Strategies for finding great beers
Let’s be honest: the mutitude of beer choices is intimidating. Standing in front of a well-stocked beer aisle can be dizzying for even the most experienced beer geek.
One could spend hours with a smart phone researching the choices at a smaller place, nevermind standing in a huge liquor store like Wines & More or Yankee Spirits. Heck, the choices can be mind-numbing at a well a well-stocked smaller location like Douglas, Barry’s, Muckey’s, or Lee’s Market.
So how does one make a choice when facing such a massive selection of options? There are multiple strategies that work well and can be mix-and-matched as needed. As you read on to figure out how to navigate the maze of beer choices, never forget: all beer is good beer. Don’t let the near-infinite beer choices cause anxiety.
The best strategy is to talk beer with knowledgeable friends. They’ll steer you towards breweries and beers that they like, which can lead to a few new discoveries of your own. Ideally, you’ll return the favor when you discover other breweries or selections by favored breweries. Tell fellow beer enthusiasts about your great finds!
A second excellent method that can play off the first strategy is to find a few breweries that you like and just try a bunch of their brews. Many breweries put out mix-packs of 12 beers, which allows you to try a variety of brews from a favorite brewery. Heck, a mixed-12 pack taught me that while I love Southern Tier’s 2x series of stronger brews, their regular ales don’t impress me, a fact I discovered when I bought a mix pack.
Sometimes, one can find a beer they really like and can just spend time exploring other versions of the same style. I discovered my passion for Russian imperial stouts when I tried North Coast’s Old Rasputin. Since then, I’ve been a sucker for imperial stouts like Sierra Nevada’s amazing Narwhal and Newport Storm’s surprisingly-complex Hurricane Vlad.
When confronted with a huge array of brews, one can simply ask folks who work at the beer store for suggestions. Usually, they’ll ask what sorts of brews you like and will steer you towards other options you might enjoy. I discovered the innovative and top-notch Pretty Things, who brews at Buzzards Bay in Westport, a few years ago after explaining my passion for local brews to the beer buyer at Yankee Spirits.
Another great strategy is to simply consume all beer knowledge you can. Read this column and others like it. Pick up Yankee Brew News when you see it around. Spend time at BeerAdvocate.com and RateBeer.com to see what others think. You might find some great brews by reading what others say about them.
Finally, try new beers when you’re out and about. I’ve mentioned awesome beer places like Rose Alley and Pour Farm (both in downtown New Bedford), but Fall River also has a trio of excellent beer-sampling locations at Battleship Brewhouse, Jerry Remy’s, and Taphouse Grille. Places with lots of taps will usually allow (and even encourage) trying sampler trays, called “flights”. A flight allows the drinker to sample a variety of brews in small pours.
But you don’t have to try a flight when you’re out or only go to great beer restaurants. You can simply try new brews when you’re out at restaurants … who knows, you might find a new favorite!
Originally published on September 26, 2013