Beginner’s Guide to Beer

There are times when a post is practically screaming to be written.
Over the last few weeks, friends IRL have sought me out to thank me for a beer recommendation… or have asked me for advice on where to start.
I love helping out my friends!!
I didn’t acquire my beer-cred over night though… I’ve experienced quite a few brews. I know what I like, and I’ve recently expanded my pallet to IPAs. Something I didn’t even realize was possible.
So, that is my first piece of advice: try, try, try.


  • Tasting is the key to learning what you do & do not like.
  • If you’ve been a default Bud Light drinker all your life, how will you know what you enjoy if you don’t look into the amazing variety craft-beer can offer you?
  • Many breweries and some bars will offer tastes of the beer they have on tap.
    • Some will offer free tastes, others will charge around a dollar/taste.
    • Even if you’re not flirting enough with the bartender and get charged a dollar, it’s worth it… better than spending $5+ on a beer you don’t enjoy.
  • Go out of your element. If you know you like stouts, try a stout you’ve never heard of. If you see a description of a beer that sounds interesting, go for it!
  • Note the beer(s) you did enjoy. If you’re a mental genius, make a mental note. If not, write it down, take a picture &/or keep a log in your iPhone. Let’s face it, the more you taste in one sitting, the likelihood you’ll forget your favorite — or worse — one you hated, grows.
  • Many beer labels will thoroughly describe the beer you are about to consume.
  • This may seem like an obvious point. But I never realized just how accurate & descriptive many beer labels can be.
  • Look online before you hit up a brewery because many will offer a fuller description online than they do if they just list beers on a chalk-board.
  • When beer shopping in-store, take your time to read the labels. If something sounds good, it probably is!
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  • For starters, if you simply don’t think you like beer… figure out what you do like. Because honestly, in the wide-world of beer, there are many paths to great beer experiences!
    • Do you like coffee &/or chocolate? Try a stout or porter!
    • Carmel? Bourbon? Maple Syrup? Anything aged in a bourbon barrel.
    • Grapefruit/citrus? Try an IPA!
    • Smoky flavors found in meat & beyond? A scotch ale may be up your alley.
  • Spring & Summertime starter-brews. 
    • Leinenkugal’s Summer Shandy. It’s a light beer you can drink all day that has a crisp, lemony finish. Unlike many shandies that can be too sweet or sour, or may not even taste like beer at all (looking at you, Shock-Top), this shandy fits the bill like nothing else.
    • Founder’s Cerise. Made with Traverse City cherries, this is another brew that actually tastes like beer, but still offers a light, cherry finish.
    • Short’s Soft Parade. Made with fermented berries, it’s beautiful to look at and even better to drink. I enjoy this year-round. Although be careful, the alcohol content is higher than you’d think.
    • Harmony Brewing Co Grapefruit Moon. Slightly hoppier than most shandies, but another brew I could drink all day.
    • Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA. A friend of mine recommended this beer to me recently. Crooked Tree opened my eyes to the wonderful world of IPAs. It’s light, and has a little malt to balance out the hops that eliminates the bitter aftertaste some IPAs may dish out. If you’ve been leery of IPAs in the past because of their intense hop flavor, this is a fantastic place to start.
  • Fall & Winter starter-brews.
Hope some of these ideas help those of you still wishy-washy on beer go out and try a few.
Let me know which of these brews changed your tune… or if I steered you in the wrong direction all together!
Are you already a beer lover? What beer expanded your palette and made you want more?
Happy Thirsty Thursday, friends!

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  1. Posted July 12, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    LOVED reading this because we are actually having lunch at a brewery this weekend, and I am all nervous about picking the right beer. I am a wine person. My favorite commercial beer is Bohemia, and I don’t like much else. Will be on the lookout for the bourbon barrels!

    • Posted July 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      YES! I will almost always try anything aged in a bourbon barrel. If it’s been aged in a bourbon barrel that was also used for maple syrup… double win! Enjoy your lunch at the brewery!

  2. Posted July 12, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Living with hippies when I moved into a co-op at MSU was my first experience with really great beer. Harper’s wheat & raspberry wheat, & of course Bell’s Oberon, initiated me into what beer could be, and I haven’t looked back since.

    • Posted July 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      Awesome. I know some people shy away from “fruity” beers because they are afraid they will taste like wine-coolers… some do! But when they are done right… they are such a great place to start. Good for you for succumbing to the beer — I mean — peer pressure. ;D


  3. Posted July 12, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    My most favorite beer ever was Allagash Summer. I love all their beers, the Tripel and Dubbel rock my world – literally if I have more than one. The hubs had been trying sours and I find them interesting but not my bag, nor the new super hoppy varieties.

  4. Posted July 12, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Oh! And lots of saisons. Wow, I’ve had some really good saisons.

    • Posted July 12, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much for your suggestions!! How in the world did I forgot to mention Tripel & Doppelbocks?! I’ve just fallen in love with a couple here in MI, and they are definitely easy to enjoy & savor. I’m not a huge lovah of saisons… but I won’t turn one down! And I’m guessing I just haven’t found one I’ve fallen head over heals in love with… yet. Point me in the right direction — I’m always open to more beer suggestions!


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    Keeping up with 2 little girls, writing assignments, music gigs, the house, laundry, ETC, backwards, wearing ass kicking boots and a smile, without spilling my beer. Ok, ok, so I spill my beer, but my floors have never been more germ-free since I started putting a little alcohol on them. Who needs ammonia...

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