There’s no denying that the beer scene is exploding, and that it’s fantastic. I remember avoiding certain restaurants or pubs because their beer selection was lacking, but that rarely happens at all anymore. Almost any distributor, bar or restaurant is going to have, at worst, a few good beers.
The sheer variety of different beers readily available has expanded so quickly. What if you aren’t a beer drinker? What if you’ve been drinking the same old light lager for the past 30 years? Or what if, like me, you thought you didn’t like beer because not long ago, what beer was… wasn’t very good?
I can see that if you’re someone just now getting into all of the choices out there, it could be a bit intimidating. But, don’t worry. I’m here to help.
The best piece of advice that I can give is no matter what you think you like, do not limit yourself. If you start out by over generalizing, it’s likely you’ll miss out on something excellent. You might say “I don’t like dark beer,” or “I don’t like hops,” but, chances are, you’re wrong. Not all dark beers are heavy or taste bitter or overly smoked or roasted; and there is such a huge variety of hops, leading to massive varieties of flavors that can be derived from them.
Dark beers can be roasty and bitter like black coffee; but they can also be chocolatey and sweet. It’s also a common misconception that dark beers are always heavy or strong. Sure, some are, but not all.
Hopped beers can be crisp, fruity, floral or herbal. And of course, they can be bitter as well.
Your best place to start depends a little bit on your experience with beer. If you like beer, but haven’t jumped headfirst into the craft world, think about a beer you do like. If you’re into the macro lager stuff, you know, the big popular football beer commercial beers, then you should start with a lighter lager, maybe a pilsner or a kolsch (which, yes, I know is not a lager, but it’s kind of a lager-ish ale) Or, because it’s the right time of year for it, an Oktoberfest (or märzen) could be a good choice. All of those styles will be relatively mild, and especially with a local Oktoberfest, will highlight a crisp freshness you won’t get in your typical macro brews.
As for ales, a blonde or amber would be good places to start. Both have more complex flavors to offer than your standard light lager, but likely won’t be over the top. In my opinion, you’re in luck here in Maryland. Jailbreak’s The Infinite is an amazing beer to start out with. It’s far from boring, but it’s just incredibly well-balanced, if not slightly sweet, ale. Another beer that fits the bill is Calvert Cream Ale – it’s got a slight crisp bitterness to it, and it’s very refreshing.
However, if you don’t like beer (and by “you don’t like beer,” I really mean “you THINK you don’t like beer.”) go to brewery. Most breweries will be happy to give you suggestions…. and samples; and you’ll get to taste what they’re making at its freshest. Also, spend the few bucks and get a flight. Like wine, beer comes in many styles and flavors, and breweries are becoming more inventive all the time. It’s a big world and I know you’ll be able to find something you like. We look forward to having a beer with you!
And for you all who already love to drink fresh and local craft beer, tell us, how did you start? We’d also love to hear your recommendations for beginners. Let’s have a conversation using #thegoodwort on Twitter. Also, you can follow me and my beer adventures on Twitter and Snapchat @therealeshirk, and be sure to keep up with the Brewers Association of Maryland @MDBrewers.