A Beginner’s Guide to “Nice” Beer AKA How to Stop Ordering Bud Light

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I will never apologize for being a beer snob. If we are at a bar with a decent selection of craft beer and you order a Bud Light—I’m judging you. Or worse, if you order a Stella or a Blue Moon thinking you’re making a wise decision, I may actually just stop being your friend.

Once you hit 21, it is your responsibility to explore the kinds of booze you like and those you don’t like. This goes for liquor as well, but I think beers are a little more intimidating. If you just take the time to learn a little bit, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to know what you are talking about. And you’ll definitely be surprised at how great a beer can be.

Here are 7 of the most common types of beers you’ll encounter, a brief intro to them, as well as some of my personal fave recommendations. To be honest, the easiest way to learn about beer is to drink beer. Is there any better kind of learning?

1.  Lager. Officially, your Bud Light of nicer beers. These beers are a great transition because they will remind you of a Bud Light or a Miller Lite. Generally they are less boozey (3-4% most likely) so you also won’t get kicked on your butt by them. They’re great pool beers, patio beers, and day drinking beers.

Try: Lagunitas PILS, Goose Island 312 (more of a wheat ale but, it’ll do for here)

2.  Wheat. This is for the person who doesn’t like a lot of hops (that bitter taste in your mouth after an IPA usually).  They tend to be a little more fruity, floral, and easy to suck down. Some of them can have upwards of 5%, but they do not taste like it. Again, great patio brew.

Try: Bell’s Oberon (we celebrate the day this comes out!), ThreeFloyd’s Gumballhead (if you can ever find it)

3.    IPA (India Pale Ale). My personal favorite. Be warned, these definitely take some getting used to. Rumor has it, they are called IPAs because back in the day, to make sure the beers lasted on the travels from India, they would just pour more and more hops into the barrels. These beers can be fruity, they can be harsh, they can be amazing. Once you get a pallet for IPAs, it’s hard to go back to drinking other beers. It should be noted that these beers range from 4-9% alcohol, so be careful. I’ve had many a black out from 4 or 5 beers this way. And hello, how economical?

Try: Bells Two Hearted, Lagunita’s Hop Stoopid

4.   Stout. A common misconception is that stouts are heavy, but many of them can actually be quite light, and tend to have less alcohol and calories than many other types of beers. With a stout you can get a lot more rich flavors—chocolate, coffee, caramel, nutmeg, etc. I tend to not like stouts because I find them to be a little overwhelming—but to me they have their time and place. A cold winter night or a delicious dessert, and I can take on a good stout.

Try: Left Hand Milk Stout, Smuttynose Stout

5.   Pale Ale. A poor man’s IPA. I would classify Pale Ales as somewhere between Wheat and IPAs—they aren’t going to be too boozey, they aren’t going to be too bitter, and they come in all shapes and sizes. For example, I find a lot of Pale Ales to taste soapy (floral), so they aren’t my favorite. But I can drink a Jalapeno Pale Ale or a Grapefruit Pale Ale for days. Because there’s so much variety I think these are the hardest to pin down, but if you try enough you’re guaranteed to find a few that you enjoy.

Try: Bird Song’s Jalapeno Pale Ale, 312 Green Line (a Chicago fave)

6.    Belgian (Dubbel, Tripel, Quad). These are definitely up there in the experienced beer drinkers world, and you will sound very knowledgeable if you know the difference. What is great about Belgians is the variety. A Belgian regular is going to resemble a wheat beer—but with more depth and definitely more booze. Belgian dubbel is going to resemble a stout, but it is going to be a little thicker, darker, and more intense. A Belgian Tripel is going to definitely be more booze (upwards of 7-9%), more intense, but oh so golden and oh so delicious. Quads are rare and hard to come by, but if you can, give one a try. They can clock in at 11% or more (so be careful!) and taste like… Well look, just go try one.

Try one of each!

Belgian: Allagash White

Dubbel: Trappistes Rochefort 6

Trippel: Victory’s Golden Monkey (this is my all time favorite beer next to Bell’s Two Hearted)

7.    Saison. These are great summer beers. They are floaty and can be bubbly and can make you feel all sunny on the inside. This is always a go to for me if I am recommending beer to someone who I know doesn’t really like beer (again, everyone is different), but it’s a great stepping stone into the more intense beers. Also, generally around 7%– so be careful, as always, these things will sneak up on ya!

Try: Saison Du Pont, Civil Disobedience #7

So get out there and drink, people! There are too many beers in the world to be ordering a Bud Light.

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