King of Beer
Becoming a beer snob takes hard work. You have to try stuff that tastes terrible, drink with people you’d rather not and pretend to like stuff that tastes like horse piss. Occasionally, you’ll even be called on to say things like, “The hoppiness of this beer is offset by the subtle citrus flavor infused by the lemon peels added during the brewing process.” You can only view people that speak like that as pretentious buttwipes.
Thankfully, you have me so you can avoid such pitfalls. The arrival of summer signals the unofficial arrival of import beer season – although to the true connoisseur, there is no offseason. Occasionally, you’ll be at a bar, house party or golf course where some pompous prick is extolling the virtues of barley. Don’t listen to people like him; chances are, he’s not someone you’d enjoy drinking a beer with anyway. Form your own opinions.
Here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way about enjoying beer.
1. Try new stuff all the time
This seems obvious but you aren’t well-rounded in your consumption if the furthest out you’ve ever branched is trying Killian’s and drinking Carlsberg every time you watch soccer. If you can find one, a specialty store or create-your-own six pack places (World Market is great for this) gives you great selection that you can just stick in the fridge and drink at your leisure.
2. The venue is as important as the beer
Sound dumb? It’s not. Where you’re drinking can influence how you feel about a beer as much as the taste itself. If you happen upon a dive bar that features 108 different kinds of beer, don’t bother. You’re going to be packed into the building, it will be smoky and loud and you’ll most likely hate everything (self included) if you spend the evening drinking dark beers. Branching out is best done in a mellow place; you’re more likely to have a good experience when you’re comfortable.
3. Drink with like-minded people
If you want to try Leinenkugel’s, do it; but if you’re at a party where everyone is drinking Natural Ice, don’t expect them to share your enthusiasm about a beverage that tastes like Fruit Loops. Chances are, you’re looking for a different experience than they are anyway.
4. Read labels
I know what you’re thinking: read and drink? I can only do one or the other. A lot of beers put the history of the brewery or some other uselessness on the side of the bottle; forget that mess. Many will have a brief description about the beer itself. Get familiar with those, because…
5. Compare, compare, compare
Eventually, you’ll start noticing certain keywords out of those descriptions will pop up on the beers you like the most. Focus on those; that way lies your beer destiny.
6. Drink what you like
By the way, don’t let me or anyone else tell you what to drink. Just because I happen to like Smithwick’s doesn’t mean you won’t think it tastes like boiled snake skins dipped in tar. Your group of friends will have eclectic tastes; this is not a bad thing.
7. Never pass up an opportunity
I understand if you’re out for a business lunch or a church function or something similar and can’t just try a beer you’ve never seen before. But you can make a note of it and return at a later date. And when at all possible, give something you’ve never seen before a shot; you can never tell if you’ll ever have the opportunity again. Much in the same way many wines are region-specific, many specialty beers are only distributed to certain areas of the country.
8. Don’t just give up on your usual beer
Just because you’re branching out doesn’t mean you need to give up on what you’ve liked for years. Not only are imports, microbrews and specialty beers more expensive, they’re a lot heavier (read: will make you fat). Keep your usual stuff around, even if it’s just to level out your palate a little bit.
9. Don’t get drunk on imports
You paid 15 bucks for a few specialty beers, but you’re going to get slammed on Pabst Blue Ribbon while they’re cooling? Sharp investment. If you’ve got to get drunk, a good rule of thumb (in addition to not driving) is to just drink your usual beer. No sense wasting money on something you’re just going to throw up anyway.
10. Enjoy your beer
Remember: it’s not a job. It’s your leisure. Don’t keep a notebook; just drink up.