Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Beer >
Jul 17, 2009 07:42 PM

Beer Newbie needs recommendation

I've never been much of a beer drinker, but the recent hot weather has me thinking about a nice cold one. I remember having a Bass Ale on tap a few years ago and liking it pretty well, which is uncommon for me. It tasted very smooth and a little sweet - creamy and enjoyable without a lot of bitterness that some beers seem to have. It was pretty too . . . not one of those light yellow beers, but more a nice rich amber. I'd love some ideas of a similar type nice quality domestic microbrew that I could try. Ideas anyone?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. What part of the country do you live in?

    13 Replies
    1. re: Jim Dorsch

      Napa Valley, California (not much of a wine drinker either . . .)

      1. re: vday

        Find any Russian River beer you can and drink it.

        1. re: Josh

          Josh, maybe there are some left-coast British-style ales or nut brown ales the OP might like?

          1. re: Jim Dorsch

            Russian River actually does make several English styles, I had some at their pub. Their porter was outstanding. They're more well-known outside the Napa area for their Belgian and IPAs, but their palette is quite broad.

        2. re: vday

          Try Damnation, you'll be happy you did. It is an American/Belgian style beer.

          I find their other stuff good, but not consistently, jaw-droppingly good. Every time I have a glass pulled from a tap or pop open one of their bottles I am constantly happy with it.

          North Coast Beers are quite good too. Their stout or their Brother Thelonius are both spectacular!! (Another great spot to make a trek to as well!!)

          Russian River Brewing Co.
          725 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

          North Coast Brewing Co
          444 N Main St, Fort Bragg, CA 95437

          1. re: BeanBoy

            all very good brews, but I'm not sure I'd recommend something like Old Rasputin to a newbie. But since he's in norcal, they'd make a good road trip

            1. re: chuckl

              Wasn't talking about Ol' Rasputin, but why not?? It is very drinkable, especially if you find it on nitro, yum yum!!!

              Old Number 38 is their straight up stout, great with a sharp cheddar cheese!!!!

              1. re: BeanBoy

                honestly, I haven't had a beer from NC that I haven't liked. I think Rasputin has become my favorite stout

              2. re: chuckl

                The newbie is a she . . . trying to figure out beer.

                1. re: vday

                  apologies, vday,
                  if you're ever in SF, you might consider taking the tour at Anchor. They'll show you the entire process and you can sample a lot of good beer afterward. It's free

                  1. re: chuckl

                    I amble into the city every month or so - sounds like a great suggestion to check out Anchor chuckl - thanks! :-)

                    1. re: vday

                      just call ahead and set it up, they're very nice and will accomodate groups

                      1. re: vday

                        You're also not far from Santa Rosa. I'd strongly advise you to make a trip to Russian River Brewing's brewpub there. They make a very diverse range of beer styles, and some of them are decidedly wine-like. It's one of the world's most well-renowned Belgian-influenced breweries, and if you live in driving distance it would be a real shame not to take advantage of that.

          2. Full Sail, from Oregon, makes some nice, easy drinking beers, many of them not very bitter, their Amber Ale might be a good starting point. Many small breweries make an amber ale that you might like - the style is often made to be a little sweet and not so bitter in order to appeal to people who don't generally like beer.
            Many Belgian style ales are low in bitterness and some are also a bit sweet - try lost Abbey Lost and Found, Ommegang Abbey Ale, or New Belgium Abbey Ale.
            Try Fat Tire Ale.
            Try anything labeled 'nut brown.'
            On a different note, try some Belgian inspired wit beers - Ommegang, Allagash, Lost Abbey and the Bruery all make interesting examples. It's a light, refreshing summer style seasoned with (usually) orange peel and coriander. Often labeled as white beer.
            If you like any of those, post again and I can make some more suggestions based on what you've liked.

            4 Replies
            1. re: juantanamera

              Will start in on some of those suggestions - thanks:-)

              1. re: vday

                if you liked bass, you might like Mirror Pond from Deschuettes, which has lately been on sale in safeways in northern california. you might also consider eye of the hawk, which is available at trader joes. in addition, check out prohibition, an outstanding ale from speakeasy. some of the lagunitas are very good also. personally, i don't think much of fat tire, i think it's more fat and tired. you live in an oasis for beer as well as wine.

                1. re: chuckl

                  Thank you chuckl - I added those to my list:-)

                  1. re: vday

                    Speaking of Deschutes, their Bachelor ESB may be more to your liking than the Mirror Pond (personally, I'm a fan of both) if you favor English style pale ales. It's not as hopped up, more malt centered.

                    Also, keep an eye out for Pike Place Pale Ale from Seattle- that one is definitely brewed in the English style and you should be getting it fresh as a daisy on the west coast. It's an excellent beer, in any respect.

            2. If your beer experience is limited to Bass and "yellow fizzy", you've got a lot of exploring to do! :)

              If you like dark and a little sweet, try Rogue Hazelnut Brown, from Newport, OR. It's a great beer. Anchor Brewing has already been mentioned- I don't think I've ever had anything of theirs that I didn't like. Anderson Valley down in CA makes some of the best beer I've had. Russian River makes good beers as well. For all-around great beer, though... I've never had a Deschutes beer and not gone back for more of it. Their Twilight Ale is in season right now and very good- it's a light amber American bitter.

              4 Replies
              1. re: homebrewster

                good suggestions, I like the Anchor tour because at the end you can try their entire range of brews, so that, for instance, Ms Vday could educate her palate the way you would doing a wine tasting. Like many brewers, Anchor will pour what they're working on, some of which might never find its way into mass distribution. The last time I was there, Anchor was pouring Old Foghorn, a Belgian style that I thought was quite good. Another option for a newbie would be to find a beer bar that specializes in microbrews. I'm not sure what's available in Napa, but there's some great ones in the East Bay, like the englander, lucky 13, barclays and others. In SF, of course, there's zeitgeist and the toronado. They sometimes will line you up with small pours so you can do a tasting.

                1. re: chuckl

                  Old Foghorn is an English barleywine. Anchor doesn't produce any Belgian styles. Old Foghorn is also not experimental - it's part of their standard lineup, though is not available year-round.

                  1. re: chuckl

                    My head is spinning just thinking of all these great possibilities! Can't wait to do the research . . . I really didn't have a concept of how many great beers were made locally . . . I really appreciate all the great assistance - thanks!!

                    1. re: chuckl

                      Certainly can't go wrong with Anchor...they are right up there with the best of the best. I love the Old Foghorn (it's phenomenal on draft even way over here in NJ) bu that one is probably an acquired taste due to its heavy body and bittersweet finish. It's a taste worth acquiring though, and remains one of my favorites in the ever expanding jungle of sometimes very questionable micro stuff.

                  2. Hey, vday. Welcome to the world of beer.

                    I know you're looking for domestic micros, but don't ignore the brit cream ales! I'm thinking especially of Boddingtons, which is very widely available. If you're ready to branch out, give German hefeweizens a shot, and English milk stouts (and chocolate and oatmeal stouts for that matter!).

                    But all these lovely folks have definitely set you down the right path. Mmm...

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: LauraGrace

                      Thanks for the welcome LauraGrace.

                      I just picked up an Anderson Valley Summer Solstice cerveza crema. Described as "copper colored, smooth, malty and lightly sweet". Hmmm, well it tastes OK . . . not fabulous. Still tastes a little bitter to me. I'm looking for something with more creaminess, and less bitterness, and maybe a little more sweet.
                      I've decided to find whatever I can that has been suggested and give it a go. I will add that Boddingtons suggestion to my list.
                      Regarding shopping, I looked over the offerings at Whole Foods as well as a local high end private market and only saw a few of the beers mentioned. Suggestions on good places to find things on the list other than the easy ones like Anchor and Anderson Valley?

                      1. re: vday

                        Napa is a tough place to find good beer. The Whole Foods is definitely your best bet for beers to go. The Oxbow Wine Merchant has a few offerings, but I would say WF is much better. If you want to try some beers on tap to see what you like, go to Billco's Billiards downtown. They have an amazing line-up of beers.

                        If you make it out to Santa Rosa, Bottle Barn is outstanding. They definitely have the best selection of beers in Sonoma County. I also like the Wine Exchange of Sonoma which is located right on the square in Sonoma. The selection is smaller, but they have some good offerings.

                        If you make it to the East Bay, Ledger's in Berkeley and Monument Wine and Spirits in Concord are both outstanding.

                        In SF, City Beer Store in SOMA and Healthy Spirits in the Castro are your best bets.

                        Healthy Spirits
                        2299 15th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                        Antica Posta
                        519 East Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA 30305

                        Aqua Blue
                        1564 Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell, GA 30076

                        3280 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30305

                        490 E. Paces Ferry Rd., Atlanta, GA 30305

                        Aspen West Cobb
                        3625 Dallas Hwy, Ste. 715, Marietta, GA 30064

                        Atlanta Straits Restaurant
                        793 Juniper Street, Atlanta, GA 30308

                        1. re: pininex

                          Great!!! Very Helpful! Many thanks pininex:-)

                          1. re: vday

                            perhaps you might like some wheat beers. I know that WF carries the 21st amendment watermelon wheat, which is quite nice. You can serve it the way they do, with a slice of watermelon, it's very refreshing

                        2. re: vday

                          Hey vday, I'd recommend getting to know the beer specialty folks at your WF. They can help you choose more varieties, give you suggestions and substitutions, and let you know which brews are regionally available and which aren't. They can sometimes special order a particular beer, but beer distribution is a weird and complex beast, so beers that my dad in Colorado can get at any gas station are literally unobtainable where I live in Kentucky.

                          My other big recommendation: review the beer as you try it! Go to a site like to find some ideas of how to analyze the aromas and flavors of beer. It might just add to your enjoyment, and I guarantee it'll help you refine your ideas of what you like, so that if you find yourself in Toledo or St. Paul or wherever someday, you can still confidently walk into a liquor store and choose something you'll enjoy!