How to Find the Right Craft Beer for Macro Drinkers
Today I’m discussing techniques for helping customers (or friends) choose beer that they will love and enjoy. This is an underappreciated skill to have as a service professional (or a great skill to have as a colleague). I personally would love to see everyone behind the bar better able to quickly guide someone to the beer or beverage they’ll be excited to drink. It’s not always a simple task, especially at busy establishments or with the type of endless line of impatient drinkers typical of many brewery taproom settings, but it’s a big part of being more outwardly inclusive to everyone with an interest in beer. Because beer is for everyone.*
There are many ways to help someone find their perfect beer if they already enjoy beer, or really enjoy one style. That’s an easy start. Or, it should be, if you know your workplace’s beer list properly. But what if your customer or friend states that they only drink macro light lagers, cider, wine, or spirits? This is where your talent can be sharpened. Today we’ll start with some basic tips, and hone in on that first example: the macro light lager drinker.
First, some general background.
Fawn’s Rules of Finding Anyone the Right Beer
- Determine what their reference point is. What beer or drink in particular do they already like? From there you can make some easy inferrals and suggestions. If reasonable, ask why they like that drink in particular. Not everyone will have a good answer, but many will at least be able to highlight one small aspect.
- Find the beer on your list that’s the closest in body, bitterness, flavor and carbonation. Color is less important unless they say it is–and even then it might be less important than they imagine. You may be able to surprise someone who swears they don’t like “dark beer” by sampling them a black lager or altbier. Think outside the box on this, though–some brewers make beers that don’t fit into style guidelines neatly, and some may provide a good transition even if they’re less similar.
- Explain the likeness between what your customer normally drinks and what you’re suggesting, and also prime them for whatever differences they may perceive. Many people who aren’t very experienced tasters don’t enjoy surprises or things that are too challenging at once. You can work with this, though–it’s just a different pace. Very few of us come to craft beer with a fully formed palate for it.
- Make more than one suggestion, if possible. People like choices, but not too many. Don’t go overboard with ideas. Giving a customer two options can make them feel empowered. It also allows them to compare and develop further taste memories.
- Offer tasters if you can, or be willing to comp your suggestion if they dislike it. This obviously depends on your establishment’s rules, but it’s worth going out of your way to make sure someone feels like their tastes are taken seriously. After all, this stuff is supposed to be enjoyed, right? Asking for honest opinions is a great way to engage a customer (or anyone, really), Then, the important part: yes, listening. You may be the expert, but the customer is always the one with the ultimate power. It’s probable that most inexperienced drinkers or less confident explorers of beer haven’t been taken very seriously in most establishments. This is extra relevant when talking with anyone less represented in the beer-drinking community, especially those who might feel intimidated in the stereotypical white-bearded-male-dominated space of many taprooms.
For someone coming straight out of big beer light lager-land, obvious suggestions would be a pilsner, kölsch, pale or blond. But be wary of the hop levels and bitterness. A cream ale, hefeweizen, or potentially even certain Belgian styles are also good starting points. If you have a dark lager or any other crisp, well-carbonated style, you could offer that as well. If your customer also expresses a dislike (“I don’t like hoppy beers/IPAs”) then for an adventurous customer you might find one that doesn’t fit the style and give that a go. Juicy IPAs are particularly good in this situation.
Perhaps your light lager loyalist is from an older generation, or a younger one from a small community that hasn’t had much craft beer presence yet. Or maybe they’re new drinkers, freshly 21, and have only been around their uncle’s beer fridge full of whatever cheap beer he likes. Or maybe they’ve been told (incorrectly) that commercial light beer is the only one that “doesn’t fill you up.” Whatever their background, this is a golden chance for you, beer server or friend, to enlighten them into a whole world of potential. Feel triumphant if you can find something they enjoy, but don’t fret if you did your best and still didn’t find a winner. Maybe your beer list doesn’t have the right options, or maybe they’re not ready for newness yet. Maybe they will never be. Personal taste is incredibly subjective. Whatever the outcome, be respectful and helpful and your customer or friends will undoubtedly appreciate the effort itself.