Previously I spoke of the epiphany beer, those that fundamentally change our perceptions of what we understand a beer to be. Such moments may be few and far between but they all are part of the foundation of the enlightened beer drinker you have become. Now, no matter what generation you belong to, all of us at some point have enjoyed what would generally be considered to be sub-standard beer. Most of us would have friends and family who probably still are of the opinion that the lager they’ve drunk their entire lives to be the last word in all things malt and hops. Understandably you want to share your enthusiasm for real beer with them, to help them discover that beer can actually have a quality known as flavour. The thing is, building an appreciation of the sheer variety beer has to offer can take a long while and people generally dislike having their perceptions radically challenged, especially when what they are already drinking works for them and face it, costs a lot less. You can lead a horse to water, etc, etc.
Also, bear in mind that not everyone is really suited to this. Some minds are too small to change, their secure little worlds are just right in their minds. These are the sort of people for whom Today Tonight is serious social commentary, people whom buy a weekly carton of [insert shitty mass produced brand here] and wouldn’t consider drinking beer from another state and give you grief if you turn up with something that sounds vaguely foreign. For them beer is solely for refreshment and getting pissed. Likewise steer clear of the pretentious tosser who drinks Stella Artois because it’s European and wants everyone to think he has money and sophistication. This calibre of person should be well used to ignorance and you need not concern yourself with them.
What you’re after is the mate who is happy to try new things, to have his perceptions shifted a little. Maybe he’s always enjoyed Coopers or occasionally buys a 6 pack of James Squire, that’s always a good sign. Maybe he (or she, I’m just a chauvinist, although if she’s past her early 20s and still drinks Cruisers don’t bother) doesn’t even drink beer, all they need to have is an open mind and a capacity to appreciate and enjoy the finer things in life. A note of warning though, the worst thing you can do is get some lager loving real ale virgin and thrust some hop armageddon like Murray’s Icon 2ipa or an inscrutable Belgian style dubbel in their face and expect them to have a good time and come back for more. Doesn’t work that way and you shouldn’t try to build a house before you’ve had experience building a shed. With this in mind I’ve devised a short list of 5 beers I feel are all worthy enough to maybe trigger an epiphany in the mind of the drinker. They may not be the most complex brews out there but I feel they are all good introductions to their respective styles...
Stone & Wood Pacific Ale: Insanely drinkable and possessing a superlative flavour, I’m yet to meet anyone whom dislikes this beer. If the Pacific Ale were a woman it would be a bikini clad Elle Macpherson. My girlfriend tells me if it were a man it would be Heath Ledger in boardies. I’ve introduced a number of friends to S&W and this has become their 6 pack of choice. Available in a growing number of bottle shops and bars across the country I feel this is a good place as any to start. If the budding beer padawan dislikes this there may not be much hope in continuing...
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: When I first started getting into beer I had no idea what a “craft” brewer was and my only impression of American beer was from a carton of Budweiser the hotel I worked at never managed to sell. Imagine my shock when I started looking up Best Beer lists on the internet and found that so many included US beers. From what I understand Sierra Nevada helped begin the craft brewing revolution in the US the way Matilda Bay helped kick start it here and this is the beer that did it for them. Aromatic and incredibly well balanced this is an excellent introduction to this popular style. If we want to keep it strictly Australian then the ubiquitous Little Creatures is easier to get a hold of and gentler on the wallet. Also going to be much fresher, I loved this beer back in the day, many better examples of the APA but LC is a good place to start.
Hoegaarden: It’s definitely not craft beer in any sense of the word but you know what? I drink many witbiers but I still come back for Hoegaarden as it is very sessionable and covers all the basics that a witbier should. Shortly after my experience with the Forbidden Fruit I was with a mate at a bar in Hobart in the early afternoon and saw that they had Hoegaarden on tap. Thinking it was F.F we ordered a couple and to this day I remember the look of astonishment we gave each other after the first sip “Holy shiz, it tastes like bubblegum!” Before then I didn’t even know you could make beer with wheat. Obviously there are many finer wheat beers out there, but this was my introduction and as far as I’m concerned it ticks all the right boxes. Good Australian wheat beer which aren’t too challenging include the Grand Ridge Blonde and Murray’s Whale Ale, both eminently drinkable.
Samuel Smith’s Famous Taddy Porter: I think of this beer like Muhammad Ali, its label talks big but it has the guns to back it up. But first, I must digress, how many times have you heard people when offered something slightly darker than lager say “sorry mate, I don’t drink dark beer”? For the majority of my generation, our only real experience with a darker ale is Guinness and have based their opinions of all dark ales on this one, very dry example. As such, Gen Y, and I’m guessing Gen X before it have always considered stouts and porters to be an old man’s drink, simply not sexy enough. I don’t need to state that this misconception is an injustice of the gravest sort and needs immediate correcting. The Taddy Porter should be considered one of the primary weapons in our arsenal in achieving this. The deep ruby hue, the sweet caramel tobacco aroma and that silky mouthfeel all combine and will bring the neophyte’s preconceptions of dark ales crashing down like George Foreman in Zaire. From the ruins a new appreciation of stouts and porters shall arise and lead on to better things, like shilling cookware. Again if you want to keep it Australian then you could always blow their minds with Holgate’s Chocolate Temptress.
Mountain Goat Hightail Ale:
This is a perennial favorite of many across Melbourne and I feel is an excellent introductory beer. This darker, copper colored Ale is highly sessionable and will get the new drinker over the preconception that easy drinking beers need to be light hued and clear (I remember once nearly sending back a Coopers Pale because I thought the sediment in the bottle meant it was off. Ignorance is by no means bliss). Toffee sweetness on the palate make this a very appealing brew and it is easily found in bottle shops across most of the country.