We’ve all been there before. You buy a six-pack of a new brew that looks like it’ll be great, but after the first sip or two, you realize your error. Whether it’s too hoppy, too malty or just too “out there” for your particular tastes, you’re now stuck with the majority of a six-pack that you’ll never drink. And you’re out the money for the purchase, too. While that expense might not have been particularly large back when big beer dominated and you only paid $5.00 for the six-pack, now that a decent option from a craft brewery costs $9 and up, it’s a bit of a setback. Thankfully, there are new options out there that allow you to explore the world of craft beer without quite so much risk.
You head to out for a meal and maybe a pint or two. As you’re perusing the drink list, you notice something that stands out. The venue is offering a “flight” of beers. What’s that all about, you wonder to yourself. Well, wonder no more. Flights are interesting ways to broaden your experience without worrying that you’re wasting money on a six-pack that you’ll never drink.
Essentially, a flight is nothing more than several smaller glasses of beer served at the same time (usually, though you can sometimes have them served sequentially as you finish them). Basically, you tell the serve what flight you want, and he or she will bring you a tray with three to five different beers on it. The glasses are smaller than normal, so you can drink all of them without worrying that you’ll be getting too tipsy. Flights are usually themed – you might find a selection of offerings from a particular brewery, or you might find a selection of a particular beer style. You might also find a collection of dissimilar beers that the venue’s management deems complementary or compatible. It varies from one location to another, so have fun exploring.
Flights are an excellent tool for any beer drinker. For those who are confirmed craft beer lovers, a flight gives you the means to try out new brewery options. For drinkers who aren’t quite sure that they want to depart from their beloved big beer of choice, flights offer a risk free way to see what this craft movement is all about.
Whether you’re interested in the offerings from a particular brewery, or aren’t quite sure what styles really appeal to you, brewery tastings are amazing events (of course, they’re great things for just having an afternoon of fun as well). Essentially, they’re the same thing as a wine tasting, and you’ll find that most breweries offer tasting options and tours, often in conjunction with each other.
The first step is to find a local craft brewery. There are several online resources available that can help you locate a brewery right in your hometown (and never discount the power of a simple Google search, either). Once you’ve found a brewery, check out their website or give them a call. Many breweries offer tastings on a daily or weekly basis, and some combine their tasting with a tour of the brewery’s facilities, which can be a great way to get a behind the scenes look at how beer is actually brewed.
In most instances, you’ll have to pay to get into a tasting. You’ll pay either a tasting fee or a tour admission price. It’s always worth it, though. Take your time, find a local brewery in your area that serves up some interesting options, and then explore what they’ve got. You might be surprised at just how much attending a beer tasting can help you better understand what styles you prefer, and it can open up an entirely new world for you.
Whether you’re a confirmed craft beer lover or someone interested in getting your feet wet in this brave new world, there’s one option growing in popularity that can allow you to further explore your passion – the bottle share. Bottle shares come in a couple of different flavors, so it pays to know what’s available.
Traditionally, a bottle share was an informal gathering of beer lovers with rare, expensive or otherwise significant beers they wanted to share with other beer lovers. They might meet in someone’s basement, or at a local conference facility. Everyone brings their bottle, and then those brews are all shared out via small cups or glasses.
Formal bottle shares have become more and more popular lately. They’re frequently sponsored by some of the more authoritative and popular beer-related websites, by breweries and by brewery coalitions. They’re a bit like combining a beer festival with a brewery tasting. You get to sample an incredible range of different beer styles, and enjoy a day of fun, drink and often food. Bottle shares can open up your world with rare beers, brews from defunct operations, vertical samplings, and some great company.
If you really want to experience something different, find a local brewery offering a cask tasting. Cask beers are different from most options out there (which tend to be bottle conditioned). These are drawn straight from the cask, where they have been conditioned and aged. Often, they carry flavors from the wood of the cask – oak is perhaps the most famous. You’ll also find beers from repurposed liquor casks. Bourbon barrels are very popular for this, particularly with darker beers like stouts and porters. However, you’ll find other options, including wine barrel aged beers. If you have a chance to attend a cask tasting, you owe it to yourself to attend.
As you can see, there’s a wealth of different ways that you can get out and start exploring the world of craft beer without worrying that you’ll bring home a six-pack that will do nothing but sit in your refrigerator and take up space. Get out there and see what’s available near you.