Great Beers for Non Beer Drinkers

Sometimes it's a matter of finding the right beer

Geuze Boon: A Belgian lambic beer
SteveR-/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Beer aficionados often hear the apologetic comment, "I just really don't like beer." That may indeed be the case for some people and you will not be able to convince them otherwise. In many cases, however, it's likely that they simply haven't found a beer that they truly enjoy yet. Luckily, there are few beverages that come with such a wide variety of characteristics as beer.

When faced with this dilemma, it is possible to demonstrate to this person that they may actually be able to enjoy beer. Begin with questions about what other kinds of drinks they like. Based on that information, you can make a few suggestions that might appeal to their personal taste.

To help you get started, let's explore a few recommendations based on popular beverages that someone may enjoy.

Beer for Wine Lovers

Wine is usually a good beverage to start with because it seems to be the drink that many non-beer-drinkers prefer.

If, for instance, you have someone who enjoys sweet, fruity tasting wines, then it is easy to suggest fruit beers. Many brewpubs offer some form of fruit beer, usually a wheat ale with something like raspberry added.

You can also direct the future beer lover to lambics. These are not only fruity and often tend towards sweetness, but there is also a complexity to their flavor that a wine lover would recognize.

To further add to the appeal, lambics are often packaged in champagne-style bottles. This offers the wine lover a level of comfort that it is a quality product by associating it with their favorite wine.

This last point may seem a little silly, but beer often has an uphill battle to fight with wine drinkers. Not only do they not like the taste of the pale lager styles that dominate the market but, they also tend to think of beer as an inferior beverage to wine. The packaging can help lessen this prejudgment.

It is not quite so easy to suggest beers for dry wine lovers. This may be where you ask about other beverages such as cocktails or coffee.

Based on those answers, you might suggest some of the less sweet Belgian beer styles or perhaps some big, dark beer styles like an Imperial stout or Baltic porter. Some American-brewed versions of these styles tend to be pretty hoppy and it is best to steer wine lovers away from beers with a lot of hops. It's not that they won't enjoy super hoppy beers but it is often not a good place to start in this debate.

Beer for Coffee Drinkers

Coffee is another great way to gauge what types of beer a future beer lover would enjoy. Naturally, coffee beer would be a reasonable suggestion. Chances are pretty good that a coffee drinker is going to enjoy a beer brewed with coffee.

Stout is another style that shares a lot of the same flavors as coffee. Suggesting stout, however, often produces a strong, negative reaction such as, “Oh, you mean like Guinness? I’ve had that. Didn’t like it.”

While many people like Guinness well enough, it is too bad that it is far and away the best-known example of a stout. It has an unusual flavor that is not shared among the majority of stouts; many are softer with more mellow flavors than Guinness. A coffee drinker that uses sugar or cream might enjoy the sweet, round flavors of a milk or oatmeal stout, for instance.

ESB is another style that coffee drinkers would most likely enjoy. This is especially true for those who prefer coffeehouse drinks like cappuccinos and lattes. ESB—especially the British-brewed—features big malty flavors and very light, apparent hops. The flavor profile is not identical to the mouth-filling roasted flavors of those coffee drinks but they are enjoyable on the same level.

Beer for Cocktail Connoisseurs

Mixed drinks lovers are perhaps the easiest for which to suggest beers. The art of mixology is not unlike designing a beer recipe. Ingredients are considered for their level of sweetness, sourness, and bitterness as well as how they will feel on the tongue. They are measured and combined in a way to achieve balance or to enhance or play down a particular type of flavor.

Like the sweet wine lovers, drinkers of sweet fruity cocktails would likely enjoy a fruit beer or lambics.

For those who prefer more sour cocktails, there are a number of sour beers to experience. The sourest is Berliner Weisse, a light colored beer with plenty of effervescence and a very tart flavor. Unfruited lambic is also a nice, sour beer, so you might look for something like a gueuze lambic.

A Conversation Starter

These are just a few ideas for getting non-beer drinkers to consider giving beer another try. It is a good conversation to have because it can get them to start thinking about beer as being more than the pale lager that has come to define beer in recent generations. Once more people understand that beer is so much more than that, the more they will support the ever growing craft beer market.