Not a Beer Drinker? Here is How to Start

There is a lot of confusion and pretentiousness involved in the liquid conveyors of drunkenness. With the armies of craft breweries and colourful, boobalicious, beer advertisements, it’s hard to know where to begin. A beer is a beer is a beer, but snobs (like me) try to make it something more.

I feel for you, poor beer noob. In the spirit of kinship (and homage to my days when I refused to drink hops) here is a short and sweet guide on how to start drinking beer, and actually enjoy it.

Have a Loved One Share Their Favourite Brew

I fervently believe that beer (and wine) are stories and histories which we inherit. I remember my first alcoholic drink: a gin and tonic with my dad. It was special. I didn’t like it (no one likes their first drink) but the smells and flavour reminded me of my dear old dad: pine, outdoorsyness, and a strange metallic something. It tasted like my favourite dad memories: sitting at a cottage with dusk falling, and dad portioning his ammo for a future hunt. I felt close to my dad, in a way that his shyness and aloof intellect often doesn’t allow.

While this example uses gin, it applies to future beer drinkers. Let a more experienced drinker share what they like in they way they like to drink it. You probably won’t like it, but it can become a cherished memory.

Start Big

The big brewers are big brewers for a reason. It’s the same reasons Coca-Cola is so big. Massive brewing powerhouses like Budweiser, Canadian, Coors, Stella, Heinekein, and Corona offer what (most) people want. These beers are a good place to start in the beer world. People like them, and they have been designed so that people will continue to like them.

Opt for Variety

Once you’ve tried out Corporate Beer™, check out a local brewery. Talk to your server/beertender about what they offer, and what makes them special. Tell them what you have had, and what you like. If you like certain wines or spirits, tell them! Many beers have similar taste profiles (or borrow techniques) from other alcohols. Get a tasting flight based on their recommendations. Don’t ask your server for what they like to drink, though – I can guarantee that their tastes are different from yours based on a scary amount of tasting experience.

Exercise Your Ravenclaw Side

As I said before, I think that beer and wine is a history we have inherited. Every brew, bottle, and brewery has a raison d’être and story. By drinking, by putting your hard earned dollar toward a certain beer or brewery, you are contributing to the world history of beer.

With this in mind, I encourage the new beer drinker to do some research. When I decided to learn about beer, I initially took a two-pronged approach. Being Irish, I wanted to learn about good Irish brews. Being a Torontoian, I wanted to know why we favour certain brews and why specific trends come and go.

Why do you want to drink beer? Why does a certain beer taste good to you? Why doesn’t it? Why does yeast poop do that thing to your brain? What the hell does torrefaction mean? The more you know about the products you consume and imbibe, the more you can enjoy and make informed decisions.

Don’t be “That Guy”

Don’t be the guy who drinks too much too fast, or who thinks that they know everything after drinking one craft brew. It’s ok not to know anything about beer. The great thing about beer is that there is always more to learn and enjoy. You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the scene!

Never, ever, be the person who thinks that they can drive after beers. Just say no. Uber is cheap!

Good luck on your beer adventures. Drink wisely, and have fun. Beer is an adventure – Avante!

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Statements that Won’t Help You Order Your Next Favourite Beer

Craft breweries! San Diego’s old news, Toronto’s new passion.

On the side, I serve and bartend at a Torontonian craft brewery in the glorious West end. Having worked with, and sold, craft beer for eons I have encountered lots of confusion with patrons who don’t “speak beer.” There is disjoint between what the drinker knows, and the language the server speaks.

Here are some statements to avoid to actually get the beer you want on your next night out:

“I don’t like hops.”

Sorry not sorry,  but craft beer is all about the hops. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule: many beers are brewed for flavours that come from the yeast. However, the majority of craft beer drinkers and lovers don’t like the bread-like, funky, grassy, affect yeast has on taste.

Beer has a limited number of ingredients. (Pro tip: if a brewery brags about their four ingredients, it’s not special. It’s standard.) Hops, water, sugar, and yeast are the basic ingredients. Sugar can be found in starches and wheat and gives the yeast something to eat to create alcohol. Alcohol is just yeast poop.

Hops act as a preservative and give the beer its flavour. Certain strains are bred to promote certain flavours. Chances are if you don’t like hops you just don’t like beer (which is A-OK!)

“Is it dry?”

Beer can be dry. However, unless you’re a sommelier or work with alcohol you do not know what this means. I guarantee it.

People think “dry” means:

  • a beer that isn’t fruity
  • a “grown up” alcoholic drink
  • the proper way to inquire as to taste
  • something else I haven’t figured out, because no one knows what this word means.

To be honest, the beer industry fails the consumer in educating them on how to drink and how to order a beer. How to drink is a plethora of knowledge and experience for another day. For now, I will tell you now the idiot’s guide to dry:

Does it make you thirsty?

Sounds stupid, but that is literally what dry means. A “dry” beverage is one that you gulp down because it makes you thirsty. It’s a drink that requires a side of water. It does not mean a “grown up” or “not fruity.” Many (not all) dry drinks have elevated sugars to create a more balanced beverage, but that is more common in wine than beer.

“I don’t like bitter.”

Yes, hops are bitter and we have already established that beer is hops. Did you know that hops can also be savoury, funky (barnyard), and sour? There are differences between each flavour. If a drink is sour, you can expect a tingling sensation or dryness – which means that it makes you thirsty. Sour often makes me gasp, since it’s sensation and taste I don’t particularly enjoy. A funky drink will just confuse the hell out of your mouth. Bitter is jalapeños, chard, or Starbucks Pike place roast.

If you can learn the difference between these tastes, it will better help you understand what beers you do like. Often times brewery goers cannot differentiate these tastes, lumping them together as “bitter.” They’re actually very different! I am rarely surprised when a stout drinker enjoys sour beers, but I am always surprised when a double IPA drinker loves a sour. There are relationships and differences between these flavours.

“Do you have anything like Canadian/Coors/Heineken/Corona?”

No, and get out or STFU and take this generic lager we slapped together for heathens like you. You should be thankful a microbrewery bothered with a drink as boring as a lager.

“I like all beers.”

Do you? DO YOU? Because I drink all day every day and there are definitely beers I do not like. That’s like saying “I love absolutely everything about my spouse!” when in reality you hate their morning breath and how their poops clog the toilet.

If you haven’t met a beer you dislike, it’s because you haven’t been adventurous with your choices and you are drinking the same thing constantly. Take a chance and try out the strange and the rare! If you’re not sure where to start, ask your server what beers the brewmaster was most creative with. Order a tasting flight of these beers and allow yourself to be horrified. It’ll be fun!

Anyone who has ever said to me “I like all beers” has not liked all beers. Sometimes tastes and palates are defined by what you don’t like, and that’s absolutely fine. Trying the new unusual keeps your palate and mind sharp.

“What’s your favourite? Can I have that?”

This is a great conversation, but it doesn’t help your server give you the drink you want. I love stouts, porters, Belgium beers, APAs, and IPAs. Those are not popular beers to drink, and I don’t expect someone new to craft beer to enjoy any of them. I also dislike wheat beers and lagers, but those are always popular selections.

If your server is skilled she will tell you one of her favourites and a best-seller, and then ask what you like to drink. Based on what beers you do like she should be able to suggest something you will actually enjoy, not something she does.

“I don’t like beer. What should I get?”

Well, why are you wasting time in a brewery?

A Perfect Thanksgiving (or, Thanksgiving is for Hobbits)

Modern Thanksgiving is great – there are mountains of food, days off work, and bright, colourful, crisp weather. December may be the “most wonderful time of the year” but Thanksgiving is definitely the prettiest.

Even though many religious holidays circle around it (Sukkhot, Diwali, and Rosh Hashanah to name a few) it’s a family and food centric holiday an atheist like me can get behind. Plus, even holiday haters can tolerate this one: no one is Scrooge if they sleep through this holiday, and there are sports and German beers for alternative celebrations.

Thanksgiving is great, but this is what my Thanksgiving needs to be completely perfect:

A Basic Walk

I have a confession: I love fall. I love it so much. Transitional seasons are best, but spring is lame because in Canada we can have snow until May. I firmly believe spring does not exist in the Great White North.

On the other gloved hand, fall is amazing. It’s pretty, it smells like wine, and I can eat fattening pastries and savoury meats without worry. Food baby? Layer over! Gross mulled wine stain? Layer over! Fall is amazing, even if it turns me Basic™.

Every Thanksgiving, I must have a walk with my beloved man through a beautiful park. Thanksgiving is one of the last weekends that a Canuck can hope for decent weather, and I insist on appreciating it with a delicious Cinnamon Latte. It’s just not Thanksgiving without a walk through crunchy maple leaves, a warm beverage, and my love beside me.

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Potatoes and Gravy

Thanksgiving food is the best! It’s full of butter and animal fat and herbs – yum! The only negative to Thanksgiving food is that the desserts aren’t as great as Christmas and Easter, or even Halloween. I can forgive the holiday for this, because of the POTATOES.

Coming for an Irish family, we make the best potatoes and gravy. I would eat a bathtub of them if I could. I want to live in a  mashed potato castle with a gravy moat and French fry furniture.

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My Nieces, and their Caregivers

It wasn’t too long ago that my family didn’t have the next generation. Holidays were quiet, and it was hard to get excited about them. Kids change that – being around my wonderful nieces is what I live for, and at Thanksgiving I get to enjoy their company without the distraction of gifts and candy. Have you ever played pretend superheroes with a sweet and sassy little girl? No? Then you aren’t living!

Their parents are pretty cool, too. My sister in law puts up with my crazy family, and is one of the strongest women I have ever met.

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German Alcohol

Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I love beer and wine. Thanksgiving is the best of both these liquid worlds. Oktoberfest beers flow from the taps of the many craft beer breweries in my neighbourhood, each more delicious than the next. As a bonus, Oktoberfest beers rarely clash with wine at dinner: usually, I can’t switch between alcohols, but going from a Bock to a Reisling at Thanksgiving is delightful. Riesling is amazing with turkey and pie! The Germans make delicious beverages, and this is their time to shine – and my time to imbibe.

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With the feel good things about Thanksgiving, there is also the nasty: this holiday does not have pretty origins. I hope that our Canadian leaders will take this time to look further in the missing and murdered Indigenous women in our country (Wiki article here) as well as our disgraceful inheritance from residential schools. There is a lot to love about being Canadian, but this part of our history is not that.

PS – here is a bonus Samwise gif, since he’s a BAMF and Thanksgiving is for hobbits:

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4 Unique Things We Do As Millennials

Eat Veggies

You know I mean kale.

We are BAMFs because we use our greens to put green back into our bodies. We’re healthy! There is a whole world of delicious things to eat, and we don’t limit ourselves to traditional family meals.

Also, how cool is it that brussel sprouts are trending now? YES PLEASE to sprouts, bacon, and spicy sauces!

Work Really, Really Hard (but only sometimes)

There are less jobs than ever, but millennials are still hustling. We work as baristas, bartenders, and cashiers for minimum wage because kale is expensive AF. It is unfortunate  that many of us will never have a high powered or “respectable” job, but we still find ways to pay the bills.

The weird thing about our work habits is that we give ourselves the freedom to take time off. Weirder still is that the “time off” is usually spent on the side hustle or passion project. Our Instagrams may look like we are bumming around India, but the reality is that the wanderlust sufferer is probably sourcing new materials or inspiration for the side hustle.

Think

We ask WHY, and we do not accept convention as law. We find out where our information is coming from, and why our Twitter crushes suddenly promote products.

We don’t get fooled AGAAAAIINN.

We Create Our Own Cultures and Traditions

Living in one of the most diverse cities in the world, I am particularly proud of this one. Millennials blend traditions to create new ones: I serve my Grandma’s Irish dishes with baklava and French wine, and participate in “Friends-giving” and Festivus.

On the funny side, we have a whole sub-cultures of hipsters and entrepreneurs! We are the generation that creates cultures based on personal identity, not (necessarily) limited by heritage.

Of course the evil side of this is cultural appropriation. Not cool, dudes. Not cool.

 

All in all, we are a weird, albeit financially fucked, generation. It’s pretty cool to be alive right now!