If you are going on a Northwest Beer Lover’s Staycation you may want to try as many beers as possible without going overboard. That is where a good flight of beers comes in. Most breweries, taprooms and pubs will offer a beer flight. Usually, 3 to 6 beer samples in small taster glasses holding 4 to 5 ounces. It is a great way to try different beers and compare styles. I wrote about how to organize a beer flight in my post on organizing a virtual tour in my blog: Organize Your Virtual Beer Tasting Flights Like A Pro.
In that blog I describe some typical ways to organize a flight of beers, such as from light to dark, by alcohol volume or bitterness. I also suggested some flights:
- Brewery Flight: The brewery’s suggestion.
- Style Comparison: Compare 4 different IPAs or 4 different stouts.
- Country of Tradition or Origin: Compare 4 different English beers or 4 different German beers.
- Seasonal Beers: Do a flight of 4 Christmas Ales or 4 springtime bocks.
- Similar Styles: What is the difference between a Belgian Blond Ale and a Pilsner and a Pale Ale?
- Vertical Beer flight: Do you have samples of beers from different years?
Yet, ordering a flight can be a little intimidating for some. How do you not seem like a novice? How do you avoid the smirks and sneers of the beer snobs sitting all around you? Here are some of my tips on how to order a great flight of beers.
- Do not worry about being a beer novice.
We cannot be experts in everything. Give yourself some slack. Tell the bartender that you are not sure what to order and ask for their suggestions. If you are in a brewery or taproom specializing in craft beer your server should be trained in all the beer styles available and would love to show off a bit. Let them. Most breweries have a sample flight of their flagship beers. This is a great place to start. If you want to go beyond the house sampler be prepared to answer a few questions about what you like and what you are looking for.
- Be prepared to describe what you are looking to sample.
Do a little research and be prepared to describe what you would like to try. It helps to know some of the terms for beer flavors but if you do not know them do not worry. Do try to be as descriptive as possible. For example, if you tell the server that you want to try some sweet or malty beers, or that you are curious about Saisons that will really help your server.
- Do not be afraid to try something new.
We all have our comfort zone, but life is too short to be comfortable. Try something new. If you love IPAs but did not like a dark stout you tasted, try something like a Black IPA, also known as a Cascadian Dark Ale, or try a Dunkel, a dark lager. If are not partial to bitter beers like an IPA, ask your server for a low IBU Indian Pale Ale. I know that sounds like a contradiction but there are IPA’s that do not taste bitter but have a wonderful, hoppy aroma. If you only go for the high alcohol block busters try a session ale. If you have been shying away from sour ales, this is the year to do it.
- Do not be a bar hog.
In my first tip I suggested you talk to the server to get some suggestions. In reality some of these taprooms can get pretty busy, so it is not a good idea to monopolize the server when they are busy. Do a little homework. Study the tap list. Have an idea of what you want before you go up to the bar. Or come earlier in the day when it is not so crowded, and you can ask as many questions as you like.
- How to sample your beer flight.
In my blog Evaluating Your Virtual Tasting like a Beer Judge I cover what you should look for when you are tasting and evaluating beers. But there are a couple of things that will scream amateur to anyone sitting around you in the taproom.
- Do not taste your samples out of order. The beers are usually poured in a specific order to enhance the tasting experience. It may be from light to heavy or increasing sweetness or bitterness. At the very least sample and take a few sips of each of the beers in the order presented. If you like one more than the others, then you can go back and drink the rest of the sample.
- Do smell your beer. The aroma contributes up to 80% of the taste of a beer. Do not shortchange yourself.
- Do not chug the beer. We are not slamming back bottom shelf shots. Brewers make these craft beers to be enjoyed and experienced. Drinking a beer, like drinking wine or enjoying fine cheese or chocolates, is a sensory experience. You are in no hurry, sit back, take in the aroma and sight of the beer, and enjoy yourself.
Now is the time to experience and enjoy life and there is no better way than by sampling some craft beers. I would love to hear about your favorite beer flights and tasting experiences. Share and leave a message below.
I encourage you to find and explore the craft breweries near you. When you travel, get out and sample the local brews. If you come to Seattle, let me pick out the beer flights and come and visit us on one of our Brewery Walking Tours.