One of the best things I’ve ever done for my dating life was to randomly develop a taste for very hoppy IPAs. I started drinking them mainly because my uncle always does, and I soon started liking them myself. Last summer, I went for an after-work drink with a male colleague to a grizzly beer bar in the neighborhood. The bartender took one look at me and spat out, “We don’t have any light beers.”
“That’s okay, I want an IPA, the hoppier the better,” I said.
“Ooooh, this one here knows what she’s talking about!” he responded, and happily gave me a pint on the house.
The truth is that I don’t know a lot about beers: I know one kind, and one descriptor. But that’s basically been enough for me to hold my own in a variety of beer gardens and bar situations every since — and it’s impressed a hell of a lot of dates.
Just as a cursory knowledge of wine can be a great asset in the dating world, knowing a thing or two about beer — enough to hold your own in a beer-drinking environment — can really give you bonus points.
To learn some beer basics, I headed to the Whole Foods Bowery Beer Store and asked Jesse and Isaac, two very obliging beer experts, for a basic rundown. Here’s what you need to know.
1. “What’s ‘Malted’?” (Or, How Not To Sound Like An Idiot On A Date In A Beer Garden)
You’re spending a nice summer evening outside in a beer garden, getting to know someone under twinkling lights and over a pint of…whatever he or she brought you. You take a sip. Your date looks at you expectantly.
“It’s good!” You say.
“Yeah, not too malty?”
Time to learn some common beer vocab.
Floral: Sweet, multi-toned notes.
Dry: Not sweet.
Sessionable: A certain “je ne sais quois” which makes the beer extremely drinkable. (Yes, seriously.)
Malted: Tastes like malted milk. Minus the milk.
Bready: Literally, tastes like bread. (Beer vocab is way easier than wine vocab, no?)
As far as descriptors go, there are two main ways to describe a beer: light vs. dark, hoppy vs. malty.
A beer that’s light can’t be dark, just as a beer that’s hoppy can’t be malty. If you’re just starting to develop your beer palate and want to avoid stronger flavors, try a wheat beer (light and malty).
2. “What type of beer should I keep at my house for impromptu ‘Would you like to come up for a drink?’ occasions?”
You want to be the type of person who always has a six-pack cooling in the fridge, just in case. Cool, but…six-pack of what?
A nice belgian wheat beer, because it’s accessible, it’s a little bit sweet, light, and easy to drink.
Try: Avery White Rascal
3. “What’s a beer that will really impress beer snobs?”
You’re dating a beer enthusiast, who likes nothing better than to sample and taste a variety of beers from around the world. You want to prove that you’ve been doing your research. What to order?
Try: Saison Farmhouse Ale, which “is a warmer weather beer but available year round, and considered to be pretty sophisticated.”
Remember, what’s on draft is never really that impressive unless you’re actually at a beer garden. So if you like Stella or Blue Moon, by all means order it: but if you’re specifically trying to impress your beer-loving date, get a bottle of something else or ask for the bartenders rec.
4. “I hate beer, but my date loves it and I want to be a good sport. What kind should I try?”
Beer? Gross! Bitter! Ick! But you’re still probably gonna end up socializing over the stuff at some point or another. Here are some suggestions on what to order.
Try: Magic Hat Number 9. It’s available all year, most bars have it, and it comes in accessible flavors like apricot, which most people like.
Otherwise, if you like sweet, ask the bartender for a brown beer. It’s sweetier and maltier than other beers.
If you prefer not-sweet, ask for a pilsner, which is more bitter.
(HowAboutWe’s editor (and resident beer-hater) Michelle Dozois swears by Lambic, which tastes like a less sweet version of cherry soda. Great option to pick up at the store, but not always available in bars.)
Now you know enough to hold your own on dates — and hopefully, you’ll discover a new love and appreciation of beer yourself, whether you’re dating someone who enjoys it or not.