Beer aficionados often hear the apologetic comment, "I just really don't like beer."
It is possible to demonstrate to this person that they can enjoy beer. There are few beverages that come with such a wide variety of characteristics.The only problem is that they have not found the right beer to like yet.
Begin with questions about what kind of drinks she does like. Then, based on that information, I suggest beers to her that she might like.
Whether or not she tries them is up to her. Here are some examples.
Wine is usually the first beverage I ask about. And, it seems to be the drink that most non-beer-drinkers prefer. If she likes sweet, fruity tasting wines then it is easy to suggest fruit beers. Many brewpubs offer some form of fruit beer, usually a wheat ale with something like raspberry added. I also often direct the future beer lover to lambics which are not only fruity and often tend towards sweetness but also have a complexity to their flavor a wine lover would recognize. Lambics are also often packaged in champagne style bottles, giving the wine lover a level of comfort that it is a quality product by associating it with their favorite wine. It is silly, I know, but beer often has an uphill battle to fight with wine drinkers. Not only do they not like the taste of the pale lager styles that dominate the market but, they also tend to think of beer as an inferior beverage to wine.
Packaging does help to lessen this prejudgement.
It is not quite so easy to suggest beers for dry wine lovers. I will usually ask about other beverages such as cocktails or coffee. Based on those answers I might suggest some of the less sweet Belgian beer styles or perhaps some big, dark beer styles like Imperial stout or Baltic porter.
Some American brewed versions of these styles tend to be pretty hoppy and it is best to steer wine lovers away from overly hoppy beers. I am not saying that they cannot enjoy super hoppy beers but, it is not a good place to start.
Coffee is another great way to gauge what types of beer a future beer lover would enjoy. Naturally, there is the easy go to – coffee beer. Chances are pretty good that a coffee drinker is going to enjoy a beer brewed with coffee. Stout is another style that shares a lot of the same flavors as coffee. Suggesting stout, however, often produces a strong, negative reaction. “Oh, you mean like Guinness? I’ve had that. Didn’t like it.”
I like Guinness well enough but, it is too bad that it is far and away the best-known example of stout. It has an unusual flavor that is not shared among most other stout styles. Many are softer with more mellow flavors than Guinness. A coffee drinker that uses sugar or cream might enjoy the sweet, round flavors of style like milk stout or oyster stout.
ESB is another style that coffee drinkers would enjoy, especially those that prefer the Starbucks sort of coffee drinks like cappuccino or latte. ESB, especially British brewed, features big, malty flavors and very light apparent hops.
The flavor profile is not identical to the mouth-filling, roasty flavors of those coffee drinks but they are both enjoyable on the same level.
Mixed drinks lovers are perhaps the easiest for which to suggest beers. The art of mixology is not unlike designing a beer recipe. Ingredients are considered for their level of sweetness, sourness and bitterness as well as how they will feel on the tongue. They are measured and combined in a way to achieve balance or to enhance or play down a particular type of flavor.
So, like the sweet, fruity wine lovers above, drinkers of sweet fruity cocktails would enjoy a fruit beer or lambics. For those who prefer more sour cocktails, there are a number of sour beers to experience. The most sour is the Berliner Weisse, a light colored beer with plenty of effervescence and a very tart flavor.
Unfruited lambic is also a nice, sour beer. Look for gueze lambic.
These are just a few ideas for getting non-beer drinkers to consider giving beer another try. It is a good conversation to have because it can get them to start thinking about beer as being more than the pale lager that has come to define beer in recent generations. The people understand that beer is so much more than that, the more they will support the ever growing craft beer market.