Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Beer >
Mar 25, 2008 07:27 AM


My two favorites are Firestone Double Barrel Ale (!!) and Newcastle. The only beer I've ever had that I intensely disliked was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, though I know many love it. I'm also not a fan of Guinness because it tastes almost "flat" to me, though I like the flavor.

Can you wonderful ladies and gentlemen make a few recommendations on what I should pick up to try? I know this is an awfully vague post, but I'm trying to expand my beer horizons. Thanks!!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Sounds like you're not into hoppy beers, at least not yet, so I'd keep working the brown ale vein for a while. There's nothing wrong with Double Barrel ale, it's a good example of a really distinct English style, and I believe they're the only brewery besides Marstons using a Burton union system for brewing.

    You should try Samuel Smith's Nut Brown ale, Oatmeal Stout, and Taddy Porter. Also Fuller's ESB, and London Porter. When you're ready to broaden your palate more, I'd try Fuller's London Pride, or Samuel Smith's India Ale. These are hoppy for English beers, but less so than Sierra Nevada.

    You might enjoy Belgian beers, too, since they're not especially hoppy. Like the English beers they are malty, but also have interesting fruit/spice characteristics from the yeast strains. Try any of the Chimay beers, Rochefort, Westmalle, or Affligem.

    There are a lot of producers making Belgian styles outside of Belgium these days, too. Unibroue out of Quebec is a good one - try Blanche de Chambly, Maudite, or Trois Pistoles. Depending on where you live, you'll have access to American Belgian-style beers. In the Northeast look for Allagash - their Black, White, Dubbel, and Tripel are all good. Midwest you should be able to find Avery brewing beers - Salvation, Redemption, the Reverend. West coast you'll find Russian River Damnation, and Lost Abbey beers.

    Hope this helps.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Josh

      Thanks for the solid recommendations, Josh. I'm going to pick some of those up the next time I go to BevMo. I'll start with the Samuel Smith and, since I keep hearing about them, I'll pick up some Russian River.

      I read somewhere that Russian River uses barrels like Firestone Walker, but that they purposely use some of the "bugs" winemakers keep out to add flavor. Do their products taste sour or funky?

      1. re: sobriquet

        I think you're a little mixed up on this.

        The "double barrel" Firestone Walker is referring to is the Burton Union brewing method.

        This isn't barrel aging - it's a system of barrels used for fermenting the beer.

        Russian River, on the other hand, does use barrel aging, based on the approach used by Belgian brewers of lambic and Flanders red. In this case, the wood is used because of the bugs. Russian River makes some beers that are sour. Damnation isn't one of them, however, nor is Perdition (if you're lucky enough to have access to that one too).

        I noticed you like coffee - if you can find it, AleSmith's Speedway Stout is an amazing imperial stout made with coffee beans. Great stuff, definitely worth trying.

        1. re: Josh

          I knew Firestone Walker didn't age the beer - I'm sorry I wasn't clear. I was just alluding to the fact that I read (in the same article) that Firestone Walker will throw out a batch if they find those "bugs," whereas Russian River actually wants them.

          I did a google on that Speedway Stout. I'll definitely have to try that. Coffee in my beer?! Sure! I'm almost thinking some good vanilla ice cream would match wonderfully.

          1. re: sobriquet

            By bugs, they mean wild yeast strains - specifically lactobacillus, pediococcus, and brettanomyces. For most styles of beer, those are considered undesirable yeast strains. However in Belgium there is a long-standing tradition of certain styles employing those strains. Russian River's brewer is a huge proponent of Belgian beer, and does an amazing job of coming up with exciting new twists on these traditional styles.

            Firestone Walker doesn't brew those styles of beer, so that's why you see this different reaction to the wild yeast strains.

            You might find that you like the sour beers if you give them a chance. I would suggest starting off with some of the less sour ones, to see how you like them. Russian River's Temptation is not only a great, mildly sour beer, it's one of the best beers on the planet and should not be missed. It's a Belgian golden ale aged with brettanomyces in chardonnay barrels. Another good one like this is Petrus Aged Pale, which is a mildly sour beer from Belgium.

            I wouldn't suggest starting off with traditional lambic, as they can be aggressively sour.

            RE: Speedway Stout, a lot of people do make floats with it, and it's as good as it sounds.

      2. To really enjoy beer, hops are a hurdle that you MUST get past. I don't know how hoppy Firestone Double Barrel Ale and Newcastle are but to give me an idea of where you are in terms of hop tolerance, tell me what you think of Sam Adams Boston Lager.


        PS - Nobody is into hops when they first get into beer. Nobody.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Chinon00

          I like Sam Adams Boston Lager, but if given the choice, I tend to select something not quite as bitter. I don't find it unpleasant in the same way I disliked Sierra Nevada, though. I'm a coffee nut, so the beers I have enjoyed the most tend to be vaguely reminiscent of the same notes.

          1. re: sobriquet

            You needn't feel obliged to like hoppy beers. Drink what you like.

            Sam Adams Lager uses different types of hops than Sierra Nevada. Maybe you don't care for the citrus & pine notes of American hops.

            You might try an Irish stout that doesn't have the nitro treatment. E.g., O'Hara's Stout is a nice bottled product that should taste a bit less flat than Draught Guinness.

            1. re: Jim Dorsch

              And he needn't feel obliged to like tannins, but how many red wines would he be able to appreciate?

              1. re: Chinon00

                Both your views are well taken. I'm not going to buy something I know I'll hate, but trying new things is what being a Chowhound is all about, right?

                It's funny you mention tannin, Chinon. I didn't care for tannic reds for a long time, but I started enjoying them after forcing myself to become more familiar with them.

                I hadn't considered the different *type* of hops before, Jim. I think you might be right on that count. I'll have to add O'Hara's to my list to try, too. I've always wished Guinness would have a bit more fizz.

                1. re: sobriquet

                  Another aspect to the hop question is if they're added in the boil, or for dry-hopping. Hops added in the boil stage of brewing make beer taste bitter. Dry-hopping, however, brings out the floral, citrusy, and piney notes, without contributing bitterness.

                  I've met lots of people who don't like bitter beer who enjoy dry-hopped beers, because the flavor profile can be completely different.

                  St. Rogue's Red, dry-hopped, might be worth a try for you. It's a delicious beer, and the dry-hopping really puts it over the top.

                  1. re: Josh

                    I just tried St. Rogue's Red last weekend. Excellent beer. Great recommendation.

            2. re: sobriquet

              Reading this is making me thirsty. If you wanted to try a different Sam Adams product I would recommend the Boston Ale. In parts of the US it may be less available, however I think it is right up you ally. It is a well balanced beer with a malt forward begging which smoothly develops slight caramel and toffee notes and gently finishing with a bit of hops. This ale is far less hoppy then it's more popular brother the Lager. My girlfriend's favorite beer is Newcastle and she tried this beer today and loves it!

              Happy drinking!

          2. I just had a dogfish head chicory stout tonight, really smooth, dark, not hoppy, bottle says it had chicory(not exactly sure what that is) and mexican coffee tastes. I thought it tasted sort of similar to some brown ales I have had, so that it why i am recommending it since you like Newcastle.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jpf1980

              Chicory Stout is a seasonal beer that will likely be disappearing soon, reappearing next Jan.

              1. re: jpf1980

                Chicory is a plant whose root has often been used as a coffee substitute or extender. Coffee/chicory blends are popular in New Orleans. La Fin Du Monde is such a blend.

                DFH Chicory Stout is a pleasant enough, quaffable stout.

              2. I'm a big Newcastle fan (American Style, not English) and I'm not much of a hops fan either. Actually, my beer drinking hops loving friends and I joke that if I love a beer they are going to dislike it and vice versa.

                Have you tried Hobgoblin? My hops-hatin beer friends and my hops lovin beer friends all go for this one.