I'll admit it, I'm a wine snob. When it comes to alcoholic beverages, I don't think there is anything else that comes close to wine in terms of variety, flavor profiles, history, artistry, and sheer deliciousness. I acknowledge that I am probably highly prejudiced in this regard because, until just recently, I hated the flavor of beer. All beer, any beer. Didn't like it, couldn't drink it, and after years of taking sips/tastes, I was certain I'd never be a beer drinker. End of story, or so I thought...
My husband, on the other hand, is a devoted beer drinker. So much so, in fact, that when I began my journey exploring the world of wine a few years back, I had to drag him, kicking and screaming, along with me. He's become quite a wine snob himself, and my partner in crime, but he never gave up his affection for beer.
It was a simple argument that kicked off my recent experimentation and new-found appreciation of beer. We were eating dinner together and he offered me a taste of the beer he ordered. He liked it a lot and thought I should give it a try.
I took a sip, "It's fine." I stated, giving him back the glass.
"You don't hate it?" He replied.
"No, but I don't like it." I answered.
"Why?" He questioned. "What do you taste?"
Now, here I was in a quandary. When I first met my dear hubby, he was the furthest thing you could imagine from a foodie. He wasn't experimental with food or drink at all. Pizza, ham sandwiches, and pasta with red sauce were just about the only things he would eat. Over the years I converted him to millions of foods, sushi, offal, vegetables in general, haute cuisine, wine even, by using this exact tactic on him. When he claimed he didn't like something, I made him articulate why. The real why, not just because it tasted good or bad, but which flavors, textures, etc, were specifically negative. And the more I liked the food/drink in question, the more in-depth I made him go. And here we were, after 15 years together, the jerk was using my own weapon against me.
The beer that started it all.
He wouldn't let it go. Perhaps as a taste of my own medicine, he got me to break down every detail of the beer that I could perceive. He looked up the maker, educated me on the style, ingredients and brewing method. I wasn't happy about it, mind you. He criticized me for dismissing an entire category of beverages because the flavors were not easily attractive to me - my exact lecture to him when he first claimed to hate red wine because of tannin, certainly an acquired taste for some.
By the end of our argument/discussion, I almost liked the beer. And I had to concede that he might be right.
That same weekend, we hit the local liquor store and bought a couple of mixed 6-packs. My goal was to try, systematically, all different styles and types and from there not only build my palate and understanding, but hopefully find a couple of favorites.
BeerAdvocate became one of my best friends. Lagers, ales, witbiers, porters, stouts, IPAs, sours, shandies, lambics... I tried them all. I took recommendations from friends, ordered flights whenever I saw them, and for the first time in my life, really tasted beer.
What I've learned so far...
Beyond learning the basics: brewing methods, grains, regional styles, fermentation styles, I found the most invaluable thing I've learned is to articulate what I like and dislike in beers. This means that I'm not only better at asking for recommendations and getting bottles I'll enjoy, but I can also understand from labels what I'm getting so I can make much safer purchases, buying beers that I'll actually enjoy drinking.
I know that in general, I am not a fan of hops. The same bitterness that other people love reminds me of dirty dishwater. IPAs are usually not my cup of tea, although Caribbean style IPAs, like the Dry-Hopped on the High Seas by Cigar City, are an exception.
Darker beers, like porters, stouts, doppelbocks, have a nice malty flavor that I like, but only in small quantities. The glass to the left is much too much for me to consume and still enjoy, but a 2 oz pour is quite nice indeed.
I enjoy sweetness in my beer as long as it's balanced and not cloying. Shandies are sweet and fruity in the wrong way for me, but I am a big fan of peach lambics. The high acidity of a good lambic is just super delicious to me.
No, Thank You.
Like wines, I find there are certain producers that I enjoy. Cigar City Brewing, out of Tampa, is one of my local faves.
I like herbed/spiced beers. They are interesting to me because of the complexity in general, and the large variety in styles and flavors.
Ginger in the brew = tasty indeed.
The honey and grape notes make this just delicious!
I seem to be a fan of Belgian beers. Sours in particular. If I had to choose a definitive favorite, might be a Flanders Red Ale fan. Aging in oak adds complexity and the yeast strains used gives a fruity tanginess that I really enjoy.
Simple, but tasty.
My absolute favorite, thus far.
I keep tasting, keep trying. Mixed 6-packs are among my favorite things to buy, and who knows where this new-found appreciation for beer will take me. My hubby is certainly happier for it. And if you've got a favorite you'd like to let me know about - please email, I'd love more recommendations to try.