Thursday, August 25, 2011

How to Recommend Beer

Once in a blue moon (har har) somebody who knows my reputation for enjoying good beer asks me for a personalized recommendation. Usually I don't get any more information than "Pick a beer I'd like." I want to think my high success rate is due to extreme crazy mind powers involving both telepathy and hypnosis, but sadly that's not the case (unless you want me to make you bark like a dog or take a bite of red onion and like it.) It's actually quite simple to make a good recommendation; luckily for you (but not Gene) it's not based on this crazy thing.

Unlike phrenology, the zodiac, or viking navigation I don't need to whip out my astrolabe and consult star charts to know what you'd like. It's actually pretty simple.

The key to any good recommendation is knowing (in this order) generally which part of the tongue they favor, how susceptible they are to persuasion, and whether or not they like any beer. The last one is obvious, but it bears pointing out: some people don't like any beer whatsoever. You might be able to get away with a lambic or a Bacardi O, but that's about the best you can expect.

Persuasion can set up a powerful bias for any recommendation. If I'm your friend and I tell you something is good, you're inclined to believe me (rather than trust your own senses.) It creates a bias that can be overcome if the beer is blatantly awful, but it definitely sets the tone of a persons expectations. I wouldn't try and pass off Pabst Blue Ribbon as a Belgian, but I could probably get away with claiming Beck's Bier is "pretty good."

I believe people are born preferring one of the five tastes our taste buds can perceive. These include Salt, Sweet, Bitter, Sour, and MSG (aka Savory.) You're not likely to find a salty beer (Chelada being one notable exception) and to my knowledge no beer tastes like red meat (so Savory is out.) That leaves the primary three beer flavors: Sweet, Bitter and Sour. Pick the one of the three you think they like (hint: sweet for girls,) see which beer you have on hand has the most of that quality, and you're good to go on a recommendation.

If you're not a walking Beercyclopedia like Gene or myself, you might need to consult a chart or read the labels on the bottles. If you need a little help, here's a diagram to get you started:

 Whether you use the chart or just know your stuff, there's no secret to becoming the local beer sommelier!

Did I miss your favorite beer? Do I seem pretty on the mark? Let me know in the comments below!


  1. No beer with salt?  You are missing out on Gose-  I guess you should find a beer or two (harder to find, but delicious if you do)

  2. I bet I'd like it, it sounds good! I'll see if I can pick one up the next time I'm out. Do you know of any beer with MSG in it? ;)

  3. Nick, I  love your beer blog ...... even though I am just learning bout the complexities of beer (with your help:-)...........what fun!! cool is that too!!!  You never cease to amaze me .

  4. Thanks! Glad you're enjoying it! Now you know all my beer recommending secrets ;)