A virtual tasting for beer-beginners

Ver­sión en español

Delir­i­um, over at “De Cervezas y otras cosas”, has set a very inter­est­ing top­ic for this mon­th’s “round” (the Ses­sion for Span­ish-speak­ing beer-blog­gers). It was so thought-pro­vok­ing that we thought we’d post it in Eng­lish as well.

The chal­lenge was to come up with a “vir­tu­al” tast­ing ses­sion aimed at peo­ple who are not beer lovers. We had to pick between five and eight beers that we would put for­ward, avoid­ing obscure micro­brew­eries, and explain why we’d select­ed them.

We like to beer­van­ge­lise from time to time, so it’s a ques­tion we’ve thought about a lot in the past. After much pon­der­ing, we final­ly came up with some def­i­nite pro­pos­als, which we put for­ward here.

When decid­ing what to include, we want­ed to present a wide range of styles, so that the beer novice would be suit­ably impressed by the vari­ety avail­able. At the same time, the beers have to be acces­si­ble – so no Rauch­bier or Flan­ders Reds… Also, in keep­ing with the spir­it of the ques­tion, we’ve not spec­i­fied any cask ale in this list, giv­en its lim­it­ed avail­abil­i­ty out­side the UK.

This list is not “our favourite beers”, although we’d hap­pi­ly drink all of them.

Hoe­gaar­den, 5%

Many claim that this recipe has been dumb­ed down. We still think it’s a fine drink, refresh­ing and spicy. It’s on this list because we’ve suc­cess­ful­ly tried it on peo­ple who don’t real­ly drink beer at all, and it’s gen­er­al­ly gone down well because of its unusu­al flavour. Of course, oth­er wits would do the same job – one of our favourites is St Bernar­dus Wit – but Hoe­gaar­den is much more wide­ly avail­able, so bet­ter suits the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of this chal­lenge.

Brook­lyn Lager, 5.2%

We’ve post­ed of our love of this before. This is one to give the “pre­mi­um-lager” lovers to blow their minds. Ale fans will also find plen­ty to appre­ci­ate with its full malt flavour and tan­gi­ble hops. It’s just a beau­ti­ful, well-craft­ed beer.

St Austell, “Prop­er Job” IPA, 5.5%

Lots of peo­ple think that British ale has to be brown and flat. This beer is for them. It’s a love­ly pale brew that sparkles in the glass, and has a won­der­ful hop aro­ma and flavour, with­out being over­ly bit­ter. The rea­son why we’ve select­ed this in par­tic­u­lar from the many great British pale ales is that it seems to work real­ly well in bot­tles. We might select Mean­time IPA instead, as this seems to be export­ed more, but it’s a lot more “extreme” and dif­fi­cult to digest.

Schnei­der Weisse 5.4%

We want­ed to include a Ger­man Weiss­bier because it’s such an inter­est­ing and dis­tinct style, and this is our favourite. It’s not as sick­ly as many of the oth­ers, and the banana flavour is there with­out being over­pow­er­ing. We’ve found that a nice Weiss­bier often goes down well with lager-lovers – it’s cold and fizzy, after all.

Fuller’s Lon­don Porter, 5.4%

This is for the Guin­ness lovers, to show them what dark beer should be about. It’s a splen­did mix of choco­late, fruits, cof­fee-roasti­ness and liquorice. It works pret­ty well in bot­tles, but is won­der­ful on cask. In terms of rich­ness and com­plex­i­ty, it beats many Bel­gian beers with twice the strength. Our deci­sion to include this is pos­si­bly influ­enced by the fact that this is Boak’s favourite beer.

Triple Karmeli­et, 8.4%

We would have this one in reserve, to fin­ish off the evening. It has the seduc­tive sweet­ness and com­fort of Leffe, but has more depth of flavour and is, frankly, a bit more cred­i­ble. It’s not the most com­plex Bel­gian beer, but it’s very con­sis­tent, and is a great intro­duc­tion to strong Bel­gian beers. Pour with a big head and take large gulps to appre­ci­ate the round­ed, fruity flavours.


We thought a lot about includ­ing a fruit beer. We decid­ed not to in the end, much as we like them, as we were assum­ing that the point of this exer­cise was to intro­duce a new­com­er to good beer. We’ve giv­en non-beer drinkers Fruli before, and they enjoy it, but that does­n’t mean that they sud­den­ly “con­vert” to lik­ing beer.

We had a sim­i­lar debate with choco­late beers. The prob­lem here is that the choco­late beers we like are on the sub­tle side. We once gave a non-beer-drinker some Mean­time Choco­late to try, and they could­n’t taste the choco­late at all. “Urgh – it tastes like beer!” they said.

If you’ve read this far,you may be inter­est­ed in read­ing about some real tast­ings – Tan­dle­man intro­duced a num­ber of GBBF vis­i­tors to bot­tle-con­di­tioned beers (although he did­n’t choose them), and Wil­son at Brew­vana organ­ised a tast­ing ses­sion for women, with very inter­est­ing results.

What would you choose?

10 thoughts on “A virtual tasting for beer-beginners”

  1. That’s a nice idea, and actu­al­ly some­thing I should con­sid­er for the Ger­man beer lovers who need some expo­sure to exter­nal influ­ences (part of my new experiement). The prob­lem for me would be sourc­ing a selec­tion here! 🙂

    A for­mer brew-bud­dy and I used to do tast­ing ses­sions of home­brews for work col­leagues, inter­spersed with com­mer­cial exam­ples of the styles we were brew­ing. Peo­ple seemed to enjoy try­ing them all at least, and I’d like to imag­ine that some even went and bought the beers they tast­ed again. It’s all good clean fun regard­less.

  2. Wel­come, Adep­tus – it’d be inter­est­ing to read a ver­sion tar­get­ed at the Ger­man mar­ket! Why not write it and link it, and we can have a meme with­in a meme…

    Nice blog, btw.

    I’ve nev­er organ­ised a tast­ing before (sounds a lot hard­er than a pis­sup in a brew­ery) but I’ve thought about it a lot.

  3. I like this idea. As some­one who tries to edu­cate peo­ple in Beer through Food, I try to stick to Beers that peo­ple can get hold of – even if it means using many of the fine inter­net sup­pli­ers out there. What’s the point in Beer­van­ge­lis­ing (like it!) if peo­ple can’t get thi­er hands on the rud­dy stuff! Now, that may leave me open to crit­i­cism from oth­er blog­gers who may feel my choic­es are a touch pedes­tri­an – but this hits the nail on the head. I can’t tell you how many lager­heads i have con­vert­ed with one sip of good, old, bor­ing Sier­ra Neva­da Pale Ale (inci­den­tal­ly one of fave beers of all time). So good work, guys.

  4. I think my list would prob­a­bly look very much like yours, though it would­n’t have Prop­er Job on it ‘cos I’ve nev­er encoun­tered it out­side Eng­land, and I’d sub­sti­tute a West­malle Tripel for the Karmeli­et.

    No, scratch that: I’d have Duv­el as my pale strong beer and throw in a West­malle Dubbel at the end.

  5. Leigh – SN is great by us too. I’ve also giv­en that to peo­ple who don’t gen­er­al­ly drink beer and it works well, some­thing about the goopy, com­fort­ing tex­ture, I think.

    Beer Nut – you’re right, Prop­er Job prob­a­bly is hard to get hold of out­side the UK. It’s not exact­ly easy to find in Lon­don, which is a bit daft, con­sid­er­ing St Austell are one of Britain’s biggest brew­ers. But I want­ed to include a nice hop­py ale that works well in bot­tles.

    Maybe Jaipur IPA, but I’ve only had it once and (whis­pers) can’t real­ly remem­ber all that much about it except that I liked it…

    Pete Brown has just post­ed on intro­duc­ing a Guin­ness lover to Sam Smith’s Oat­meal Stout – this is def­i­nite­ly a good con­ver­sion beer as well, although I don’t love it near­ly as much as Fuller’s Lon­don Porter.

  6. In Prague we’re lim­it­ed by what’s avail­able: lots of Czech beers, few imports. Thus I often try to intro­duce peo­ple who are not crazy about beer to Primá­tor’s Weizen­bier, which I’ve often men­tioned, but which still deserves notice. It’s good, light and crisp, slight­ly malti­er than many Ger­man ver­sions, low on the banana scale, and it seems to please almost every­one who tries it.

    Sec­ond, Herold’s Bohemi­an Black Lager, if I can find it. Deep and mys­te­ri­ous. Slight­ly spicy. Most Czechs don’t know that dark lagers can be this rich.

    Third, a hop­py strong pale lager like Jubil­er. I haven’t met any­one who has­n’t liked this one.

    Fourth, a less obscure dry gueuze, some­thing like Lin­de­man’s Cuvée René — for white wine drinkers who “don’t like beer.”

  7. Boak – Thanks for the wel­come and the plug! 🙂

    I’ve tak­en your sug­ges­tion, and it was much hard­er than I thought it would be. The prob­lem is in pick­ing a small selec­tion that tries to reflect such a broad range, and not to keep pick­ing your favourites! So, with that in mind I offer up a hum­ble selec­tion. Pos­si­bly tame, but I’d have to think longer about it!

  8. What a ter­rif­ic idea. I will have to think about this. I’ve tried to turn peo­ple on to good beer by ask­ing them the kind of drinks they usu­al­ly like– cof­fee, juice, tea, wine, etc. But I don’t always hit the mark. I def­i­nite­ly like strong, intense beer and maybe sug­gest­ing these is not the way to go ini­tial­ly.

  9. Some great sug­ges­tions here, keep them com­ing!

    I wish I could take the cred­it for the idea, but that belongs to Delir­i­um.

    Ally – it’s true, it’s dif­fi­cult not to rec­om­mend your favourites – When you’re used to beer, it’s easy to drink some­thing like Bernar­dus 12 and think, “How could any­one not like this?”

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