Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Beer Etiquette, or how to keep your friends

We've all been there, and have probably been guilty at times. Sometimes it's hard for serious craft beer fans to not get a bit carried away with sharing their knowledge or opinions. The July Merchant du Vin newsletter includes a list of excellent tips that may make your next beer with friends even more pleasant. There is some good advice here.

1. People are entitled to their own opinions about beer. Even if the beer reviews call it a "five-star A-plus," even if it's the first choice of five out of the six in the party . . . someone may just not care for it. For balanced enjoyment, don't let the homebrewing, advanced-beer-hobbyist, double IPA fan order a huge, strong beer for someone who wants a soft, light cream ale or sweet dark lager.

2. If your group is buying rounds, don't feel locked in by the second or third round. People drink at different paces - it's OK to order a beer on your own if other folks aren't ready; it's certainly more polite than sitting with an empty glass or forcing someone else to hurry up and finish their beer faster than they want to.

3. Use a coaster. If your bartender or server doesn't give you one, ask. A beer glass sitting directly on the bar or table sets some people's teeth on edge - maybe someone in your party.

4. Be careful of beer vs. wine vs. cocktail comparisons. They are different. They all range in flavors. People are entitled to choices, but saying "I like wine better than beer," can be upsetting to a beer lover. Try this: "I'm still searching for a beer I really like."

5. Remember: your wine by the glass may be oxidized, and your cocktail may be expensive or slow to prepare on busy nights . . . your beer will likely be perfect, and delivered quickly.

6. Ask your server succinct questions about a beer you haven't had. If he or she doesn't know, that may be a sign that the bar or restaurant often tries a number of new and interesting beers - a good thing, huh?

7. When out for food, say this to a restaurant that offers limited variety of beer: "We prefer to find a variety of beers when ordering food." (Then say) a. "Sorry, but we're leaving now for a restaurant that has more than light lager. " (Or) b. "We'll stay, but we are a lot less likely to return until you bring in a wide range of beer flavors."

8. It's about flavor. Alcohol is a component to flavor; beer is not an alcohol delivery medium.

9. Beer is a value. Some places will charge more based on rent, overhead, neighborhood, etc. . . . but beer is generally a "flavor per dollar" bargain. 10. If you are a homebrewer, don't broadcast your beer expertise to your friends unless they ask. While deep knowledge may enhance your beer enjoyment, it may disrupt somebody else's enjoyment.

11. Be careful of generalizations like "I prefer dark beers," or "I don't like dark beers." It's like saying, "I like movies whose titles start with the letters A through L," or "I don't like red foods."

12. Never order "a beer," - order by style, by variety, or by specific name. (As the late Michael Jackson said, would you order "a plate of food"?)

13. Be grateful for the variety of beer that is out there, from down the street or from a classic brewing nation. You are living in the best beer time in history.

14. Ask if a brand you are unfamiliar with is independent, or whether it's owned by a large entity. Then, assuming the beer is good, decide whether it matters to you.

15. If you get a frosted mug or glass, politely ask your server if they have any non-frosted glassware, maybe for the next round. Cold kills flavor nuances.

16. Read beer publications. They are fun, sincere, useful, and they want readers.

17. Attend a beer dinner, tasting and/or a beer festival.

18. Never assume that a dark beer is high in alcohol.

19. Remember that brewers make wort - yeast makes beer. Brewers consider yeast to be something somewhere between a business partner and a beloved pet . . . or even a beloved child in some cases. Respect yeast!

20. Push your chair or barstool in after you get up!

Previous editions of the Merchant du Vin newsletter can be found here.


  1. Great advice, I've alienated some friends with the ribbing on their light lager selections. We must be careful to avoid snobbery...


    - Bryon

  2. The bit about the coaster seems strange. Personal bug of the person writing the article?

    Beer always comes on a mat in Germany, I get the impression it's rude to put your glass directly on the table. But in England, no-one uses them.

  3. Coaster are handy for placing on top of your beer to "hold your place" if you have to run to the head. :-)


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