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A Guide To Beer for Non-Beer Drinkers

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All beer lovers no doubt have at least one friend who does not share their passion for fermented grain beverages. There are many reasons for this. Some do not drink (and while I can’t condone this reckless behavior, people are certainly free to choose), while others drink, but claim they “don’t like” beer. This is the group can be a tough nut to crack, and it is they who are the subject of this article.

Saying that you don’t like beer is akin to saying that you don’t like any white food. There are simply so many types out there, there is without a doubt one that fits your taste. The “I don’t like beer” crowd can be roughly divided into two groups (I’ve met many members of both). There are the people who don’t like the bitterness of beer, and the people whose only contact with beer has been the beer flavored water cranked out by the likes of Coors and Budweiser. There is some overlap between the groups, and I’ll address the latter first, since it’s the easiest.

This first group is generally very easy to convert, because they are simply ignorant. Mind you, they don’t like being told they are ignorant — very few people respond well to that. They must be gently shown how good beer can be.

Most often, their only experience with beer has been watching it poured into tubing at a frat party. They need only to be steered in the right direction to appreciate a good brew.

Often they drink wine (or perhaps they prefer cocktails), and can appreciate a good complex alcoholic beverage. If you or a friend falls into this crowd, it pays to have a tasting with several excellent, complex beers that are varied in style. Belgian beers in particular are valuable for this, since they are renowned for their interesting tastes and complex flavor profiles. Start with a small enough number that you can focus on individual beers, but a large enough sample to give an idea of the variety of beers available. Four or five should do the trick. Here’s an example of what I would go for.

1. A quintessential Belgian ale. Let’s say Chimay Red (Dubbel). This is a solid Trappist dubbel, and will show what I consider to be a quintessential Belgian beer. It is yeasty with interesting fruit esters, and is well balanced.

2. A good American beer-flavored beer. Give Anchor Steam a try. Anchor Steam, like the Big 3 American lager producers, has been around for a long time, and is fermented with lager yeast (though it isn’t a lager, per se). It is distinctly American, and is a very “beery” beer, with a biscuity malt flavor coupled with appropriate hop bitterness. If someone isn’t used to beer, they might not like this one, but at least it lets them know what good American beer tastes like.

3. A Lambic or Flemish Red Ale. These beers are fruity and sour, and will push the envelope of what many expect a beer to be. I like Rodenbach Grand Cru; Wine drinkers in particular will appreciate it. The complex flavors of sour cherry, oak, and malt will, at the very least, dispel their pre-conceived notions, and more often than not it will garner surprised praise.

4. A nice dark ale. Often, people who are used to American lager haven’t ever had stout or porter, and will be surprised how different ales and lagers can be. Samual Smith’s Taddy Porter is a good bet.

The other demographic of non-beer drinkers can be a tough nut to crack. These are people who are aware of the variety of beer out there but do not care for the taste. In my experience, these people don’t care for the bitterness imparted by hops (and in some cases, roasted grain), and so must become acclimated to hop bitterness. Have a tasting that focuses on beers that are heavy on the malted side, or use other flavoring ingredients than hops. Here are some ideas.

Lindeman’s (fruit lambic): I know, I know. This is the soda-pop of lambics – but that’s exactly why it will work. I’ve never known a member of the “I don’t like the taste of beer” crowd who didn’t like the taste of Lindeman’s fruit lambic. Make sure you get a fruit that they like, and watch the look on their face when they first try it. Lindeman’s sweetens their lambic, and so it is much more palatable to those who don’t enjoy bitter tastes.

Blue Moon or Hoegaarden Belgian White: Belgian Whites generally go pretty light on the hops, instead relying on orange-peel and coriander as flavoring agents. The grain bill is also light, so you don’t have to worry about bitter roasted malts scaring people away. Blue Moon and Hoegaarden are both pretty innocuous (Hoegaarden is better, but Blue Moon is easier to find), and can help to build up a base from which a novice beer-drinker can spring to more “beery” brews.

Spatin Optimator: Doppelbocks are notoriously balanced towards the malty side of things, and the Optimator is no exception. It is dark and sweet, and there are discernable caramel and toffee flavors, but as a lager it is light enough to not weigh you down. There is hardly any hop bitterness in this beer, which goes a long way towards appealing to those who don’t care for bitter flavors.

Pyramid Apricot Weizen: American Fruit Weizens are great beers for those who don’t like beer. The subtle fruit flavors are often compelling enough to make them want to try more, and weizen yeast ferments with banana and clove flavors, which can be a real draw (assuming, of course, that your target enjoys banana and clove flavors).

These are just a few examples of beers that go easy on the hops and can appeal to those who don’t care for beer. Once someone finds something that they like, you can suggest beers that are similar, but continue expand their tastes. I am firmly confident that there is a beer out there for every taste; you just have to find it.

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About njurkowski

  • Mike Roberts

    Nice article. I’ve tried a lot of different beers and never like any of them because of the bitterness. I know that it’s mostly the hops that I don’t like, but no one has ever pointed me toward anything that works. The Belgian beers are pretty good, but too fruity.

    Most beers taste like old swamp water.

    The Spatin Optimator sounds good.

  • Gray Hunter

    As far as Belgian beers, I always like Duvel. It is, in my homebrewer’s opinion, a quintessential Belgian strong ale.

    Sam Adams is also a good beer to break in new beer drinker’s with.

    Always remind people that while Blue Moon is a decent beer, it’s still brewed by … Coors. Ugh.

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Gray, Duvel is indeed one of the many great beers produced in Belgium but really ought to come with a warning; that stuff is lethal!

  • zingzing

    blue moon tastes like dirty bathwater. with orange!

    anchor steam is good, but the aftertaste lingers a bit longer than i like.

    you know, a lot of these beers linger just a bit too long… they go sour in your mouth.

    of course, i’m american, so of course i have no taste in beer, right chris? bubbly water, that’s what we make. gimme a pbr and shut up.

    nah. i like a lot of beers, but as i grow older, i find myself drawn to lagers and pilsners over the stuff that’s flavored-up too much. meh. wait. this list isn’t for me at all. i’m a beer drinker…

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    zing, I didn’t say Americans had no taste, I said American beers are crap. But yeah, bubbly water is what the mainstream US beers exactly are!

  • SFC SKI

    Christopher, I am with you 100% on comment #5. I am about to leave Germany for the US, I’ll probably stop drinking beer entirely.

    Sidenote, I went to Budowiece in the Czech Republic, home of the original Budweiser. If Americans only knew the truth, they’d overthrow the “King of Beers” in a heartbeat.

  • zingzing

    dood. have you had some of your shitty english beers? shitty beer is shitty beer, and everyone knows how to make it.

    while america does make some really good beers… and this is where i admit that european beers are better… i really don’t care for microbrews or all that fruity crap that passes for higher-end beer here. i can drink one with dinner, but for some good old drinking…

    oh! oh! a favorite of mine lately has been kronenburg or whatever! the french beer! F-R-E-N-C-H!

    i know you hate the french. ha!

    really, unless i’m just pissed off and want to drink myself to sleep, i usually just pick up a european lager or pils… because they are just better.

    sigh. europe 1, america 0.

  • zingzing

    oop-that last one was for chris.

    now for sfc ski… just so you know, we do get european beers here. so you can continue drinking. (we also get asian beers and mexican beers and all sorts of other beers. we don’t drink australian beers. piss water, that.)

    also, here’s a little known secret: we get the exported beer, which is generally of better quality. when i was in europe (way back in the 1900s,) i thought grolsch was shit. of course, in england and mainland europe, it WAS shit. over here, however, it’s a completely different beer. it’s fantastic!

  • SFC SKI

    Your beer theory might have a corollary in the in “Pizza Hut pizza is merely acceptable in the US, but overseas it’s damn good” principle.

    I know there are good imports available in the US, but you have to live in the right places, and you pay a premium price.

  • zingzing

    nah, not really. a good european beer costs about as much as a good american beer. and if you’re not living in a place where you can get a good beer… well, that’s pretty much buttfuck, alabama… well, then, you don’t deserve a good beer.

    here in seattle, a crap beer generally runs around $3 for a pint (at a bar). microbrews and imports are about $5-6. in the store, you can get crap for $6 per 6-pack. the good stuff (be it american or european) runs you $8-10.

    i used to live in the south, and there you just chop about a buck off any of those figures.

  • SFC SKI

    my last Stateside experience was out in BFE, this time around I’ll be a little closer to what I call “civilization”. Living in Europe has really spoiled me for choice when it comes to relaxation.

  • zingzing

    yeah, go to a city. i’m a little confused about your last sentence. in the right spots in america, you’re pretty much overloaded with choice when it comes to various ways to relax. well, i guess i’m reading “spend my leisure time” there, and that might not be what you mean.

    i don’t see why anyone would want to live in the sticks or in some backwards town… i mean, i’m not going to move to europe only to find myself in chernobyl.

  • http://savoreachglass.com Nick Jurkowski

    Great to see comments from so many beer drinkers.

    Though I have to say, the attitude towards American beers is slightly misplaced.

    Yes, Coors, Miller, and Bud are crap. They’re industrial beers that are brewed to historic American tastes, dating back to Prohibition when people just wanted fizzy water that would get you drunk. That being said, England produced Porter for a good part of the late 19th and early 20th century that was every bit as industrial and so bad that it drove people to stout. As zingzing said, you can find crap beer anywhere. However, The same definitely goes for good beer.

    Unlike wine, there is nothing intrinsically location specific to making beer. As long as you have the know-how, anyone can make great beer. It’s kind of a non sequitur to say you don’t like American microbrews – a well made American Bohemian Pilsner (Reality Czeck Pilsner, for example) will taste just as good as an authentic Bohemian Pils. You can find good American microbrews in any style (for the record, I’ve never had an American Fruit beer that I’ve liked, either).

    Anyway, International Beer Competition results have shown that American beers can compete quite well with their European counterparts. There are European beers I love (if God drinks beer, I’m pretty sure he drinks Duvel), but I really like to support local craft-breweries.

    Of course, that’s really easy in Seattle.

  • STM

    There are only two kinds of beer: Australian beer and cat’s piss.

  • STM

    And as a sop to “beer” drinkers in other parts of the world, I’ll put Foster’s (the abomination produced by the otherwise splendid Carlton and United Brewery in Melbourne) in the cat’s piss category. It’s up there with Bud and Coors, although at least it’s nearly 5 per cent alcohol, so after the first five beers you don’t know it’s crap.

    As an Aussie, I do know about beer … it’s our national dish.

  • sr

    A fine beer is like a fine lady or a great steak. You always remember the taste.

  • http://savoreachglass.com Nick Jurkowski

    Ha, yes.

    It turns out I was wrong. Anything that isn’t Australian is cat’s piss. And if that beer is Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, it comes out of a cat with rather dire urinary tract problems.

    Sorry STM, just giving you some shit – I probably shouldn’t comment after so many beers…

  • STM

    Zing: (we don’t drink australian beers. piss water, that.)

    One of these days, zing, if you ever meet up with a fair-dinkum aussie, saying stuff like that will make you a walk-up start candidate for an antipodean fist in the nostrils.

    They hurt more than most, and it’s why we don’t need guns :)

    As for the aussie beer you get in the US, it ain’t aussie beer. It’s got no fucking alcohol in in it for starters (local content starts around 5 per cent here), and since the whole raison d’etre of beer drinking is to get mightily and uproariously pissed (drunk), what’s the point of drinking something that requires you to consume enough to fill Sydney Harbour before you even get light-headed?

    And Nick, that bizarre-sounding beer you name? If it’s from the great southern land, I’ve never heard of it and I’ve lived here all me life.

  • http://goinglikesixty.com GoingLikeSixty

    sr: so you shove the bottle up her vajayjay first?

  • zingzing

    stm: “One of these days, zing, if you ever meet up with a fair-dinkum aussie, saying stuff like that will make you a walk-up start candidate for an antipodean fist in the nostrils.”

    i don’t doubt it. but aussies are pussies anyway. bring it on, you wank. ahem, p-thub. really, we just get fosters around here. and it’s 5% at least… you may be thinking of the midwest, where there is a 3.2% limit on what you can buy in the grocery store… but in most civilized portions of this great nation, we get the full alcohol content.

    i just wanted to get you involved. i really don’t know much about australian beer, so take my comment as a slap in the face, nothing more.

  • Silver Surfer

    Zing: Foster’s is made for the export lager market. Most sales are in the US and Britain.

    No one drinks it here, because it’s crap.

    It’s a bit like France. Most of the good French wines are in France. They only export the shitty stuff (the lolly water and the cheap vinegar).

    This place is awash in really, really good beer and I can pass judgment having travlled a fair bit over the years. As I say, it’s our national dish. You’d hope we’d be good at it.

    The thing is, the smaller Aussie brewers don’t export much draught beer because it’s too difficult, so you’re only ever getting a bit of the pre-packaged stuff anyhow (some of which IS really good).

    Just a tip zing: be careful being smart around Aussies, if you ever meet one. They tend to hit first and ask questions later, especially when it comes to discussions about beer and sport. Actually, that’s probably all they’ll talk about:)

  • zingzing

    “Just a tip zing: be careful being smart around Aussies, if you ever meet one.”

    oh, i’ve known several. and i do get smart around them. i enjoy a good confrontation. most i’ve known have been highly reasonable people. however, it is hard to respect someone with that ridiculous accent. :) then again, i suppose i’m the one with the accent, right?

  • sr

    Shame on you #19. Be respectful of the ladies and put a bar of soap in your mouth young man.

  • STM

    Zing: “then again, i suppose i’m the one with the accent, right?”

    That’s right Zing, we have a good snigger at Americans’ accents here. The general concesnsus is that most sound like two cats being strangled at the same time. I have an American mate, and he cops a shit load every time he opens his mouth. We do love him though, the poor thing.

  • Dr Dreadful

    My wife discovered Blue Moon a few months ago and now she won’t drink anything else. She can’t rest unless she knows it’s readily available. We were up at a tiny mountain town this week and she couldn’t sleep until we’d ascertained for sure that the local store had it. It is pretty good for being brewed by Coors, although I actually prefer it without the obligatory orange slice.

    My favorite, Newcastle Brown Ale, is readily available here, and it’s imported, so tastes exactly the same as in the UK. So I’m happy.

    It’s not true that all American beers are piss weak – just the ones from the major brewers. (It’s always amusing to watch big, macho, 250-pound frat guys down a couple of tiny cans of Bud Light and think they’re bladdered.) You can get some quite nice ones from the so-called ‘microbreweries': they are at least flavorful, although they do all tend to taste the same – as if they’re trying too hard to please everybody.

    Aussie beer (real Aussie beer) is pretty bloody good, especially the brews of a Mr J. Squire.

    But Stan, you’d better have Blue Moon down there or I’ll never get the missus to move…

  • zingzing

    “That’s right Zing, we have a good snigger at Americans’ accents here. The general concesnsus is that most sound like two cats being strangled at the same time.”

    good god. well, that explains why you like midnight oil so much.

  • ken

    like your enthusiasam on the subject,over here in england where we make real beer and not fizzy watwer(colt45)if you were to take a usa lager to a party.you would probly be asked if you could put it down by the kitchen door as they have lost the door stop,before being directed to the good beer in the fridge.

  • zingzing

    colt 45? oh boy. you ever drink that? it’s not something you want to taste, but it will FUCK YOU UP. that’s what that’s for.

    every country that makes beer makes good beer and bad beer. english beer, for the most part, is nothing to crow about compared to continental beers anyway…

  • sr

    Great beer is meaty. It’s a dinner. What do you think and would recommend. You make me hungry. A dark thick beer with suds and a fine salad with blue cheese.

  • Dr Dreadful

    zing, comparing British to mainland European beers is a bit like comparing elephants and telephones. British beers (bitters, porters, light ales and stouts) are brewed in a specifically British way which results in something quite different from what you’d find on the continent. Home-grown lagers and European-style beers are available, but they’re for the most part poor imitations and no-one knows why they exist.

    Dunno if you have BevMo up there in the PNW, but if you do, stop by one day and pick up one or two of those British beers with the delightfully knobbly names like Fiddler’s Elbow or Hobgoblin. They’re tasty, fun, and you can put the bottles on your mantelpiece afterwards.

  • zingzing

    no, no, dd… no putting beer bottles anywhere but in the trash (recycling!). i must admit i’m not much for the dark dark beers… they’re good with food now and again, but mostly just make me want to poop. that’s not always a good experience. sometimes, they can be quite useful as a laxative.

    bah. i was just being a bit defensive/offensive with my statement anyway. ken is, of course, in folly when he tries to compare colt 45 (which is a malt liquor) to english beer as much as i am comparing english beer to continental beers. colt 45 is a rather brilliant creation (much like crack cocaine) in that it is designed to knock you out in one shot. put one of them fuckers back and either your brain will tell you that you are dead or your body will act like it.

    british beers (not particularily english beers, but who’s saying anything about that) are generally quite different, as they never learned how to make a good lager or pilsner, which are the only things worth drinking in large quantities.

    i actually lived in canterbury for a year when i was 20ish. so, needless to say, i encountered your english culture, which is basically centered around booze and football with a dash of womanizing and getting into fights. i spent much quality time (and beyond) in plenty of english pubs and sampled every different kind of english beer i could find… for a while i was quite pleased with carlsburg, but then i found out that that wasn’t english… so i tried carling (which is, i believe, although i may be getting the two confused) and i had your hobgoblins and your fiddler’s and many more beyond. never did find an english beer to drink in quantity.

    then i went to belgium. and amsterdam. and prague. munich. that’s some good beer. just personal taste, i imagine.

    so… i guess i was trying to point out that you can’t take america’s worst and put it against england’s best and smile about it. it’s like beating up a 4 year old girl.

  • Dr Dreadful

    zing, I don’t think America’s (or anyone else’s) worst beers are even worth numbing our fingertips over. There is good American beer if you look for it – it’s just that to me it all seems much of a muchness.

    The best beers of France, Holland, Spain, Italy (ehh, actually not so much), the Czech Republic etc all have much to commend them, and they are all different.

    Belgium may be a front runner for the title of World’s Most Boring Country*, but it does redeem itself by making the world’s best chocolate and some of the world’s best beer.

    Germany also has fantastic beer – it damn well better because they sure as hell don’t know how to make wine. Liebfraumilch… God help us. My Dad swore by the stuff – goodness knows why, as to me it tastes like gasoline.

    Foraying randomly outside Europe**, India produces a lager called Cobra, which I suspect is spectacularly mediocre in the cold light of day. However, since I’ve never consumed it except late at night in conjunction with a good curry, I must recommend it highly with that caveat.

    Colt 45 and its ilk aren’t even beer.

    *As well as a strong contender for the breakaway World’s Most Boring Country Not Excluding Moldova trophy.

    **Although I suspect that secretly it’s actually brewed in Birmingham.

  • STM

    Pom beer is good beer, but it’s just different because it’s a different style (ales) to what I’m used to at least.

    Most Aussie beers are lagers or pilseners, with the odd pale ale thrown in for good measure.

    All are consumed CHILLED, which most Pom beers aren’t.

    And in regard to Colt 45 – in Australia, it would just be a standard strength beer.

    I know because I’ve been to the US, where no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get uproariously pissed (drunk) on American beer.

    The other side of the coin is that my American mate here ended up on his head on his first night out here because he was drinking beer, and didn’t realise how strong it was.

    Same goes for Pom beer. Drink too much, get conned by the idea that it’s just warm lolly water, and your knees will buckle after three quickly downed pints.

  • STM

    Also, I think we are all missing the point here.

    There is actually no such thing as a bad beer.

    Just different scales of good.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Not sure how long since you’ve been to the Old Country, Stan, but most British pubs now chill the beer they serve from the pumps – not much, but enough to take the edge off, improve the palatability and cut down on the bouncers’ wage bill.

    Just realized that in my last missive I didn’t even get started on Irish beers, which is a huge disservice because those boys really know their stuff. Guinness is OK but tastes different everywhere because it’s brewed in different places with ingredients and water from different sources. (The stuff from the original Dublin brewery isn’t even necessarily the best.) Harp is a good clean chug with a typically Irish kick. By far the best beer I found in Ireland is Kilkenny cream ale, one sip of which is enough to make you ‘accidentally’ sit on a bar stool covered in superglue. It’s not available in the US, and a bugger to find even in the UK, and I went six years without tasting a drop until I finally found some in (of all places) Buenos Aires. Aaahhh!

  • STM

    And I’ll throw in a few tips on Asian beers:

    My favourites.

    1) Tiger (Singapore, bloody excellent)

    2) Singha (Thailand, more of a German-style but super nice)

    3) Bintang (Indo, a couple of styles but much like Heineken, surprise, surprise … a little different though and perfect in such a hot climate)

    4) Sapporo/Kirin (both from Japan, similar in style, refreshing)

    5) I’ll throw this in. Don’t rate Tsingtao much, as you might as well just get yourself a Heiny, but it’s OK.

    Favourite Aussie beers: Cascade draught and Cooper’s Pale Ale. Don’t mind a XXXX (Four X) Draught off the wood either (wooden barrell), but it’s only available off the wood at The Breakfast Creek pub in Brisbane, and in the days when I did love a good beer, I’d be be buggered if I’d be travelling 1000 miles to Queensland just for a beer.

    Then again … it’s worth it if you’re up that way. Or DOWN that way for Poms and Yanks.

  • STM

    Ah yes, to be sure, Doc. I have tried the Kilkenny, and a fine thing it is too.

    On the Pom beers, it’s been a while. I went to The Punch and Judy (not far from Fleet St) one evening just after an afternoon power blackout and ordered a lager. It was summer, and the beer was almost hot despite them leaving it for half an hour on a “cold shelf”.

    I took a sip, then spat it out, thus forever cementing in the crowd’s mind stereotypes about Australians.

    I think I said something like, “Fuck me, this is hot. Lager’s supposed to be chilled, you silly pommy bastards.”

    The barman said: “It’s not our fault mate, there was a power outage”, and walked off.

  • Dr Dreadful

    All the Asian beers you mention I think are available here. Sapporo and Kirin are to be had at any teppanyaki place… and you need a few to wash down the vast quantities of food they throw your way. Tsingtao to my recollection is piss weak, like Bud. Sorry, comrades.

    As to your earlier contention that there’s no such thing as a bad beer: that’s true only if you don’t consider abominations like Bud/Miller/Coors Light to be beer…

  • Dr Dreadful

    I went to The Punch and Judy (not far from Fleet St)

    Seeing as how you’re a journalist, that statement shows how long it’s been since you’ve been in a British pub. Fleet Street? All the major dailies (thanks in no small measure to your compadre Rupert) moved to Docklands a decade or more ago… :-(

  • STM

    Yes, and ruined a whole industry tradition in the process (getting on the squart as much as possible).

    My favourite fair-dinkum Fleet St pub name: The Stab in the Back – the old Daily Mirror pub.

    Highly appropriate too. Pommy journos … sharks in cheap suits.

  • STM

    DD: The old Fleet St name, the Street of Ink, also highly appropriate given that printer’s ink (and therefore just ink … I bet the Yanks are losing me here) is rhyming slang for “drink”.

    A stab, BTW, as in the pub name, apparently is some kind of printer’s tool, according to those I encountered there (although I don’t remember much).

    However, I rather fancy it had more to do with the knives that were wielded around the place when people were trying to snare other people’s jobs.

  • STM

    Here you go Doc, an ode to the fallen (over). Nice to see the name Holborn on a map, too :)

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Whilst we’re talking great beers, I’ve got to give a shout out to Stella Artois, which is one of the world’s greatest mass produced lagers.

    You can’t get it in Spain and one of the things I intend to do as soon as possible next time I set foot in England is go to a pub and down a pint of it in one go.

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    There is at least one pretty good nominally English lager, Carlsberg Premier, although it a bit more creamy and thus a tad less refreshing than Stella Artois.

  • bliffle

    The essential purpose of beer is refreshment, and to that end it requires hops. With reduced hops or none, it is no longer beer. Hops are the most expensive ingredient in a beer, and that’s why the cheapass US beer companies (and mexican too) cut down on this essential ingredient to save money. Hops are a soporific, which helps you sleep well, so have one before you go to bed rather than wine or a (gasp!) cocktail. Naive people mistake the soporific quality of hops for high alcohol content, thus the apparent paradox of famously drunkifying euro beers having lower alcohol content than famous US pissbeers. Alcohol is way cheaper than hops.

    Beer without hops is something else. One would be better off drinking something like wine, which has a different purpose. Aside from wine, there are other alternatives that are good, and none of them are called ‘soda’, ‘coke’, ‘pepsi’, etc. Even non-alcohol beers are pretty good because they have hops but no alcohol. The only thing wrong with them is that you feel weirdly alert after consuming a couple.

    A refreshing alternative to beer is a glass of plain tap water with Roses Lime Juice added, or even better, the juice of half a lemon from the Meyer lemon tree in front of the house. It’s tasty, bitter and refreshing. Add a dash of Splenda to sweeten, and a couple ice cubes. Put it in your canteen for a long strenuous hike thru the mountains: nothing more refreshing.

    The best US beer is Anchor Steam Beer. In fact, Anchor is better than most European beers because of it’s high content of excellent hops. It’s basically a high quality lager that is not lagered, i.e., fermented at reduced temps for a longer time. The late Charles McCabe (the “Fearless Spectator” of the SF Chronicle) called it “heroically bad”, but he was, for once, wrong. Amateur brewers, and many pros, admire Anchor for it’s ultra clean taste, free of unwanted ‘skunky’ tastes, difficult to achieve in non-lagered non-top-fermenting brews.

    Guiness is an excellent refreshment, but not technically a beer, but a ‘milk stout’, so called for the use of lactose which survives the fermentation process to very slightly sweeten the end result.

    Bubbly fruit drinks are not beer. Ignore them in favor of the tap water plus lime or lemon juice refreshment. If you need alcohol add a drop of Evercleer, or it’s over-priced equivalent, vodka. A little gin is nice.

  • REMF

    Come on, everybody knows the best beer ever made was Burgie.

  • http://savoreachglass.com Nick Jurkowski

    Biffle –

    I respect your opinion about what is or is not good beer, but as far as the technical aspects, you’re pretty far off base. Beer was made for thousands of years without hops – hops have only been widespread in beer for the last 500. You may not like it, but beer without hops is still “technically” beer. Some beer, like certain light lagers, are not hoppy styles, and use only small amounts of certain hops (saaz or hallertauer, ofter) to subtly give hop flavors. Belgian beers often use similarly small amounts.

    You may be thinking of the Reinheitsgebot (Bavarian Purity Law) of 1516 which stipulates the ingredients in beer can only be barley, water, and hops. This is, however, only one German province’s view of what beer is, and many other countries have been brewing great beer (i.e. Belgium, England, Ireland, America) without the use of this standard.

    American macrobrews wouldn’t be able to claim they brewed under this criteria, but it wouldn’t be because of hops (which they add, even though it’s in small amounts) – it would be because they use rice and corn in their mashes.

    Also, Guinness (at least the Guinness that everyone thinks of) is not a sweet stout, but a dry irish stout. Any sweetness is the result of malt-hop balance. Guinness also makes a foreign export stout, but I do not believe they make a milk stout.

    Even if it were a sweet (milk) stout, it would still be beer.

    Good call on the Anchor Steam, though.

  • bliffle

    “Come on, everybody knows the best beer ever made was Burgie.”

    Not a good beer, but the Burgie Girl was gorgeous. And I dated her for a month. 25 years ago.

  • bliffle

    I do believe that archeologists have traced beer recipes back to the ancient Sumerians, something like 10,000 years ago. Beer recipes have been found in almost all cultures. Basically, that’s fermented silage (which explains why the cows were so happy in the spring when they got to the bottom of the silo, then rebelled with sour milk when put out to pasture on new green grass).

    Nevertheless, IMHO, fermented silage became beer when hops were added to combat spoilage and beerheads discovered that made it even more tasty.
    Thus was a great idea born.

  • bliffle

    When I was brewing for home consumption many years ago we exchanged recipes around the world (by snail mail; imagine! Now, I suppose, they use the lightning quick internet.) and duped various famous and tasty beers, sometimes even raising a yeast culture from an incompletely filtered sample. One of our targets was Guinness, which was like the Mt. Everest of home brewing. Usually we used a milk stout brew as base because a tiny amount of lactose was just right for properly subduing a too-bitter taste from all the bitters. YMMV.

    Have you ever duped a Guinness at home? Tell us the recipe, please.

  • zingzing

    stm, puffing himself up a bit: “And in regard to Colt 45 – in Australia, it would just be a standard strength beer.”

    ha! oh my. colt 45 isn’t beer. it’s malt liquor. if you tasted it, and got through a whole bottle, you were either completely wasted or you’re a total alcoholic.

    “The other side of the coin is that my American mate here ended up on his head on his first night out here because he was drinking beer, and didn’t realise how strong it was… Same goes for Pom beer.”

    funny. i went to england and drank plenty of english (and aussies) under the table. of course, i was right down there with them a little bit later, but meh.

    doc: “Tsingtao to my recollection is piss weak, like Bud.”

    that’s because it’s brewed by… anheiser busch! or however you spell that.

    “The old Fleet St name, the Street of Ink, also highly appropriate given that printer’s ink (and therefore just ink … I bet the Yanks are losing me here)”

    where? at the point where printers use ink? yes… america was founded after the invention of the computer… yes… what?

    chris: “Whilst we’re talking great beers, I’ve got to give a shout out to Stella Artois, which is one of the world’s greatest mass produced lagers.”

    seconded! wow. chris and i agree on something other than religion and ruvy-bashing. (ahem–anyone notice that u.s. beat brazil in the u-20? i’m sure you british subjects can find a way to turn that around.)

    bliffle: “The best US beer is Anchor Steam Beer.”

    they do make some fine beers. and they avoid the skunk AND the fruity shit that many u.s. microbrews pass off.

  • REMF

    “ha! oh my. colt 45 isn’t beer. it’s malt liquor. if you tasted it, and got through a whole bottle, you were either completely wasted or you’re a total alcoholic.”

    Yep, 30-years ago Colt .45 was my beer of choice when I could afford it (if not, Burgie, Great Falls Select or Buckhorn). A six-pack at the minimum, sometimes a twelver. And yes, I was an alcohlic.

  • zingzing

    i don’t know that it even comes in 6-packs anymore, just 24 or 40 oz bottles. deadly things.

  • http://savoreachglass.com Nick Jurkowski

    You’re certainly free to categorize beer as anything you want, Biffle, but it is important to note that for most of the world, beer is defined as a beverage made of fermented sugars derived primarily from starches. Other adjuncts, such as fruit, honey, or cane sugar can be used, and as long as they aren’t the dominant source of fermentable sugars, the beverage produced is still beer.

    You can’t simply take silage and expect to ferment it and get beer (you might get something fit for cows, but I wouldn’t call it beer). Malted grain is really the key, and to get that, you need an experienced maltster. Once you have the malted grain, you still have to put a lot of effort to converting the starches to fermentable sugars during the mashing process.

    For me, it is this malting and mashing process that really defines beer. Hops are certainly an important part of today’s beer, but it’s where the body of the beverage comes from that defines it, and for beer, that is the malted grain.

    As far as a Guinness clone, I’ve never formulated a recipe, but I’ve made a few dry Irish Stouts. The key is to get the right balance between the pale malt you use and the roasted barley that is at the heart of the style. Try maybe 8 lbs pale malt to 1 lb roasted barley. Throw in maybe a half pound or so of flaked barley, and use sparing hops (maybe Goldings, but don’t overhop it). This is off the top of my head, so I haven’t calculated the OG for this, but it should be pretty low.

    It’s also important to note that Dublin’s water is very hard, so if you have soft water, add some calcium carbonate to the mash. You can reculture yeast from bottles of Guinness, which I’ve never done, but supposedly gives good results. If you don’t want the effort, one of Wyeast’s Irish Ale or British Ale strains does a fine job, but it wouldn’t be as authentic as actual Guinness yeast.

  • sr

    THANKS ALL. WILL TRY MANY OF THEM. IT MAKES ME HUNGRY FOR VARIOUS BEERS AND RAW OYSTERS. ANYONE HAVE THOUGHTS ON WHAT THE BEST RAW OYSTER IS? I EAT RAW OYSTERS FROM FLORIDA. THINK THE BEST COME FROM THE PACIFIC. ALSO LIKE BELONS AND CHESAPEAKE BAY OYSTERS. ANYONE LIKE CRAWDADS, IF SO WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST?

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    I used to drink Colt 45 for fun once in a while back in the day but, if you really wanted to get slaughtered, Carlsberg Special, at around 7 or 8% alcohol was better! Two or three of them and then party on, dudes!! Happy days – if only I could remember them!!!

  • Dr Dreadful

    Anybody know where I can get a good Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster?

  • sr

    DONT FORGET RAW OYSTERS AND CRAWDADS.

  • STM

    Rosey: “Whilst we’re talking great beers, I’ve got to give a shout out to Stella Artois”.

    Seconded, again. There are Belgian Beer Bars here in Sydney where you get Stella and Oysters. Yum.

    Also, seconded on the Anchor Steam. That is a good US beer, and would hold its own stacked up against plenty of top beers from around the world.

    My beer of choice when I was in the US (well, at least until I’d had 10 and didn’t know any better).

  • Dr Dreadful

    I must dissent on the Stella (or is it just ‘Artois’ now?). There’s just something wrong about the way it tastes to me – never have been able to put my finger on it.

    I do give them kudos, though, for being one of the few companies to advertise on TV without insulting the consumer’s intelligence. They put out a series of French-language commercials a few years ago for the British market. I recall one particularly featuring two Wallonian soldiers returning from the Great War with tales of great heroism deserving of a Stella – jealously guarded by the patron, who is one of the soldiers’ fathers. Because I speak the language quite well, it took me a while to realize that the whole thing was in French, with no subtitles, dubbing or re-shooting in English. It was assumed that the viewer understood what was going on, either through the dialogue or from the way the story was shot and acted.

    Clever stuff.

  • Dr Dreadful

    And re #42:

    Damn you, Stan! You sure do know how to make a bloke homesick…

    [dials]

    “Hello, Virgin Atlantic? Get me on your next flight out of San Fran…”

  • sr

    Where are my oysters and crawdads?

  • http://LesPaulisanexcellentguitarplayerwithanadmirablegraspofgoodjazz. bliffle

    All the times I’ve heard the name, all the times I’ve seen their name on umbrellas at French cafes, all the times I’ve seen the bottles at a store, and I’ve never had a Stella Artois. But you guys have made me curious, so I’m going over RIGHT THIS MINUTE to get some and try it out!

    I’ll report later.

  • STM

    Bliff … you won’t be disappointed. It’s a nice beer.

  • http://LesPaulisanexcellentguitarplayerwithanadmirablegraspofgoodjazz. bliffle

    “Nice” is the operative term, so far. Had two and it doesn’t seem distinguished, so far.

  • STM

    I reckon it’s a nice beer to have on a hot day, sitting outside, eating oysters or seafood.

    Hopefully, blif, if you’re anything like me, after the fifth one you won’t give a shit anyway.

  • sr

    Oysters are seafood. Crawdads are freshwater. Nothing like a bunch of fresh boiled crawdads or live oysters on the half-shell with some lemon and hot sauce. Thats a real food orgasium. Of course a fine beer helps.

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Bliffle, I don’t know how they serve Stella where you are but it is best drunk from a pint glass so you can have a nice long chug.

    Stan, do you mean pints? If so indeed true nowadays, although in my beer drinking prime five pints was just getting started!

    Man, I’m gagging for one now!!

  • STM

    Pint glasses aren’t popular here Rosey, and there’s a reason: it’s a bloody hot place, and as the beer goes down it starts to get warm. (Not when I was drinking it, though, ’cause it never ‘ad a bloody chance).

    However, we do have large glasses known as schooners, which is a good way to drink Stella if you’re in an airconditioned bar.

    I do think it’s a good beer, but I’m not sure I’d drink it all the time. Cooper’s Ale is the go here for a special beer, especially at 6.8% alcohol volume, and it’s a bit cloudy as well. Yum …

  • STM

    BTW, Rosey … I will be on the Iberian Peninsula in late August/early September – Lisbon and Porto. Looking forward to it but, geez – the flying time: 30 hours all up. I’ll be totally rooted by the time I get there. That’s one of the few drawbacks of living on this continent: it’s just so far away from everything.

    Still, that can be good too. It discourages a lot of people from coming here :)

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Hey Stan,

    Yeah, I’d noticed you were off to Portugal. We’ve been there a couple of times and it’s great. Haven’t done Lisbon but Porto was brilliant; it’s all kind of run down but friendly enough. The language is well weird though, sounds like a delirious mixture of Spanish and Russian!

  • sr

    What do we have. Men that lack the balls to eat live oysters with beer or boil some live crawdads. Maybe you should shuck your women before you shuck the oyster.

  • Dr Dreadful

    sr, you sure do like your crawdads. Maybe you should vote for one for President next time up. As a write-in. You could be on the local news.

  • STM

    Yup, sr sure loves his vittles. It’s not all crawdads though … I believe possum’s on the menu as well.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Every time sr mentions crawdads, I hear accordion music and someone singing in Louisiana French…

  • STM

    I hear banjos and visualise sr using his 11th finger (the one on his hand) to get those strings a ‘strummin real good …

    Yee hah!

    I reckon sr would make a good Queenslander, Doc … what do you say?

  • http://friendmouse.blogspot.com/ Friend Mouse

    sr – you can get raw oysters, gigantic crawdads (we call them lobsters) and really great beer up here in Maine. Let me elaborate:

    Atlantic Brewing – located Bar Harbor: their Real Ale and their Coal Porter are outstanding

    Casco Bay Brewing – in Portland: their red ale is their best

    Geary’s – the oldest microbrewery East of the Rockies: their Pale Ale is a classic British Burton-on-Trent Ale and their Hampshire Special will set you on your ass quickly

    Gritty McDuff’s – get a pint of their Best Bitter on the engine (mmmmmmmmm)

    Shipyard – along with Geary’s, the most commercial and widespread of the local brewers

    Seadog – the Blonde Ale, Pale Ale and IPA are quite solid; the seasonal Hazelnut Porter is a treat

    Stone Coast – I’m partial to their ales because I’m in the mug club. Best brews: Redstone, the Alt and, on a really hot day, the Sunsplash Golden.

    Smaller craft brewers: Andrew’s Brewing (known for their porter), Freeport Brewing (a homebrew-style brown), Kennebec Brewing, Kennebec River Brewery (located next to excellent white water rafting in The Forks), Rocky Bay Brewing (true lagers), Sheepscot Bay (their Scottish ale, Pemaquid, is lovely with BBQ)

    The Maine Brewer’s Festival is in November and a great way to check out all the available beers. Get a designated driver tho’ – the local cops are on the prowl then for sure.

  • sr

    Friend Mouse. Thanks for the advice. Many years ago I lived in St.Louis Mo and Budwiser had a beer called Greasy Dick. No joke. They still sell it. No way could I walk into the local bar and ask for a Greasy Dick unless I lived in San Fran. Thanks, sr

  • beer lover

    Im sorry to all the ignorant people who think that all microbreweries make crap. Or that all american beer is weak and lame.

    Im surprised with all the talk of hops nobody here has mentioned the IPA style of beer. Which if you have ever tasted an American IPA you -KNOW- nobody can touch that style. The craft breweries/micro brewers in california and colorado make some of the the best beer I have ever had.

    Screw imports, I drink some of the most delicious beer here in colorado.

    My favorite beer is “Ruination” from Stone Brewing (out of San Diego CA). Its a “double” IPA. If you even think you like hops, you gotta try it.

    Also you want to talk alcohol content. Most beers from these companies in California and Colorado -START- at 7% its not uncommon to even have 9 or 10. We also dont drink six packs. “bombers” 22oz bottles are ideal, or a growler (1/2 gallon refillable jar) from a microbrew

  • Dr Dreadful

    Re #78: We don’t seem to have heard from SR lately. Of course, since he uses so many aliases it’s hard to be sure he’s not been around, but I hope the old reprobate’s OK. BC is a duller place without him.

  • STM

    He’s either in rehab, or getting that pesky 11th finger surgically removed.

    Either way, you’re right, we do miss ‘im

  • Dr Dreadful

    Or possibly he ODed on crawdads.

    The typical SR comment is the literary equivalent of walking up to the Queen, turning your back on her, dropping your trousers and farting loudly and ripely.

  • Mouse

    I have yet to try all beer, but from what I have tried, I don’t care for it too much. Give me whiskey, sweet red wine, hard apple cider, even vodka and sugar, and I’m good, but try go get me to drink crappy Budweiser or and I’m liable to force it down your throat. I’ll keep an open mind though on imports now.

  • Ben

    Ya I can say i didnt like beer before seeing IPA”s doesnt mean I am ignorant. You saying that means you are a ass sir I have never read anything so offending on the internet. This is the first comment i have written in 18 years on something this bad. Stop being a troll that writes reviews.

  • LordDrashanon .

    how about a beer for people who don’t like the bitterness, hate clove, and do not like citrus or acidic flavors? I don’t like wine; yes I have tried a variety and I had to add a tablespoon of sugar to a glass of Riesling just to choke it down. I don’t like most hard alcohols either and my favorite drink is a shot of good dark rum, a shot of butterscotch schnapps and 12 oz of root beer with no ice. the only reason I am interested in finding a beer that I can tolerate is that my friends like to go out and have been giving me a hard time about not going out with them and most bars do not carry root beer at all and those that do don’t carry butterscotch schnapps.

    • bob

      give up, go back to drinking sodas