Welcome to Ask Kate About Beer, in which The Takeout’s resident beer expert answers everything you’ve ever wanted to know about beer but were too drunk to ask. Have a question? Shoot it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kate: I don’t like beer. Like, at all. But beer is so ubiquitous that I often wish I could tolerate it. So I want to know where to start. What beers would you recommend I try to hopefully expand my palate a bit and find a type that I like?
Also, I know this is super unhelpful, but I have no idea how to put in to words exactly what it is about the taste of beer that I don’t like. I’ve tried so little of it that I don’t have a good understanding of what beer terms mean (hoppy, malty, light, dark, etc.).
It bums me out to hear that some people across-the-board don’t like beer. Everyone should drink and eat what they like, of course, so I’m not here to tell you that you’re broken or terrible or uncouth for not liking beer.
But I’d bet that you actually could like beer if you found the right style for you. Because you haven’t tried many types of beer, I’m hopeful that there’s still one out there for you. You might find it useful to seek out beers that match the flavors you like in food. For example, I love pickled and tart foods, so I find the citrusy acidity of some sour beers enjoyable. People with a sweet tooth might dig the milk chocolate, coffee creamer, or caramel notes in dessert stouts.
Because I don’t know your particular palate’s preferences, here are some diverse beer styles to get you started. I wouldn’t suggest worrying too much about the beers’ appearances; they can be deceiving. Some light-colored beers have very intense flavors, while some dark beers are mellow and smooth. Just pay attention to the sensation of the beer on your tongue and go with your instincts. (Here are more tips for how to get better at tasting beer.)
My fingers are crossed that one of these styles will hit the spot. If it does, shoot me another email letting me know which you liked, and I can provide further beer guidance. I am your humble beer Yoda. And if none of these is your jam, that’s fine too. Why force yourself to drink something you don’t like? Order a cider or wine instead.
The resurgence of craft lagers means more breweries are brewing easy-drinking, low-ABV beers that have a similar profile to mass-market Budweiser, Coors, etc. Try an American-style pilsner made by a small brewery—you might find it has just a touch more flavor than you expected, but is still relatively light and refreshing.
When I’m invited to a party full of people I don’t yet know, amber lagers (usually Negra Modelo) are my go-to beer contribution. They’re slightly sweet but still finish crisply, with not a lot of overwhelming hops or roast or bells and whistles. They’re a middle-of-the-road staples, like Jack Johnson music, except that people actually enjoy these.
There’s a reason MillerCoors hit a home run with Blue Moon when it debuted in 1995: Wheat beers have been the “gateway beer” style for plenty of Americans. The best versions are softly bready with a lemon-like flavor from the wheat, generally with a touch of sweetness and lots of carbonation. If you like fruit, try one with added citrus or berries (though beware they might be a bit sweeter than the un-fruited versions).
People tend to be intimidated by dark beers, but oatmeal stouts are actually smooth, creamy, and not overly bitter. I wanted to include a stout on this list because you might enjoy the lightly roasted flavors and notes of chocolate (this is especially true for coffee drinkers). Maybe steer clear of bourbon barrel-aged stouts or imperial stouts until you know whether you like their less-intense relatives.
Sour beers are often presented as esoteric and challenging, which they can be, but I’ve also known friends who don’t like any other type of beer except sours. I’d start off with a Flanders red, which is winelike, tart, and fruity. (I find cocktail drinkers also tend to appreciate this style.) Unfortunately, Flanders reds aren’t usually hanging out on the grocery-store end cap, so you might have to go to a big liquor store or specialty beer shop to hunt one down.