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Beer Novice Here, Help A Gal Out!

I don't know a thing about beer - I'm a wine drinker. But, I know what I prefer. And what I prefer is Guinness. Yep, dark, heavy, smooth and thick bodied beer served icy cold. I do not like light-bodied beers at all.

So, what could you suggest for me based on my preferences? Obviously, I'll go lighter, I know Guiness is about a heavy as it gets :-)


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  1. Actually, Guiness is Dark, but pretty "light" in some ways of thinking...lower alcohol, lower carbs... by the way, drinking guiness ice-cold is considered a beer faux pas. Ice cold actually tends to mask the best flavors in beer. Americans tend to drink the bud and other, ahem,"beers" as such-they are lages, and really, flavor isn't a huge factor in my estimation of that. Try your Guiness a little warmer to REALLY taste something fabulous.

    Oh, here's a summertime treat: Plop some really nice vanilla ice cream in a large sundae glass. Try to get the best ice cream you can. Get a bottle of Guiness and pour it over the top. Eat with spoon out in the heat. Oh GOD yum.... :)

    DO you like hops? Malt? WOuld you try a lambic or sour beer, with fruit, without? Dare you try a smoked beer? Are you into pilsner, wheat, barleywines, sake, gruit, melomels, organic, farmhouse or what?

    I reccomend going with the gals to a local microbrewery and getting a taster set. Most places do it. FOr a good price, Somewhere around $1-$2 a taste or maybe between $5-$8 for a set of tastes, you can sample a variety of styles and see what you like. Try tasting a bunch of styles and explore. As in wine, it is best to go from light to heavy, low alcohol to high. Most microbrewery people are thrilled to answer your questions.

    Since you like Guiness (considered somewhat of a "safe" beer), I would reccomend looking at porters and stouts of all sort. Some are more chocolatey, some drier, some sweeter, some have fruit. My favorite was from the Ojai Brewing Company, it was a raperry chocolate stout that tasted like a slice of black forest cake. Sadly, that brewery is now defunct.

    Start with what you like, then slowly expand your boundaries by having tasting adventures.

    1. Porters and stouts, those must be the two magic words I should look for I guess! It's the type of beer I needed to know I guess, not exact brand names. I'm clueless about one from another, I just know I dislike ales, pilsnars and I wouldn't know a hop from a scotch LOL. I do like smokey and chocolately undertones,

      Oh and I can't drink anything warm - regardless of what it is (except tea and coffee of course). Just a personal flaw. I'd never last a day in Europe :-)


      4 Replies
      1. re: sivyaleah

        Not warm as in room temp. or hot-tea coffee temp-g, although some people go for that, I have a problem, too.

        Just don't drink your Guinessice absolutely ice-cold! Trust me, a whole range of new, roasty flavor will come out, you'll love it.

        Hops are one of the main ingredients in modern beer: Water, yeast, grain, and hops. They can add a bitterness. There are many varieties, and the mixture of varieties and strengths can add to the bitterness on beer. I am not a hop-head, but some people really love it.

        Guiness and other stouts and porters are dark because the grain is roasted (almost like coffee) which brings out the yummy, chocolaty, caramelly flavor. Guiness was actually made sort of on accident when someone pretty much burned a batch of grains.

        Go for porters and stouts. If you have an OK beer store like Beverages and More, or a place with a wide selection of micro and locally brewed beer, go on it and grab a selection of porters off the shelf. I like Anchor Porter, Bison Chocolate Stout, Rogue Porter, Bear Republic stout and more. There are a dizzying number of great breweries. HEre are links to Bevmo's Stout and Prter offerings to give you ideas:



        Try to get local or micro, and avoid big name breweries if you can.

        1. re: sivyaleah

          I agree with the Porter and Stout recomendation. I'm a big fan of dark beers, but I'm basically a fan of beer in general. Because of this, it's been my mission to get my girlfriend to appreciate beer as much as me. Well, we are not exactly there, but I have convinced her that dark beers like Guiness are not necessarily "heavy" or "filling". She now loves Porters and Stouts and I'm slowly getting her into some of the summer ales and Wit beers that have popped up for the warmer weather.

          If you like Guiness, give a Murphey's Stout a try. More flavor in my opinion. We actaully just came back from a bar and she got a BBC Coffee Haus Porter. Great beer, but may be local to Boston. Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout, Young's, Stone Smoked Porter, etc are all fairly easy to find. I'd go with the previous poster's suggestion of finding a microbrewery or a place that does flights so you can taste 4-5 types of beers or several brands of a certain style.

          1. re: sivyaleah

            It's really a misnomer to call it warm. Proper beer temperature is "cellar temperature" --- so the beer should be cool but not cold. If it's too cold, you can't taste it.

            1. re: sivyaleah

              It's really a misnomer to call it warm. Proper beer temperature is "cellar temperature" --- so the beer should be cool but not cold. If it's too cold, you can't taste it.

            2. Try some good Belgian beers. Check around if any local joints have any Belgians on tap. Good body and great flavors.

              1. Thanks everyone! You gave me a good start and understanding of what I should look for. I live in NJ, but work in NYC so it should be rather simple to start experimenting. I'm actualy going to a beer tasting dinner next Thursday, which I'm looking forward to, so that should help me out too.


                3 Replies
                1. re: sivyaleah

                  A lot of good recs here, but some I would add:

                  Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter, Nut Brown Ale
                  Young's Double Chocolate Stout
                  Fuller's London Porter
                  Deschutes Black Butte Porter and Obsidian Stout
                  Chimay Grande Reserve (blue label)

                  1. re: sivyaleah

                    To prep for this beer outing, and just to learn more about beer, go to Beer Advocate and look under Beer Education at the various Beer Styles. http://beeradvocate.com/beer/style

                    I know this site can seem intimidating - there is so much to beer - but it is easy to move around and look at a label or style and see what it's all about. The basic format for judging a beer is by appearance, smell, taste, mouthfeel, and drinkability. You can get a good understanding of how this is applied to all beers at the BA site.

                    You can't hate ales (Porters and Stouts are ales) - and all lagers are not Bud. That's because all beers are either ales or lagers based on the basic yeast used - bottom fermenting yeasts make lagers and they are typically brewed at colder temperatures. Top fermenting yeasts yield ales. Both types can come in so many different flavors, thicknesses, alcohol contents, etc., that it's really impossible to make distinctions based strictly on ales vs. lagers. The American Standard Lager or American Macro Lager is a pitiful creature, indeed - flavorless, and made as cheaply as possible. But Bocks and Doppelbocks can be very heavy and flavorful, and they are lagers. There are great lagers and ales being brewed all over our country, as well as the world.

                    1. re: sivyaleah

                      Try hanging out at d.b.a. at 41 1st Ave, between 2nd and 3rd Streets. They have one of the best beer selections in the city and the bartenders are knowledgeable. It can get crowded Friday and Sat nights but otherwise is good, with a nice back garden. You can sit and try a variety of beer styles to figure out what you like.

                    2. Ok here's my update for this evening. Perkuno's Hammer Imperial Porter! Wow! Talk about an introduction to dark brews! I took the suggestion of the guy working my local wine store, a store which is known for stocking exceptional and interesting high quality brands of both wines and beers. I explained to him what I was looking for and this guy was a total beer nut and immediately "got" what I was trying to find.

                      I was pretty much blown away by this beer - went really well with the leftover pulled pork I made last night. My husband couldn't drink it - not his style but I enjoyed it a lot!


                      4 Replies
                      1. re: sivyaleah

                        Yes this was one great beer. Unfortunately, in a recent post Jim Leff noted that Heavyweight brewing is going out of business, so the Imperial Porter won't be around for long. If you like that beer, you should also try Victory's Storm Mountain Stout, Brooklyn Beer's Black Chocolate Stout, and Weyerbacher's Old Heathen Imperial Stout.

                        1. re: bobjbkln

                          I think you mean Victory Storm King.

                        2. re: sivyaleah

                          As you explore the world of beer, one of the things you will notice is that it is much easier to pair beer with food than wine. The acidity in wine does not complement cetain types of food very well - salad dressings are a problem as are many Asian dishes. With beer, however, you have a much broader palate to work with and, as you just discovered, the malty flavors of an imperial porter worked very well with whatever sweet elements you had in your pulled pork recipe. Since you like Guiness, I think you will find that the bolder porters and stouts complement all kinds of roasted meat dishes very nicely.

                          Next time you have Thai food, try pairing it with a beer style known as Saison. In your area, you can probably find Hennepin or Saison Dupont fairly easily. I also like the Southampton and Fantome Saisons, as well, if you can find them.

                          Be on the lookout for Garrett Oliver's book, "The Brewmaster's Table," which goes into this topic in great depth.

                          1. re: brentk

                            That's a great book. I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Oliver, and joining him for lunch at a Thai place near the brewery. We had his Brooklyner Weisse with our food and it paired beautifully.

                            However, one thing I wanted to point out is that the acidity in wine is actually one of the components that helps it pair with food. Wines that are high in acidity like vinho verde, New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and Spanish Rueda and Albarino, are extremely friendly to both salads and Asian fare.

                            It's when wines are low in acidity that they're bad pairings for those foods. The problem is that many wine drinkers simply stick to California chardonnay for their white wine, and hence make very bad and clumsy food pairings.

                            That being said, I do agree with the fundamental point you are making, which is that beer is generally a much easier thing to pair with food than wine is. One of my favorite examples from Garrett's book is seared lamb loin with nut brown ale. Simply awesome.

                        3. i would agree with above posters that you should check out porters and stouts, or maybe even some brown ales. if you can find it, smuttynose's robust porter might be a good bet (it's one of my favorites as far as widely-accessible beers go), but i would try anything with porter or stout in the title. harpoon's munich dark is a pretty good, fairly light-bodied, dark ale, and is probably easy to find, too.

                          guinness is, in my opinion, actually fairly light-bodied in regards to flavor, so it's hard to know if you would like something with more punch, like an imperial stout, but you should give it a shot. they have more alcohol, and thus, can seem quite 'sweet' or 'syrupy' to some, but i love them.

                          also, the color of the beer doesn't always predict its body, so you might try an IPA or something, as they're loaded with hops- you might find that you like that kind of 'heaviness' to your beer. or, maybe even a belgian-style dark beer, like unibroue's trois pistoles. that's a whole different kind of body. and a whole OTHER kind of body might be a german rauchbier (smoke beer), which can be a bit overwhelming, but really tasty if you like things smoky (i think guinness is a very slight bit smoky).

                          there are SO many amazing beers to explore- have fun! as mentioned, taking a trip out to some breweries, or finding a local beer tasting, is a great way to find out what kinds of beers you prefer. if you're really interested in learning more, check out beeradvocate.com.

                          1. I prefer dark beers most of the time and enjoy Guiness. If I were to recommend something dark, served cold, without a flavor that is either more cidery or hoppy, I would steer you to a Kostrizer Black Lager, as a first choice. If you want one in NYC, you could do much worse than having one on tap at Lederhosen, 39 Grove St. For info on it, check out the Manhattan board. You could also probably get one at Hallo Berlin. My next choices would be another German dark lager or a Negra Modelo from Mexico, which I have read is a copy of an otherwise-extinct Austrian style.

                            If you want to figure out the different flavors you like in beer, try to meet someone who makes their own and offer to help. While helping taste everything that goes into the beer. You really need to just dip a finger into the malt extract or eat some malt and chew on some hops. However, finding a few bottles of homebrew with a good amount of yeast sitting in the bottom would also teach you a thing or two, especially if the yeasts were from different kinds of beers, i.e. one from an ale and one from a lager.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Captain

                              Sam Adams has a nice black beer as well, if you can't find Kostritzer.

                              1. re: Captain

                                just an fyi, in case you didn't already know, Kostrizer is also on tap at the Silver Swan (20th St btwn Park & Bwy).

                                oh and if you find yourself on the North Shore of Oahu, there's a supermarket that carries bottles of Kostrizer.

                              2. Man, this is an awesome thread, dark beers, stouts, porters, dark lagers, rauchbeers, all very great beers in general. I am very surprised that many stout drinkers only refer to Guiness. Can I suggest Beamish stout? It's very drinkable, very creamy, rootbeerish, with chocolate undertones. Makeson xxx stout is another, if you can find it, drink it slow, and warm the only way to drink stout, um, I mean room temp. Bert Grants Perfect Porter is a very good brew along with Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, now that is a heavy brew, lots of flavor!!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: madtowner

                                  I think a temperature in the 50s (F) would be more appropriate for a stout.

                                  I have fond memories of Grant's Perfect Porter, but if I recall, the brewery was closed not too long ago.

                                  Old Rasputin is a very nice imperial stout. For something a bit different try A Le Coq from Harvey's: a touch of sour winelike quality, very interesting!

                                2. By all means, Drink Chimay. Not as dark, but a wonderful Belgian Ale that Trappist Monks take time to craft - all in the yeast.

                                  1. Okay, that might explain why I haven't seen it in awhile, too bad, it was a delicious porter. Hmm, I will have to see if I can get Le Coq, I don't have much access to a lot of Belgian beers, except for Lindeman, Chimay and Duvel. Any suggestions as to where I can get it online? Thanks

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: madtowner

                                      A Le Coq is English. http://www.bunitedint.com/Products/ha...

                                      The Vintage Cellar in Blacksburg, VA sells through the mail. There's also the Belgian Shop for Belgian beers.

                                    2. Let me step in to say if you like your Guiness ice-cold that is how you should drink it.

                                      I'm going on the assumption that you know you like it ice-cold because you have had it otherwise and found your preference to be ice-cold.

                                      "Trust me you'll love it warmer" "But I like it better ice-cold. that means I don't love it warmer, I love it colder"

                                      It's like when people say they prefer their steaks well-done and others say 'Oh no, you have to try it rare, you'll like it better'. The person already said they like it better the other way.

                                      I don't care for Beaujolias wine - made from the Gamay grape. I don't like the distinctive flavor of the Gamay grape. People tell me try it a little chilled, you'll like it. Hey, I just told you I didn't like it. Great, you like it a little chilled, but I don't like it. In fact, for me, chilling the wine seems to accentuate what I don't like about it, what I describe as a brassiness (no, not tannins, I like my wines more tannic than most)

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: FrankJBN

                                        Beaujolais is disgusting--I agree with you there.

                                        Sometimes ice cold beer is what hits the spot, especially in the summer or if it's a cheap beer.

                                        1. re: FrankJBN

                                          If people tell you they like beer ice cold, what they're telling you is that they don't like the flavor of the beer. Cold temperatures mask flavors. This is the same reason why no true beer lover will drink out of a chilled glass.

                                          Just as food has ideal serving temperatures, so does beer. It's not some made-up number here - at warmer temperatures (and I didn't say WARM temperatures) you can taste more of the flavors present in the beer. That's not opinion, that's a fact. It's the same reason that red wine is not meant to be chilled.

                                          Wine, much more so than beer, varies wildly depending on where the grapes are from and how the wine was made. To say that Gamay is Gamay is Gamay is like saying that all Cabs taste the same. Or all Zins taste the same. If someone drank a glass of Two Buck Chuck Cabernet and told you they didn't like Cabernet, you'd think they were insane.

                                          While I've had many terrible Beaujolais experiences, there are some producers that make outstanding wine from that grape. Unfortunately that is the exception and not the rule.

                                        2. madtowner, where do you live that you don't have much access to Belgian beer?

                                          1. Hey Frank I am in Madison, WI.

                                            1. Thanks Jim, I will check out both those sellers. I have had a chance to try a couple of great American Versions, Ommegang and New Glarus Brewings Rasberry Tart and Cherry (? not sure of the name..it's a Kriek beer of course).

                                              1. Next time you're out and they serve Guinness go for a black and tan (or half-and-half) - mix of Guinness and either Harp/Smithwicks/Bass. Beautiful pint :)