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.