How To Order Beer

How to order beer involves more than simply stumbling up to the bar and picking the first thing that comes to mind. A quality beer experience involves exploring the options and constant taste-testing research. 

You'll need four simple things:

  • Cash or a credit card.
  • A designated driver, if you're ordering a number of beers.
  • A partner to share the experience.
  • A list of diverse bars and restaurants.
  1. Explore the list of brews offered at the bar. Check out the menu, chalkboard or printed list of brews. Note the speciality beers on tap, also known as draught beer or draft beer. Fresh beer is best, and while bottled beer is sometimes the only option for exotics, a glass or mug of speciality brew is a great choice when you order beer.
  2. Match the beer with the food. If you're ordering food, think about the type of beer that best fits with the meal. When you order beer, try to achieve a delicate balance of taste. Some brews are acidic, including many red ales, and food that is smoked or pickled is a nice tasty match. Think BBQ for acidic beers. Malt lagers match pork dishes and chicken. Full-bodied ales make a nice match with red meat, and Mexican food or other spicy tastes go best with a beer that is a bit sweet. Not surprisingly,  Mexican brewers know how to make a fine beer that makes the best match with south-of-the border foods. The cultural match is also true with German food. When Germanfest or Oktoberfest rolls around, and sausage is served, draw a German beer for balance. Cheese plates match with ales and dessert beers match with a nice white ale or barley wine. Beer drinkers know how important it is to match a beer with dessert. Beer is good with all dishes.
  3. If you're not eating, then the sky is the limit. To order beer without food means matching your mood. If your taste buds want spice, choose a beer that has a big taste of hops or a brown ale. Many pale ales and bitters meet this taste need. If you want to feed a sweet tooth, select a white ale or a double bock. Vienna-style lagers or a mild malt lager also can satisfy a sweet tooth. 
  4. Don't mix and match. Decide on your mood or the food and order beer in the same category. Your taste buds will get into a groove and the beer drinking experience will be most exceptional. Mixing and matching is usually less satisfying. The only exception when you order beer in the same taste category is dessert beer. Go ahead and match your beer to the final sweet dish, if you don't plan on ordering more drinks.
  5. Talk with the expert. If you're drinking at a bar with a large beer menu, ask the bartender to pick a beer in the same category as your original drink. You may be surprised at the new tastes. Bartenders talk with the beer representatives and the beer company folk. They've usually tasted the product to know its qualities. If they haven't tested the product, they know the beer qualities from the promotional materials and from any training sessions. 


"The Brewmaster's Table," Garrett Oliver, 2005.

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