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Jan 19, 2011 02:09 PM

I want to enjoy beer, but I don't. Can you help me?

So here is my quandary.

I want to like beer. I really do. I enjoy almost all other alcoholic beverages and spirits, but have never, EVER been able to develop a taste for beer and I feel like I am missing something. Especially as I live in the greater Philadelphia area which has a thriving beer-loving, micro-brew community and tons of great gastropubs with huge beer lists, and I feel like I'm missing out because I have yet to find any beer I'd actually drink over, say, a decent glass of wine or a nice bourbon.

Dark beers just taste like concentrated soy sauce to me, and light beers, well... "p*ss water" is the only term I have for how most taste to me. It bums me out yet I feel like I need some guidance towards beers I might actually enjoy. I'd appreciate some recs so I could maybe pick up a mixed six-pack at one of the good liquor stores near me to sample without committing too much money to the experiment - goodness knows my SO will help me down anything I can't stomach as he enjoys the stuff pretty indiscriminately.

If it helps points any recs in the right direction, I like bitter more than sweet in general, and dry wines over sweet. My favorite spirits are bourbon and tequila, both of which I can and like to drink straight more than mixed if of good quality. I mostly drink red wines more than white - pinot noir and syrah most typically, and if I'm drinking white it's usually a vernacchia or savignon blanc. I actually LOVE dry sake, too.

If I'm just not meant to like beer, I guess that's the way it will be...but I do want to give it a more educated chance based on some Chowhounder recs.

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  1. Try a flavored beer - I had a great blueberry one, but forget the brand sorry

    1. If you have Goose Island beers available, you might try Sofie.
      Take a look at a few of the Vintage and Vintage Reserve beers.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Bobfrmia

        Thanks for the link - it does look interesting and I'll see if I can find it locally.

      2. lindeman's framboise. perfect llambic. who can say no to raspberry beer?

        6 Replies
        1. re: Chowrin

          I've been pondering trying that one as I love raspberry. Fruity beers may be a good entry point for me as I do like hard ciders and such.

          1. re: sockii

            Lindeman's is a pretty poor substitute for traditionally made Lambics (Boon, Cantillon, Hannssens), but if you like it, go for it. It is comparatively easy to find. That said, I would point you to their Geuze as it comes much closer to the dry, funky flavors you find in a traditional product but is still pretty accessible

            1. re: Ernie Diamond

              The Cuvee Rene is a damn fine gueuze from them. Pity they don't make any fruit lambics like that. I tried their Faro - it was interesting.

          2. re: Chowrin

            +1 for the Lindeman's, it's a very drinkable beer. Though I prefer their cherry (Kreik), and black currant (Cassis) brews.

            Hmm, now I'll have to buy some this weekend.

            1. re: Chowrin

              I'll add a +1 for the lindeman's as well. I'm not a beer drinker AT ALL (I just have very low tolerance for most alcohols) but I love this stuff in small doses, especially when I cook Austrian food. I like all their flavours, especially raspberry and black currant.

              You could also try a shandy -- that's very common freshly mixed in English pubs -- but you can buy some bottled. It's basically half beer (some light coloured beer) and half lemonade. Really, much tastier than you can imagine and really nice on a hot day.
              This is the kind of shandy I usually buy (it's Austrian so it's called a radler):

              1. re: Chowrin

                Except the OP says she doesn't like sweet.

                I'd try something like Young's Chocolate Stout. It's totally dry, with a hint of chocolate on the nose. It's pretty easy to find, and if it tastes like soy sauce to you, I'll eat my hat. It's pretty easy to drink and lower in alcohol.

              2. Can you tell us the last few beers you've had and what you haven't liked about them?

                25 Replies
                1. re: Chinon00

                  Guiness - tasted like soy sauce to me, couldn't stomach more than a sip (except when served as a chaser to a Bloody Mary...) Very "salty" to me and completely unappealing.

                  Any American mass produced beer - basically p*sswater. Can't understand any reason to drink it for pleasure.

                  I've tried a fair number of ales through the years but never found anything I'd choose to drink over wine or a mixed drink.

                  I can almost - almost - stomach some Chinese and Japanese beers like Sapporo but only on incredibly hot summer days, but even then I'd rather be drinking vodka and soda water...

                  1. re: sockii

                    I wonder what would happen if you blind (or double-blind) tasted some beers? Guinness, for example, may give you an impression of soy sauce because it looks similarly. It's possible that it's all in your head, because, truly, Guinness is not salty.

                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                      If she had Guinness' Foreign Export stout, then I can see why she'd say that. It's much higher in alcohol and tastes very different from the standard Guinness draught you see around, and it became available in the US market a few months ago, IIRC.

                      1. re: Josh

                        I've had it. Doesn't resonate as remotely salty to me.

                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                          Chances are that the OP is assigning "salty" to the very minerally deep roast flavors of the black malt used in Guinness.

                          1. re: Tripeler

                            I seriously doubt that. An inexperienced Guinness drinker wouldn't pick up the minerality only the bitter roast character.

                            1. re: Chinon00


                              I really think the OP should try blind/double-blind tasting. I bet she'd be surprised.

                          2. re: invinotheresverde

                            Well, she did say "salty", implying something that reminded her of that. I had a bottle that was seriously flawed recently, and while I wouldn't say it made me think of soy sauce, it definitely was not pleasant tasting.

                            1. re: Josh

                              Like I stated above, I bet it was more due to the appearance and less due to the flavor. JMO, of course.

                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                I really think it depends on one's palate. Asah Black, for example, has a pronounced soy sauce-like flavor to it. I would guess it's something to do with the roasted unmalted grains used. Some people are more sensitive to certain flavors than others. Acetaldehyde is a flavor that I'm very sensitive to, and I pick it up at levels that are sometimes not noticeable to others.

                                1. re: Josh

                                  True, but I'm a sommelier and very aware of the misconceptions that can occur when one relies on visual cues to form an opinion. When wine is tasted with zero preconceived notions, it's the only time it's truly tasted. I'd say the same thing rings true with beer.

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                    I think that sometimes does happen (a lot of people say "I don't like dark beer", which is akin to saying "I don't like white wine"), but I don't know if I'd expect someone to imagine a flavor as specific as soy sauce, especially when some beers do present soy sauce-like flavors.

                                    1. re: Josh

                                      Michael Jackson used to tell the story of a supermarket beer tasting he once did. Customer said, "I don't like dark beer." MJ asked, "Which ones don't you like?" Response: "I don't know. I've never had one."

                                      1. re: Josh

                                        Which beers do you think taste like soy sauce?

                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                          Asahi Black, which I mentioned earlier, is the one that jumps immediately to mind. I also seem to recall tasting an element like that in Sam Smith's Imperial Stout, and there's another imperial stout, A. Le Coq, that I remember having soy sauce-like elements in its flavor.

                                          1. re: Josh

                                            I'll confess that while drinking Caber Tossing Scottish Ale by Fox River Brewing Co. I do pick up something similar to soy sauce. Doesn't make it unpleasant though.

                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                              Yeah, I don't mind it. Asahi Black is a great beer for sushi, and I think part of that is the soy-like element in its flavor.

                                  2. re: invinotheresverde

                                    I am inclined to agree with you here. Guinness tastes nothing like soy sauce, I think the visuals of dark beer can influence perception.

                                    1. re: MVNYC

                                      I know the standard Guinness doesn't, but I definitely picked up some strange flavors in the Foreign Export bottle I tried.

                                      1. re: Josh

                                        I would be interested to know what the original poster tried. Somehow I don't think it was the Export.

                          3. re: sockii

                            Step one - Revisit "dark beers". There are more out there than just dry Irish stouts like Guinness. Try German Doppelbock, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Baltic Porter, Coffee Stout, and Scottish Ale. These beers are all very different from Guinness.
                            Step two - Try exotic beers like gueuze, Flanders Red Ale, and strongly herbed gruit.
                            Step three - Wheat beers like wit, hefeweizen, dunkelweizen and weizenbock for fruity, clove-y, banana, and herby flavors.

                            1. re: sockii

                              Get the Goose Island quick, they were just sold to Budweiser!

                              1. re: xprmntl

                                I don't think you'll see any change in their beers due to the purchase.

                                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                  How can you be so sure? Thats what they said about Old Dominion.

                                  1. re: Insidious Rex

                                    I'm sure because I know John Hall and I believe what he says. And I don't think that's what they said about Old Dominion.

                                    IAC, you have two very different situations with ODBC and GI. Old Dominion was ready to sell, they had investors who wanted to cash out and they were not ascendant at the time. Goose Island is on a roll, they are what AB needs in Chicago, and while GI was shopping around for equity solutions, they were in a position to exercise some leverage.

                                    If you look at the two situations, GI has a lot of momentum, while OD was probably a bit tired.

                                    I posted about John Hall's Tribune piece. Let's take any further talk about this over to that thread.

                          4. Try Rodenbach or Duchesse de Bourgogne. Orval is another nice one that might appeal.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Jim Dorsch

                              I'd also add Hennepin to that list, it'd probably be the first thing I offered the OP if I were present. But those came to mind right away as well.

                              I also think some beers in the IPA direction would worth a try- along the lines of the previously suggested Two Hearted, or Stone, or Founders Centennial, or Bear Republic Racer 5.