22 Jul 2009 @ 9:45 AM 
 

Finding a beer for people who don’t like beer. A guide.

 

I was out having drinks with friends last night. A woman I don’t really know was sitting across the table from me drinking a PBR. “I’m not really a beer person,” said she. “This is about as adventurous as I get.” I offered her a sip of mine, a Petrus Oud Bruin, and got the reaction that I love so dearly:

“Oh my god. That’s wonderful. Beer can taste like that?!”

Her next beer was not a PBR.

One of my favorite things to tell people is that my superpower is finding beers that people like. It’s pretty rare that I meet people that think they don’t like beer that I can’t convert to beer, albeit sometimes slowly. All it takes is a little patience, a decent beer selection somewhere nearby, and a person who is willing to work through the process with you.

At the risk of sharing myself out of a superpower, here’s how I do it:

Find out what other drinks and foods they like This can be both alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks and any vast array of foods. This can be a really easy indicator. “I LOVE coffee.” = Try a stout. “I love fruity drinks.” = Try this fruit beer. “I love broccoli.” = Good luck! Matching flavors to introduce people to beer can be really easy. It can also really throw you for a loop. One of the women I was talking to last night told me: “When I drink liquor, I like gin and tonics. When I’m not drinking liquor, I drink sweet tea.” Tough one. It wasn’t until I was on my way to work this morning that I thought that what I would really like to try her on would be a Ruination IPA, Arrogant Bastard or even a 120 Minute IPA. Why? Well, we (beer geeks) all know that these are super hoppy beers. They’re high in citrus flavor and floral character, much like your gin and tonic. They’re also balanced with a lot of malt, a sweet backbone to balance out the bitterness of such a big hop presence. There’s your sweet tea. I hope I get the chance to try her out on one of these (or at least give her the recommendation).

Find out what they don’t like about beer This is actually two questions. Question one is: What is it about beer that you don’t like. This question might take a little coaxing to get a decent answer to. (Most frequent answer I get to this is: ‘The beer taste.’ Anybody who is in IT support will recognize this as the blanket answer to ‘What seems to be the problem with your computer?’ ‘It’s not working.’ ‘Amazing! How do you know?’) My wife likes to tell people that when she met me she thought she didn’t like beer. She usually follows this with: “Turns out that what I don’t like is Bud Light!” Bingo! So try to get an answer to what they don’t like, even if it’s a brand. Come up with an alternative for them to try based on what other drinks they like. If you’re wrong, then the followup question is: What about this beer don’t you like? Is it the bitterness? The sweetness? You don’t like flowers? You don’t like chocolate? If you feed a person the vocabulary they need to define it, they will be able to finally settle on what it is they don’t like, and you can build from there.

Don’t try them out on full pints. Number one way to get someone who doesn’t like beer to continue not liking beer: force them to drink a pint of something they don’t like. If you’re in the right kind of bar, see if you can get the bartender to give you samples of beer for the person to try. At absolute worst, buy one for yourself and let the person try it from your glass. They are going to be much more likely to try a wide array of things if they don’t have to suffer through an entire glass of something they don’t enjoy.

If possible, pair it with food. This is really multi-purpose. For the most part, people like eating, so you’re already giving them something that they enjoy. It gives them something to focus on beside the beer, which may make them a bit more adventurous . It also opens up a much wider range of flavors for them to try.

Don’t force the issue. Finding the right beer for somebody might not happen in one night. It could take days or weeks. A lot of people are going into this with the idea set in their mind: “I don’t like beer.” It can be a defining principle for people. No! I am a Liquor Person! I am a Wine Person! My response is: “Look, if you like good things, you will like good beer. You just haven’t had the right one.”

I can’t think of a person that I haven’t been able to find a beer for (surely they must exist, but I’ve apparently blocked that out), though some of them have taken me months of pondering and looking for just the right one to try on them. It can be a challenge, but everybody has some sort of beer that they’re going to like. It’s up to you to help them find it, and if you play your cards right you get to drink a lot of great beer in the meantime.

Tags Tags:
Categories: appreciation, beer-food pairing, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 22 Jul 2009 @ 12 10 PM

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Responses to this post » (53 Total)

 
  1. nate says:

    Amen, and Amen. I blew it many times back in the day with ordering someone a full pint of something that was too advanced for them.

    The pairing with food it great too. just last night I was sipping on a Goose Island Summertime (kolsch style) that, was in my opinion pretty unpalatable…so I got out some pungent hard cheese and it instantly made the beer drinkable.

    You have a fantastic layout here, by the way.

  2. erik says:

    Thanks!

    I do kinda wonder how many people have found that you can change from Hops to Barley in the menu down there. I think it might be my favorite part of this WordPress theme.

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  4. meg says:

    I need to get you together with my sister. I keep trying with no luck. At least we have her drinking wine beyond white zinfandel now.

  5. erik says:

    Sweet, fruity stuff, eh? There’s a beer for her, certainly. The White Zin of beers.

    Try her on Lindemans Framboise and then see if you can work her down to, say, a Raspberry UFO.

    • meg says:

      I gave her the Framboise for Christmas last year — she said it tasted too much like beer. *sigh* I’m not much better, though sort of in the opposite way — I’ve been known to not like beers because “they don’t taste like beer.” :)

  6. Kristy says:

    Hi, sounds like a brilliant superpower to have! Kristy here from BitterSweet Partnership, which we’ve spoken about before (we were set up to address the fact the UK beer industry has historically ignored women). Great to read this post and there are some useful tips which we’ll take on board. The tip about food pairing is really effective, which we found out as we recently held some beer and food matching sessions. One of the pairings was Bacchus Frambozen and a chocolate brownie, which everyone loved, even if they’d claimed not to be a beer fan!

  7. erik says:

    Hey Kristy – Glad you enjoyed it and found some utility for it.

    And thanks for the link back from your site!

  8. graciela. says:

    It really is the bitterness and/or sourness for me. I have an insane sweet tooth so the beers I’ve had (new castle, sierra nevada pa, hitachino nest red) are the antithesis of what my tongue craves. I do love all the Lindeman’s lambics so I’m giving beer another chance. It’s just scary since I don’t know anything about beer and people who do will give me crap about it. Like the other day I bought a widmer hef that I garnished with an orange because I like sweeter flavors but some guy gave me a lecture about using lemon. Lemon=bitter and sour. I stand by choosing the orange. It got me through the whole pint and I didn’t hate it. I figure it’s a start.

  9. erik says:

    You know what? Screw that guy. Or anybody who gives you crap about trying stuff out. If you don’t try things, you’ll never know what you like – and it’s about what YOU like.

    You like Widmer’s with an orange? Drink it with an orange.

    There are a lot of sweet beers out there for you. If you can find a Milk Stout give that a shot, too. Very sweet, and usually quite chocolaty as well.

  10. graciela. says:

    If I can find it I’ll give the Milk Stout a try. Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve also seen oatmeal and chocolate stouts at Whole Foods that I might try too.

  11. Preston says:

    Maybe you can help me, i want to like beer, but i just havn’t found one i can manage to drink a full bottle of, i guess my dislikes about beer would be how bitter they can be, i find it hard to drink beer since the bitterness seems to outwiegh the good in the flavor. i love sweet tasting drinks, Kaluah, sweet tea, root beer, my drink of choice at the local mexican restuarant i go to is a Prickly Pear Margarita. now i’ve had Guinness, Fat tire Amber Ale, Landshark and Samuel Adams Boston Lager, (probably more) and the only one i seem to be able to drink is the Landshark but that’s just “bearing with it” not really enjoying it. my uncle told me to try a hefeweizen as they are supposedly sweeter? any tips you could help me with?

  12. erik says:

    I don’t know Arizona that well, so I can’t speak to specific local brands, but there are most definitely sweeter beers out there for you to try.

    Baltic porters, milk stouts, and almost anything with really high alcohol will be fairly sweet.

    Buzz word to stay away from: “American” generally means there’s going to be a lot of hops in there. Hops = more bitter.

    If you find something that you like (or even just like *more*), I’d be interested in hearing about it.

    • Preston says:

      went looking for Milk Stouts last night, may try a few stores later on and i’ll keep you posted, thanks for your help! i saw Guinness Extra Stout while i was browsing, what’s your opinion on that brew?

  13. Tanner says:

    Hello, I’m in the same boat ad Preston, the bitterness is wat I cant stand. I’m also into sweet drinks for the most part anything with rum in it. If im not drinking then it’s dr pepper or sweet tea. The only beer I have tried is bud and miller which is my problem I know. Any beer you would recommend?

  14. Stacey says:

    Tanner I think you took the words right out of my mouth! I have tried Blue Moon with orange also, but I can still taste that stronger bitter taste. Help! We want to drink beer! LOL :)

  15. E.J. says:

    Great article! I’ve been searching for new beers to try, myself, as I tend not to like beer in general. I suppose, like a lot of people above it’s probably partly the bitterness, but that wouldn’t have been my first complaint. Beers usually taste flavorless to me (like seltzer water- which I hate- but with alcohol), so I don’t know if I just need to try stronger beers or…? I love sweet, fruity flavors (I like framboise, but it’s almost inconvenient to buy as only one shop sells it nearby), but I’m not too keen on chocolate & I hate coffee. I’m pretty adventurous, so I’m up for trying just about anything. Suggestions welcome. :)

  16. erik says:

    Hey guys – Sorry for the delay in response. Been having a few technical issues.

    On a basic level, you’re going to have a hard time getting away from at least a little bit of bitterness in beer, since a good beer is really about balance. However, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming and there are almost certainly beers out there for you.

    For the sweet-beer likers, try looking for a Milk Stout. They’re sweetened with lactose (not great if you’re lactose intolerant, by the way), so definitely have a sweet finish and can actually come off a lot like a sweet coffee or even chocolate milk.

    If you want something a little higher in alcohol, look for a barleywine – just stay away from the ones that are labeled “American” because those will tend to have a lot of hops, which brings us back to the bitterness.

    EJ – if beer tastes like seltzer water, then you’re definitely not drinking the right beer. :)

    Incidentally – the best way to find out where near you might have a good beer selection to try a lot of different things?

    BeerMapping

    • Kakashi says:

      Wow, I think you will be a great OB. It seems like you have a real love for children, feialmis, and people in general. Sad to say that those qualities are rare traits in todays world. I believe not just anyone should be in just any job because you could be in a job that you hate and end up making everyone who comes in contact with you at work miserable. You have the joy and care to be great at your job and effect those you will be working around not only by your knowledge , but by your love for what you do.

  17. sarah says:

    i’ve tried beer a few times. but literally could not take more than a sip or two. it just tastes horrible to me. i dont know how to describe it other than it just tastes like “beer.” i guess it might be the bitterness, but really to me in some weird way it tastes like tea (which i hate!) i do love coffee- i even like it black. which to many people seems gross. i like some wines and drink almost any liquor (preference being vodkas) but i wish i could drink beer. any suggestions?

  18. Leslie says:

    I like fat tire A LOT but really want some more variety in my beer. What might you recommend?

    • erik says:

      Wow, with Fat Tire as a base you have a lot of places that you can go. It’s got its fingers in a lot of different styles (if that makes any sense at all).

      What area of the country are you in? What have you tried?

  19. Hannah says:

    Hey,
    I loved this piece you have written and I am probably the worst person when it comes to beer. My boyfriend has been trying for some months now and I dislike all of them so maybe you can help. I honestly don’t like the bud lights keystone coors kind of beers. I’ve tried the simpler kind like woodchuck but not a huge fan. I love rum and vodka, citrus and coffee drinks, and all kinds of fruity drinks. I’m in college still and of course the cheapest thing to drink is beer. Is there anything I can drink without wasting it or feeling sick after one sip? I would greatly appreciate any feedback.

    • Elanne says:

      I commend Obama miknag a statement on universal human rights, for whatever my commendation is worth, which is nothing.Statement. The depth of it all. I can hardly stand it. The One has spoken, and having thus spoken the earth shook, but not with laughter. Even so well spoken, he could be mistaken there. I do not believe the rights to assembly and free speech are universal, not by a long shot. They should be universal but they’re not. The Iranians have the government they insisted upon having, one they brought into being themselves through violence with an incredible rejection of modern values, which I’m imagining to include the value of assembly and of free speech. In so doing they held 52 innocent Americans hostage to their violent and depressing backward-moving regime change bullshit for four hundred forty-four days and they’ve been a noxious pain in the arse since November of 1979, that’s twenty-nine years and seven months of straight-up theocracy, the worst most retarded form of government imaginable. I’m rather tired of being referred to as Satan so they can all just bite me, where bite me means go where Dante went and let Charon be their guide across the river Styx.

  20. joseph says:

    ok,erik. heres what i can remember trying

    Budweiser (tried on 2 occasions. almost threw-up both times, the taste seemed overwhelming, instantly i feel nauseous and don’t even want another sip)
    Sapporo beer (same, made me very nauseous)

    cheep wine (made me nauseous)
    cheep champaine (made me nauseous)

    rum (I can drink this straight. no problem. I love the taste)
    rum and coke (i can pound back like 10 of these’s in seconds lol)
    whiskey (a little stronger for me in taste then rum, but still don’t mind it)
    rye & whiskey (pritty good taste. haven’t mixed it with anything before)

    food and non alcoholic stuff i like
    love pasta. any kind.
    like apples, oranges, banana’s.
    not fond of hamburgers/hotdogs but there ok.
    like my steak medium rare? lol

    don’t like raw tomatos though. not fond of the acid taste when uncooked.

    Drinks:
    like coca-cola
    not a fan of ginger ale
    like root beer
    like milk/chocolate milk

    OK, so any pointers? i would love to just drink with the guys, but wow. i don’t want to throw up on them lmao

  21. erik says:

    The first thing I’d try is a Guiness, but in general I’d say try lower alcohol dark beers – brown ales, stouts, porters, etc.

  22. Emmy says:

    Hi Eric!
    My boyfriend has been trying to find a good beer for me and his sister for a while now. I am trying my best to acquire the taste for it, but I have issues with almost everything I have tried. For example:
    Guinness
    Bud Light
    Coors Light
    Blue Moon (actually the best I have tried)
    Shock Top
    Corona
    Heiniken
    etc.
    I really enjoy drinking wines such as Moscato and Ziffandel and I love champagne. I can drink liquor easily as well as drinks like Smirnoff, Mikes Hard, and Seagrams.
    As far as non-alcoholic drinks and foods go, I like pasta, cheese, coffee (with cream), apple cider, dark soft drinks, ginger ale, and rich chocolate desserts. I like almost all fruit and I do not like meat (but I am not a vegetarian). Spicy food is my friend.
    If you could help me think of some kind of beer I might enjoy, I would appreciate it! Thanks! :)

  23. Lisa says:

    As I sit here, beer in hand, I have to say-
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
    After reading your post a few months ago, I put my “it’s all beer, and beer is gross” attitude aside and just started buying craft beers to try. After drinking lots of homework, I’ve finally found a couple of beers that I LOVE, a few more that I like (and still some that I think are gross), instead of being convinced that I just wasn’t a beer drinker. Awesome!

    • erik says:

      Lisa –

      This is the best, most wonderful comment I have ever had here. Thank you. Can you share a little bit more of your process? What kind of stuff did you try? (And what kind of stuff do you still hate?)

      Cheers!

      • Lisa says:

        Hi Erik-
        I happened to be grabbing the URL for your article so I could pass it on and saw the reply, sorry for the delay! Luckily, there were plenty of sampler packs from local brewers that I could choose from (yet another great reason to live in Colorado!) and that helped the process more than anything. If there was something in one of the beers that I didn’t like I could compare it to the others right then and find out exactly what it was that turned me off (plus I didn’t end up with 5 1/2 undrinkable beers every time I didn’t like one). I agree with your coffee advice and I’ve found that a dark sweet beer is my favorite, Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout is now my “go-to” choice. Fruity… eh, that’s not so much my style. The same with the sort of bitter plant taste (I’m pretty sure this is the hops I’m describing) and that rules out a lot of lighter ales. I’ve also learned that mouth feel, to me anyway, makes a big difference. I don’t like a fizzy bubbly beer, but rather a foamy, thick and rich feeling almost like you could eat it with a fork. I still have a lot to try, er…sorry, learn, but it’s nice to know that I won’t have to say “I’m not really a beer drinker” ever again!

  24. Dave says:

    Erik, could you suggest me some beers that don’t have anywhere near a carbonated water-esque taste and are NOT super bitter? I’m trying desperately to find a beer I like but I’ve gone through a ton and disliked them all except for the bread aftertaste of some.

  25. Clay says:

    Ok so I am a drinker, but I have had no luck with beer. I see that this is mostly a prob for women. I am a cook and have a very sensitive palate. Every time Ive had beer the taste to me is just so bad. I can drink alcohol of all types all day, but if I have 1 beer Im done. One prob is for the most part my friends all drink bad beer, and they love it. Beers like Coors, Bud Lite, and worst of all Lone Star (we live in Tx so they think its tradition and awesome). I have tried those and a few others, but cant get past the taste. Can someone please direct me tward something that might help me. I cant always bust out the bottle of scotch or liquor when just hangin out.
    Thanks
    Clay

  26. Julesbr1013 says:

    I have a friend who wants to like beer, but has yet to find one she likes. Says it is because of the “smell”. Says all beers have “that smell”. We are going to Portland this weekend – we all love beer except her – and I am on a mission. Any suggestions?

  27. LouAnn says:

    I realize this is an old post – but i just found this as I was searching for beers for people that don’t like beer. Which is me… :) I am 45 and have never liked beer. I can hardly get past the smell, something about that yeasty smell. I have tried a few sips of friends’ beer and just don’t like them. No problem, I’ll stick with my margaritas (lime), malibu rum/coke, and ocassionally white zin. But I’m going to a “Beers around the world” party – and rather than being the designated driver, I’d really like to find something I could drink! Do you have any suggestions for me? THANKS!

  28. erik says:

    I would say that a party like that is an excellent opportunity to find out if there are beers out there that you enjoy. They might not all be your thing, but I bet there’s one out there somewhere. It looks like most of the things you like are pretty sweet, so look for porters, stouts, and brown ales – and stay away from the words “American” (because those are normally hoppy/bitter) or “Indian” (also a marker for hoppy). If you get a chance to try a Russian Imperial Stout, do so. They’re big and boozy and sweet – like your rum and coke.

    You’re not going to find much that isn’t yeasty, though. It’s a necessary component in beer – do you also not like bread?

  29. Veronica says:

    Hey Eric,
    Great artical!! My son in law were just sitting here trying to figure out how we can like beer. He loves my Chili and Chicken and rice that I put beer in but the beer we have tried is too bitter. I know there are some out that we can try. He and I both like chocolate, and coffee with cream and sugar lol. We love spicy foods and cooked beer. Tocos is the food of choice or steak. We are having a German fest here soon and We have a Hafe Brou resturant , I dont know how to spell it. Is there a name of Milk Stout we can try? or names of ports, stouts that they may have at a german resturant? Please help us Eric. We are trying to connect with the hertiage here. lol THank you.

    • Geraldo says:

      I just wanted to point out that I rlealy did have the same (almost) dream, times three, last night. I had absolutely no idea it was Groundadhog Day until this mornading, after I had writadten down the dream. I was lookading up a quote, and thought the movie would be a good source. It was not until I saw the quote I ended up using I realadized that Groundadhog Day was today. At least consciously. dk

  30. Melissa says:

    Maybe you can help me as well. I’ve worked in bars before, therefor the smell of Coors, Bud, Bud Light and normal light beers that smell similar to those immediately turns my stomach. I have tried Bud Light and couldn’t stomach it. I do like Ace Pear however it’s very carbonated so it makes me fairly full. I’ve noticed when I can stomach some Ace Pear I can only drink two before I get a headache. I’ve also tried Blue Moon, in which it was tolerable but only with tons of orange peels in it. I have also tried Michelob Ultra Pomegranate Rasberry and that was like nasty water to me and immediately gave me a headache half way into the bottle. I want to be able to enjoy a beer while out with my husband and friends. When I do drink alcohol I generally will order drinks like margaritas, vodka press with lime, midori sour, and generally fruity speciality drinks. I have tried Bud Light Lime Lime-a-ritas which I could get that down but was a bit too limey for me. I like sweet tea, mountain dew, dr pepper. Hopefully that’s enough to help. Please and thank you! :)

  31. Mike says:

    I hate a bad after taste and I have found many stout beers have a bad after taste. I love the way they taste just of stout just not the after taste. any suggestion?

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