bottled beer La Ronda

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 replies on “A virtual tasting for beer-beginners”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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!

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.

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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