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Feb 15, 2012 11:47 AM

Beer Tasting

I'm a pretty big beer geek but my younger brother and my girlfriend both just turned 21 so all they have ever really had is Bud light/keystone etc. and they would like to enter the world of good beer. So I'm having a little beer tasting party for them. We've got a pretty good beer store where they sell a large selection of single bottles so I'm hoping to get 6 different styles for them to taste. I'm really looking forward to this but I just wondered what 6 you would choose for contrasting styles.

I've got Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter and a local bock that i want them to try. So for the other 6 I was thinking-

Samuel Adams Lager- Not the best, I know, but quite a few people I know cite this as their "crossover beer" and I think it's a decent lager and worth a try.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale- for the hoppy selection. I was considering maybe going with a great IPA like the Dogfish Head 90 minute or the SN Torpedo since I think they're both better beers but I don't want to overwhelm them with hops and I think the classic Pale Ale is pretty balanced.

I'd like a recommendation for a good pilsner- I don't drink plisners a lot so probably the best I've had is the Prima Pils by Victory BrewCo. and I'm not completely sure if that's available.. so any recommendations?

Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale- I wanted to include an Irish Red because that was one of the first beers I really liked.

I'm not sure what style to make my last one... I was thinking a good American Wheat Ale because I love some of those during the summer. I know I'd be leaving out all the Belgian styles but I've never been too big on Belgian beers and I'm not sure they'd be the greatest thing for this kind of tasting. Maybe we'd do another tasting where we just do all Belgian Beers.

So anyway.. I just wondered what recommendations/suggestions/ideas CH would have.

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  1. Here are my thoughts:
    The EF Porter is a great choice, nice and roasty but too heavy or hoppy.
    The Sam Adams lager is good for that style, but I think Brooklyn makes a better lager; however for your purposes, it's probably a good choice. The SA Winter Lager is delicious but a little spicier/fruitier as well.

    I'm not a Pale Ale fan, but I do love the Dogfish 60 minute. It's such an amazing and balanced representation of the IPA style. But again, SN is the classic first timer's choice, so I think this would be fine too.

    For Pilsner, if you can get it, Sly Fox out of PA makes their Pikeland Pils - very nice and one of the few Pilsners I buy. Because I don't buy them much I'm not much help either in this category. I've also heard that Oskar Blue's "Mama's Little Yellow Pils" is very good.

    The only Irish ale I've had lately is Smithwick's, and since it's pretty widely available and a decent quaffer, that might be a good choice, but it sounds like you have one you like.

    For the last one, I would either pick an English Brown ale like Newcastle, or a well-balanced Belgian Pale ale like Ommegang Rare Vos. Or you can go with the wheat choice. I had the Breckinridge Agave wheat last summer, and that was nice.

    I can tell we have different favoring styles, but a good beer is a good beer, yes?
    Have fun!

    1 Reply
    1. re: BelgianBeerMistress

      Interesting recommendations. Some of those I've never seen or heard of. I'll have to try to find them.

      I think I solved my pilsner problem- just today I saw the SA Noble Pils so I had to pick up a sixer. I know it's not quite a traditional pilsner but it's one of my favorites. And I think it's a fairly popular brew because it says on their website that they're making it a year-long brew.

      I am pretty excited for the tasting. I consider myself a "beer geek" but really I've only been in the beer world for a few years so I still have so much to taste. It will be fun to experience my brother and girlfriend's reactions to these different styles and be able to recommend them new things to try.

      Also, any ideas on easy foods to serve? I was planning to have (fairly mild) chili because it's one of my all time favorite things to have beer with and I make a pretty darned good pot of chili.

    2. You're off to a good start with some pretty good interpretations of several popular American styles. Sam Adams Noble Pils is a good choice as well. It will give them a nice sense of the flavor of German noble hops and its actually more true to style than Prima, which is too hoppy for a pils, in my opinion, though delicious in its own right. You might also consider Anchor Steam in there. It's widely available, very tasty and one of the earliest craft beers.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chuckl

        +1 on including Anchor Steam. Besides being one of the earliest crafties (if not _the_ earliest) it really represents a hybrid of styles that honestly became a truly unique style of it's own (unlike nowadays when a brewer adds a few more hop cones to a batch and declares it to be a new style )

      2. If it were me having a tasting for a couple of newbies I'd try and expose them to fairly common widely available styles; attempting to get good versions of each. That way it'll be easy for them to get when they're out on their own. Styles I'd choose would include: Wheat beer, Pilsner, Abbey Dubbel, IPA and Imperial Stout. And if I had to throw in a sixth I would use your bock. Bock isn't a super popular style but my list is ale heavy;].
        As I said above get the best available of each but I would suggest that you get at least one or two imports as they'd add some nice contrast to the list. Very good and widely available imported breweries (among many others) include: Ayinger Bräu Weisse (hefeweizen) and Chimay Red (Abbey Dubbel).
        Have fun

        2 Replies
        1. re: Chinon00

          A dubbel is an interesting idea.. I hadn't considered that. I chose pale ale over an IPA and a porter over an imperial stout with the reasoning that I didn't want to frighten them away from a certain style. I now really enjoy pale ales and IPA's but at first I remember I wasn't really sure if I liked all that hoppiness because it was so different from anything else I'd had. I figured I didn't need a stout and a porter so I went with one of my all time favorites the GLBC EdFitz Porter.

          My list is kind of strange because I'm trying to do a few things- get a variety of popular styles, include some of my favorites and some of the beers that were "revelatory" for me and choose ones that I think they will enjoy and want to pursue other beers in those styles.

          I'm really excited to see their reactions to the pale ale and the porter since all they've had is the typical underage college swill and I don't think they even have any idea that beer can taste so different.

          1. re: Chinon00

            I think Chimay Red is a good idea to include for sure.

          2. I think you should include a good dark stout. Guinness is the obvious standard but there several good ones like something from Bells, Rush River or North Coat. Stouts are not for everyone. I find women seem to shy away from them but they should at least be tried.

            The idea I think would be to present a lager, a pilsner, an ale, a porter, a stout and a wheat.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Davydd

              Women often like sweet stouts, such as Left Hand Milk Stout.

              1. re: Jim Dorsch

                If they know something about beer and ale. My general observation is most women tend to avoid dark beers. I'm not sure why. Could it be a perceived feminine thing like many women feel they need to drink a white wine instead of a red wine?

                1. re: Davydd

                  I often tell a story from Michael Jackson. Early in his career he was doing a supermarket beer tasting. A woman told him she didn't like dark beer. "Which one don't you like?" he asked. "I don't know," she said. "I've never had one."

                  1. re: Davydd

                    "My general observation is most women tend to avoid dark beers."

                    Well, let's see... more than 1/2 of the US beer market is made up of "light beer" and well over 90% is light beer, adjunct light lagers from the US and Mexico, Euro lagers and pils, etc.

                    So my general observation is that those of the male gender consume much of that +90% - and thus also avoid dark beers.

                    1. re: JessKidden

                      Where the "Like" button when you need one? I like to think of myself as a beer geek thats tried everything under the sun. I love good stouts and IPA's but my styles of choice tend to be good lagers and milds. My wife was drinking bud lights when I was exploring complex Belgians in the 90's. She now loves Imperial Stouts and double IPA's and (especially) lip puckering sours. Now you may say she is the exception that proves the rule but at least in this household its the woman that digs the big caliber stuff and the man that likes the subtler cleaner lagers. On the other hand she prefers white to red and I prefer red to white...

              2. IPA - Bear Republic Racer 5, Stone IPA, Sierra Nevada Torpedo

                Porter/Stout- Founders Porter, Sierra Nevada Stout, Stone Smoked Porter

                Dopplebock - Spaten Optimator, Ayinger Celebrator, Augustiner Maximator

                Belgian strong golden types - Westmalle Tripel, Duvel, Saison Dupont

                Hefeweizen - Hacker Pschorr Weisse, Paulaner, Franziskaner

                Barleywine - Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.

                14 Replies
                1. re: LStaff

                  Very good list, quite well chosen. To this I would add Scaldis from Belgium (used to be called Bush) for its remarkably smooth 12% alcohol balance -- truly a one-of-a-kind beer.

                  1. re: Tripeler

                    I think Scaldis is still called Bush in Belgium.

                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                      Yes, I think it is, but I was assuming the OP will be purchasing the beer in the U.S.

                  2. re: LStaff

                    The only issue I have is that the OP stated that he didn't want to "overwhelm" his guests with hops. So all of your IPAs and Bigfoot inparticular don't fit that bill.

                    1. re: Chinon00

                      The OP wrote:
                      >I just wondered what 6 you would choose for contrasting styles.

                      These are the styles I chose (with examples that have national/ wide enough distribution that most could easily find at a better beer store near them) that meets that criteria.

                      These are very well balanced IPA's with enough sweetness to not overwhelm a newbie with too much bitternsss - imo. Bigfoot is the classic example of an american barleywine and has become quite refined and balanced the last few years - this year in no exception - and even has a greater malt depth than recent years.

                      Also I think its a mistake to assume new to craft beer types wouldn't like hoppy beers - I have converted many miller lite type drinkers with IPA's - even with my homebrew which is hopped to the gills.

                      1. re: LStaff

                        Each of your IPAs have IBUs in the 70s w/ Stone pushing 80. Where does a newbie go from there?

                        1. re: Chinon00

                          IBU #'s don't mean a damn thing.

                            1. re: LStaff

                              IBU #'s don't mean a damn thing.

                              that will come as somewhat of a shock to brewers as well as beer drinkers.

                              1. re: chuckl

                                Absent other information, there is some truth to LStaff's statement. A beer with a lot of malt character will taste less bitter than a thinner beer with the same number of IBUs.

                                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                  So IBUs mean "nothing" (as long as you counter their effect w/ a suitable grain bill).

                                2. re: chuckl

                                  The ibu content certainly does mean something. It is a measurement of bitterness in the beer..

                                  That having been said the average human has a threshold for how much bitterness (ibu) they can perceive. Most pros will tell you somewhere between 60 to 90.

                                  There are also other concerns as to how we perceive the "bitterness". Cohumulmone, h.s.i., and acids (alpha and beta) will also have a determining effect on how much bitterness you perceive from a beer.

                                  Yeast selection and handling can also change the apparent bitterness in beer.