuming that ales are not for you as the brilliant thing about them is the diversity. I’ve had ales that I don’t enjoy, but I’ve had far more that I’ve absolutely loved. One bad ale should not rule out the rest!
- Try before you buy. A lot of people are put off trying ales because they don’t want to be stuck with a pint of something they might not like. The solution? Ask the barman if you can try the ale before committing to a pint of it. Any bar will be happy to pour you a little taster, as long as you don’t ask for a pints worth of tasters afterwards.
- Don’t worry about being different. When going to the pub with a group of mates I feel a lot of people just follow suit and stick to lager rather than being the only person to try a switch to ale. Perhaps after 4 consecutive orders of Fosters you feel somewhat apprehensive about declaring in public that you’d like to try a Bishop’s Finger, leaving yourself open to crude and predictable ridicule. But just go for what you want, try something different and encourage your friends to do the same every now and then.
- Half pints ease the transition. If you’re used to lager, you may find ales a bit heavier and difficult to drink in large quantities at first. To begin with, drink half pints and then as you become more familiar and discover ales you like you can take on a full manly pint.
- Read reviews. Not just shameful self-promotion but reading reviews allows you discover a huge range of ales and to find out if a particular ale sounds like one you’d like to try. Plus, if it’s an ale you already know that you like, you can use the tabs to search for similar ales that you’re likely to enjoy too!
So basically the best way we think to approach craft beer for the beginner is to do three main things; give it a go, keep trying and have a bit of fun. There’s no need to be intimidated – and if those tips weren’t enough, Hobgoblin sets a decent challenge…