I was sitting at a bar, and the lady to my left a few seats down stares at my glass, almost in shock, and asks astonished “What is that you’re drinking!?” I’m not exaggerating at all – this is a thing that really happened, and it’s a thing that does happen. The beer this lady was commenting on was a Black IPA by Black Horse Pub & Brewery from Nashville, Tenn., and I shared that information immediately. Her response? “I don’t like beer. Especially dark beer.”
There are so many misconceptions in those seven words. I hear both statements frequently, but most of all I hear “I don’t like beer.” Well, my friend, I’m here to tell you that YOU don’t like THAT beer. It’s true, you have tried beer and you just didn’t love it as much as your Jack and ginger or your whiskey sour. I totally understand because I too used to think I didn’t like beer.
My father was very into beer and, at 21, at the time I didn’t understand why he cared so much to share with me the beer he was enjoying at the bar. Beer shouldn’t be just that thing you drink at parties to get drunk on or drink blindly not knowing the passion that goes in to creating it. It wasn’t until years later that I understood the mission that my father and many of his friends were on: to cultivate a love of beer. Beer was just beginning to explode at the time my father passed. His friends – and those that I feel privileged to consider friends – made the Myrtle Beach beer scene what it is today. It just might be the reason I’m so passionate to share anything and everything I can about beer.
OK, enough of the personal! Let’s back to that phrase “I don’t like beer.” In reality, you just haven’t found the RIGHT beer yet. It’s really that simple. That’s why things like beer festivals and bars that offer flights (a series of beer samples) are so fantastic. You may not like a particular beer, or beer style, but did you know that there are so many different types, styles, and variations of beer that it’s nearly impossible to list them all because that list changes so often?
In addition to thinking you do not like beer, there are also things like color and name that might throw you. The two biggest ones I’d like to address are “dark beer” and “hoppy beer.”
Dark beer is not a style, type, or any real classification of beer other than the color appears dark. Basically it says very little about what kind of flavor the beer might have or how heavy or alcoholic it might be. The color of a beer comes from what processes the barley, wheat or other grains went through before they were used for a brew. It means a dark beer can take on many different flavor profiles with some like Belgian Dubbels that have a fruity and raisiny flavor, to Porters that can be made to taste like coconut and chocolate with the right ingredients.
Hoppy beer is a whole different animal. To those that are new to the world of hops and IPAs, the word hoppy can have a cloudy meaning. To clarify, “hoppy” does not mean how bitter, how heavy, or how alcoholic a beer is. Hops do a number of things to beer and are instrumental in creating many different experiences. Yes, hops are responsible for the majority of any bitterness you get from a beer, but more importantly they contribute to flavor and aroma, and the total experience.
When you sip we well crafted IPA, you experience a range of aromas, flavors and sensations. When you smell a hoppy IPA, it should smell floral, or citrusy, or woodsy and piney. When you taste a hoppy IPA, you can get an initial bitterness that develops into a beautiful citrus bouquet or even a piney, cotton-candy sweetness. That’s what really “hoppy” means.
The key to beginning the climb up the mountain of beer is to understand what you already like. If you like this beer, then you might like that other beer. If you’re fortunate enough to know a knowledgeable bartender, they can help you find new things that could become your next favorite. With so many styles and types to try, why stay with just one? It’s amazing that once you stop to break down your favorite something – whether it be beer, wine, or liquor – you gain the ability to tap in to other options. What is it exactly that you like about it? Is it the way it smells or how a a certain flavor note hits your taste buds? Whatever it is, having that knowledge allows you to try new things. You never know what you like until you try it.
A great example of this is how it all happened to Michael Byrd, Store Operator for the Piggly Wiggly at The Market Common. On his way to becoming one of the local beer superheroes (as I call him) he says “ I started my journey by opening my palate and my life to all the flavors of the world. In beer and food you can do that. Our palates are an open canvas, it is the artist who creates the taste that make it a craft, hence craft beer. My palate is always blank looking for the next artist to craft a taste on it. People always evolve and that includes our taste buds.” You may have walked into the beautiful store and wandered into what I call a “beer-lovers’ dream” in Myrtle Beach and seen the seemingly endless selection of beer and wondered what to do. Mike Byrd is never too far, always ready to share his wealth of knowledge and passion for beer.