There are a ton of questions you get asked when people find out you brew beer for a living. “Do you love your job?” (Yes, very much so.) “Did you have to go to school for that?” (Originally no, my first college degree is in Environmental Resource Management & Wildlife and Fisheries, but I did indeed go BACK to school for a brewing degree – woohoo class of 2016!) “What’s your favorite beer?” And this is where I am left saying, “Ummm…it totally depends.” For me, it all depends on what time of year it is, what kind of mood I’m in, if I’m having food, etc. However, when I’m looking at a beer list I do have certain styles that I gravitate toward. And certain styles I am more likely to get a taster of than a pint. For a new craft beer drinker, getting to even that point can be absolutely daunting.
The perfect example of this is when we have new employees come on board and we hold our beer class. I’ll be going over things and someone inevitably says, “I don’t really like beer” or “I don’t drink beer because they all taste the same.” A single tear falls from the corner of my eye at the sadness of those statements. But, I respond the same way every time: “Give me a few months and I bet I’ll catch you sitting at the bar after your shift drinking a beer you thought you would NEVER like...” And I have to say, I have a pretty damn good track record for making that come true. So, let’s get to the rules I live by when it comes to taking those first steps into tasting everything the craft beer scene has to offer and how I think you can eventually find your favorite.
First up, and if you follow no other advise from my ramblings, TRY EVERYTHING. I can probably trace that life motto back to my grandfather. When I’d wrinkle my nose up at food as a kid he’d always say, “How do you know you don’t like it, you’ve never even tried it!” And the same goes for my thoughts on beer as an adult. If you see something on a menu you might be interested in, ask if you can get a taster of it. And don’t be afraid to try things you think you might not like. The first couple of IPAs I ever had seemed super bitter and piney, which totally wasn’t my jam at the time. I thought I didn’t like IPAs. WRONG. Turns out, I just hadn’t found an IPA with the flavors that I prefer.
Next, don’t be afraid to revisit certain beers or styles that you might have sworn off in the past. Your taste buds change and evolve over time. You probably eat things now as an adult that you wouldn’t have touched with a 10-foot pole as a kid. Don’t swear off an entire style because you had one beer that you didn’t like 5 years ago. I loved Belgian beers when I first started my foray into the craft beer world. Now, I still enjoy certain ones, but they aren’t usually my first choice. And remember that comment earlier about IPAs? Nowadays, give me all the IPAs…
Also, ask questions. You don’t know what a Kolsch is? Ask. You don’t know the difference between a Session IPA, an Imperial IPA, or a Black IPA? Ask. If you are just getting into craft beer, or deciding to branch out a little bit from your old faithful brand, use the knowledge that’s at your disposal. Bartenders are incredible wells of info when it comes to helping you find your way around a pint glass. Ask for help when you’re building your next mixed-6 at your local beer store. Ask your brewer next time you see them around. We’re all pretty passionate beer nerds looking to share our love of the craft… we’ll gladly sit and answer questions over a pint.
Lastly, like what you like, and don’t give a hoot what anyone else has to say about it. Maybe you have tried and tried again to get into the uber-popular sour beer trend, with all the tart, sour, and funkiness that melts your face off, and maybe you just don’t like it. Then don’t drink it. We all like what we like, and that’s okay. As we joke in my family, that’s why they make vanilla and chocolate – to each their own.
So, get out there and explore the vast beer world that is at your fingertips. Try a style you’ve never thought or heard about. Ask your bartender for a taste of something new and exciting next time you’re in. Go forth and find YOUR beer and drink it with unabashed joy.
With 14 locations in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, there’s an Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant near you. Each brewpub has their own craft kitchen and scratch brewery, allowing individual chefs and brewers the creativity to pair the freshest ingredients with the highest quality grains and hops. Monthly releases vary by location, so scout out our beers on tap and visit us soon.
This article was contributed by Moriah Guise. Moriah is the Head Brewer at Iron Hill Wilmington.