Very often in the Black Creek Brewery, we meet people who haven’t really tried craft beer “I’m not really sure what I like,” they say, in low tones. “It’s all so new to me.”
I can certainly sympathize with that! At some point, it’s new to all of us. And so, if you’re just starting out exploring craft brews, here are a few tips to help you feel at home.
I’m always so impressed when people who “aren’t sure about beer” join us for a sample. It takes courage! When you’re first starting out, try everything. In my early days learning about beer, I tried never to order the same beer twice. Sure, you’ll hit a dud from time to time, but you may also discover a wholly unexpected new favourite.
Mentally or physically: either way works. But if you find something you really like, take note of it! What style is it? Who brewed it? Try something similar and see if you like that, too. Slowly, you’ll start to build a personal database.
For instance, I’ve had enough pilsners to know that it’ll never be my favourite beer. On the other hand, Ed is well-acquainted with my documented love of stouts and ginger beers…
Read Reviews (with a grain of salt)
Sites like Untappd, Beer Advocate, and Rate Beer are wonderful sources of information. Not only do they provide vital stats for most beers (style, ABV, IBUs, etc.), they often have ratings and reviews as well. If you’re on the fence about a beer, it can be helpful to see what other people are saying.
That said, remember what we say in the Black Creek Brewery: “Beer is very personal.” It’s all right if you disagree with a review. In the end, your palate won’t lie to you.
Pay Attention to Tasting Notes
Reviews can be handy for tasting notes, though! At first, it can feel overwhelming: “How am I supposed to identify cinnamon in this Winter Ale? What undertones of fig and raisin? What do you mean by grassy hops?”
Tasting notes are your cheat sheet. They help you learn the language of flavours and aromas. Soon enough, you won’t need your friendly Beer Expert to point out the toasted grain flavours: you’ll be doing it on your own!
Practice, practice, practice*
Like anything else, beer gets easier with practice. You train your palate, you recognize individual breweries’ quirks, and you grow familiar with different styles. I can’t recommend flights enough. Not only can you try a range of beers, you can do so in moderation. 😉
Talk to People
Reviews are great, but it’s no match for actually talking to people. I’ve learned so much from Ed, and from chatting with other Beer Experts. So come try a sample at the Black Creek Brewery. Take brewery tours; ask for recommendations; chat with beer experts about their brews. Beer is a social beverage—there’s no need to go it alone!
And of course, above all else…
Have fun and be safe.
To Queen and Country!