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.