Saturday Sips: Best Beers for Beer Newbies

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While I know you might think that every Friday is Celebrate Beer Day, yesterday was the official National Beer Day. If your city is anything like mine, craft brews (and breweries) with their nuanced flavors and small-batch productions are popping up on every corner and filling more and more shelves at the grocery store.

But what...stay with me....if you're not really a beer drinker? Maybe you feel intimidated by beer or perhaps like me, you don't even think you really like the taste of beer? What are the best beers for newbie beer drinkers?

Best Beer for Beer Newbies

I'll admit up front - I am a beer newbie. Sure, I'd have the occasional sip of my husband's beer at the beach on a hot day, but I had never ordered a beer of my own. I like wine and cocktails and even enjoy two fingers of Macallan 12 (or 15, if you're offering) on a cold winter night, but I've never been a big fan of carbonation and the hoppy beers I'd tasted before had put me off.

That is until this summer. Then it was hot. And we were in the mountains of Switzerland. And somehow a cold beer at lunch with a grilled brat and a bunch of old guys playing accordions just felt...right. And delicious.

beer

Are you a beer newbie? Or know someone who wants to learn more about beer, or maybe even enjoy a beer in these final days of summer but doesn't know where to start? (Please, please, whatever you do - don't start with Coors or Bud Light. I've learned that much.) As an admittedly non-expert in this field, I reached out to a few trusted friends and sources to get their two-cents on the best way to find "gateway" beers to help out newbies like me get into the beer scene.

golden state cider

Star with cider. "Ciders can be a gateway to beer," says my friend Molly Sullivan. True it's not actual beer beer. But it is carbonated and alcoholic and more complex than a glass of juice. "Craft ciders are becoming very popular here in wine country and are being made a lot drier and very smooth. Not all beer drinkers will even consider cider, but the new ciders are pretty mellow and tasty." Try: Golden State Might Dry Hard Cider

MadeWest Beer

Go tasting. "People that say they don't like beer just haven't tasted enough beer to find one they like," explains Seth Gibson of MadeWest Brewing Company in Ventura, CA. He recommends visiting a local brewery to taste an assortment of styles before ruling out that you categorically don't like beer. Plus, unlike a wine tasting where you often taste one wine at a time, beer tasting flights often come all together so you can more easily compare flavors and find your favorite. "There are so many styles out there that you are bound to find one you like. [At MadeWest] we have had numerous people that say they don't like beer try our lightest beers and like them as well as our hoppy beers and like them." Just like with wine and cheese and coffee, the key is learning what you like. Try: MadeWest Classic (thought I also tried - and liked! - their Ventura and Pale Ale)

Left Hand & Spiegelau Stout Glass - Image FOR SHOP - with Milk Stouts

Look for crossover tasting cues. If you're new to beer, take your tasting cues from other beverages you enjoy, says beer-connoisseur Jordan Gill. "Think about what you like in other realms. If you like sweet mixed drinks, try fruity beers. Super dry white wine? Go for an IPA. Strong black coffee? Try a stout or porter." A well-informed bartender can help point you in the right direction once you can articulate your favorite flavors, explains Clint Garman of Garman's Pub in Santa Paula, CA, but also be willing to try new flavors and be surprised. "I encourage getting 4-6 4oz samplers at your local brewery or pub," says Garman. "Sampling as much beer and learning about the process definitely gives you insight, and you very well may taste a beer that wasn't on your radar." Coffee lovers should try: Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout or Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout.

BlueMoon beer

Have a Blue Moon. Without fail, almost everyone I asked for a good "starter" beer mentioned Blue Moon's Belgian White. It's light and unassuming, smooth and a touch sweet, and best of all, widely available. You'll be halfway through a bottle before you realize, "Hey! I'm drinking a beer!" Cheers to you, beer newbie! Also try: Hoegaarden White

Choose local...and green. I also love the advice from our very own beer-loving Momtrends Managing Editor Kristin Swenson. "My hubs and I have a travel tradition no matter what kind of trip we take and no matter where we go…We always drink local. That means we make it a habit to seek out the area's best craft beers. We’re nearly never disappointed by being adventurous." And there's this other piece of advice she shared for us newbies: "I find that anything in a green bottle is pretty mild and drinkable...Peroni, Stella Artois, Rolling Rock etc." Simple advice that can keep you and me from feeling overwhelmed at the grocery store or the bar stool.

Have another "gateway" beer to recommend? What was the beer that got you hooked?

For more beer love, check out some of our favorite beer cocktails and beer battered grilled cheese. Mmmmmm....

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