No one really liked beer the first time they tried it, but worryingly a large number of people are carrying this bad habit into adulthood. So how can you help cure someone of not liking beer or worse those who have zythophobia (fear of beer!)?
There is a beer for every occasion and with patience and understanding, you can help anyone enjoy the amber nectar we zythophiles (beer lovers) crave.
So what beer should you give or make for someone who doesn’t like beer? Each person is different, as a general rule people don’t like beer that is too bitter or too carbonated. Bitter beer can stimulate a person’s evolutionary reflex not to consume food which might kill them. Over carbonationed beer can also over-activate the cold receptors in the mouth of some people.
LIke most beer drinkers, I have developed a taste for beer over the years. When I was a student at university I didn’t particularly like beer in my first year, but by the end of my degree, I was to be found drinking guest ales in the oldest pub in Canterbury, UK. It just took time and a bit of experimentation.
In this article, I want to help you help those you love so that they can share your passion. With all the work I have put into this study, you will be able to serve them with the right beer that will open their eyes and taste buds to beer! So read on to find out what I have been researching for the last few weeks.
Navigate this article:
- Why don’t people like beer?
- This simple test will save you hours!
- Beers to buy for a novice beer tasting session
- Beers to brew for a newly converted beer drinker
- Alternative ways to help people enjoy beer.
Why don’t people like beer?
Before I go into what beer you could buy or brew for a non-lover of beer, let’s just talk about the real and perceived reasons some people shun the only real proof that god wants us to be happy (Benjamin “brewski” Franklin).
Beer comes in a wide variety of types and flavors, with the right knowledge there is no reason that anyone on earth (above the legal drinking age) should be denied its bountiful fruits. If someone tells you that they don’t like beer it is the same as them saying they don’t like food because they once had a bad culinary experience.
Sometimes people have a valid physiological reason they don’t like beer, but more often than not they have just tried some beer which was incompatible with their palate and have written off the entire beverage in all its shades, aromas and tastes.
25% of people genetically cannot taste bitterness and at the other end of the spectrum, a small minority are hype-sensitive to bitterness in their food and drink. You can actually get a genetic test for that here. More often than not, people have simply had a bad experience with bitter food (fell ill or thrown up while drinking) and so they have just been programmed to dislike a similar flavor. Although everyone is different and does have their natural preferences towards taste, I believe that you can train yourself to like almost anything.
The main reason most people claim not to like beer is due to its perceived bitterness.
All Beer is bitter to a certain degree. This is largely due to the hops that 99% of beers use for flavoring. However, the ability of a good brewer to balance the bitterness in hops with the sweetness in malt grains can produce a very sweet beverage.
The human tongue has the ability to detect certain tastes and bitterness is one of them. However, where the tongue can distinguish between two types of saltiness, it can gauge up to 25 forms of bitterness. (source)
This is because during our earlier evolution we used this ability to determine which new foods in the forest could harm us. Generally, plants will produce a bitter taste so that animals don’t want to eat them.
Unfortunately, this ability is stopping many people from enjoying beer because when they taste something bitter their brains tell them to spit it out and run away.
So, in order to combat this, we either need to overturn these natural instincts in your beer protege or we need to side-step them entirely. The right type of beer or even the correct accompanying food can really change the overall ex
For some people with a very sensitive reaction to food and drink in their oral cold receptors, carbonation can bring about the same feeling you get when chewing spearmint chewing gum. It is rarer but just as strong a factor in disliking beer as bitterness is.
If the beer is very carbonated and also cold, these types of people can really suffer to gulp down more than a few mouthfuls. In addition, carbonation can naturally lead to a sour taste when the molecules react with oral mucosal nociceptors and break down into smaller compounds. (source).
For most people, they don’t like beer simply because of something unpleasant which happened to them, even if that was a bad beer. Sometimes beers go off or bars don’t keep their equipment clean and it can produce off-flavors or even the person got very ill after a party.
Whatever it may be, people can hold onto these lessons and entirely cut out food, drinks, and activities which they have not enjoyed in the past. This is actually great news because it’s far easier to overcome a behavioral aversion to beer than a physical one. So, let’s get testing!
Physical reactions to beer
For some people they try to avoid drinking beer because it gives them a wicked hangover (often because of the low quality or commercial beers they drink) or they experience uncomfortable bloating. Each issue can be addressed quite easily with the right approach.
This simple test will save you hours!
If your spouse, partner, relative or friend is eager to overcome their beer barrier so that they can enjoy a few cold ones with you, especially if you have home-brewed your own beer, then you need to scout the lay of the land. What is their level of bitterness tolerance? What subtle flavors turn them off? Which beer could be their avenue to becoming a zythophile?
Depending on the person you are working with you may not actually want to test their tolerance to bitterness in beer with the beverage itself. We don’t want to spook them any more than we have to. So, it is probably best to use substitutes that simulate the differing levels of IBU (a measurement of bitterness: see my article about beer terms) found in popular beers.
One test involves using different quantities of grapefruit juice and then pairing them with beers of a similar bitterness. I’ve written a guide to training your beer palate as an enthusiast which explores the grapefruit method. Check it out here.
Another way to quickly test how much bitterness someone can take is to brew them a cup of coffee (hopefully they don’t also hate this!). Get 5 strong double espressos and in four out of the five cups add a quarter, a third, a half and full cup of water. Serve your guinea pig each coffee with a cup of water afterward to cleanse their palate.
If they can take the neat expresso, they may just have had a bad experience with beer which can be trained out of them. If they can manage a minimally watered down beer then they may be best suited to stouts or porters. If they are repelled by a fully diluted coffee, we may need to slowly ease them into some sweeter lower strength brews.
Have a beer tasting night with these brewskis
Although we are dealing with shy Bambi-like beer drinkers who could scamper away at the first sip of a lovely bitter IPA, we do still want to slowly ease them into different types of beer with a beer tasting.
Remember, that often people say they don’t like beer because they have only ever had low-quality lagers or have been thrown into the deep-end with a high-level IBU beer. This perception of beer being only about bitterness can easily be overcome by simply tasting a bunch of very different beers.
So I would advise that you start off with a mid-level beer in terms of bitterness, then you take them to the sweet end of the spectrum (or should that be beerum?) then back down towards the more bitter types of beer. Here are some suggestions to sample before you spend time brewing a full home-made batch yourself.
Beers to buy for a novice beer tasting session
NOTE: IBU is the International Bitterness Unit and represents the concentration of isohumulones in the beer. The higher the number the more bitter it can taste. This isn’t always the case though, so try even the highest level IBU beers too!
This variety of beer is generally brewed with a lower alcohol content by volume (though this is perhaps subjective) and this can eliminate the powerful flavor that comes with a higher proof beer. They generally have a light body and dry finish to them without much of the bitterness we are trying to ease into.
You should get your non-beer drinker to try:
- Saison Dupont (Brasserie Dupont SPRL) ABV: 6.5%, IBU: –
- Sofie (Goose Island) ABV: 6.5% , IBU: 25 with an orange fruitiness
- Sorachi Ace (Brooklyn Brewery) ABV: 7.6% , IBU: –
- Tank 7 (Boulevard Brewing) ABV: 8.5% , IBU: 38 , strong but not overpowering because of the citrus finish.
- Saison (Allagash) ABV: 6.7% , IBU: –
Sour doesn’t necessarily mean bitter, so these off-flavor beer varieties can be an alternative avenue into becoming a beer drinking enthusiast. They are made by allowing ‘wild’ yeast or bacteria to develop in a controlled environment
- Duchesse de Bourgogne ( Verhaeghe) ABV: 6.2% , IBU: –
- Gose (Westbrook) ABV: 4.0% , IBU: 5
- La Folie (New Belgium) ABV: 7.0% , IBU: 18
- Raspberry Tart (New Glarus) ABV: 4.0% , IBU: –
- Fruitage (Rodenbach) ABV: 4.2 % , IBU: –
This variety is an unfiltered wheat beer, and so appears as a deep cream or yellow colored beer as well as being cloudy. It’s a beer that is often drunk in the warmer summer months and can be served with citrus fruit (although this will kill the foam head in the glass!). In general, this type of beer is rather fruity in its taste and aroma without being overly sweet.
- White ale (Hitachino) ABV; 5.5% , IBU: 13
- Icelandic White Ale (EINSTÖK) ABV: 5.2% , IBU: –
- Winter White Ale (Bell’s) ABV: 5.0% , IBU: –
- White (Allagash) ABV: 5.1% , IBU: –
- UFO White (Harpoon) ABV: 4.8% , IBU: 11
Most beer fans, and myself included, are often put off by the idea of fruit beers. However, they aren’t what they once were. Ideally balanced and incredibly refreshing, a fruit beer can be a very good choice for novice and expert beer drinkers alike.
- Rübæus (Founders Brewing Co.) ABV: 5.7% , IBU: 15
- IPA Blood Orange (Brew Free or Die) ABV: 7%, IBU: 70
- Serendipity (New Glarus Brewing Company) ABV: 4.0 %, IBU: –
- Otra Vez (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.) ABV: 4.5% , IBU: 5
- Kirsch Gose (Victory Brewing Company) ABV: 4.7% , IBU: –
Most people say they don’t like beer because of IPAs, which for most beer lovers is just sacrilege. But, not all IPAs have to be full on and even the timidest beer drinker can enjoy the hoppiness and distinct taste of a good India Pale Ale.
- Ranger (New Belgium Brewing) ABV: 6.5% , IBU: 70
- Torpedo Extra IPA (Sierra Nevada) ABV: 7.2% , IBU: 65
- IPA (Lagunitas Brewing Co.) ABV: 6.2% , IBU: –
- Centennial IPA (Founders Brewing Co.) ABV: 7.2% , IBU: 65
- Racer 5 IPA (Bear Republic) ABV: 7.5% , IBU: 75
Lager with its bottom yeast fermentation and cold storage traditions has without a doubt become the most widely drunk and recognizable beer variety on the planet. Still, not all lagers are brewed equally and it may just take that little more effort to find the right brewski to offer a timid beer drinker.
- Schlafly Summer Lager (Saint Louis Brewery) ABV: 4.5% , IBU: 17
- Negra Mondelo (Grupo Modelo Brewing Co.) ABV: 5.4% , IBU: –
- Tampa-Style Lager (Cigar city) ABV: 4.5% , IBU: 22
- Walker Lager (Firestone Walker Brewing Co.) ABV: 4.5% , IBU: 17
- Helles Lager (Victory) ABV: 4.8% , IBU: –
Red ales are brewed with a higher proportion of malt to hops and so get a rich caramel flavoring without the noticeable bitterness found in other varieties of beer.
- Tocobaga Red Ale (Cigar City Brewing) ABV: 7.4% , IBU: –
- Pataskala Red X IPA (Stone Brewing) ABV: 7.3% , IBU: 70
- Red Wheelbarrow (Maine Beer Company) ABV: 7.0% , IBU: –
- Red Rocket Ale (Bear Republic Brewing Co.) ABV: 6.8% , IBU: 67
- Evil Dead Red (AleSmith Brewing Co.) ABV: 6.6% , IBU: 24
Despite its appearance, a stout can be both creamy and smooth to drink. Although some types are indeed bitter, others can be very sweet and can double as a decent snack between meals.
- Breakfast Stout (Founders) ABV: 8.3% , IBU: 60
- Milk Stout (Left Hand) ABV: 6.0% , IBU: 25
- Xocoveza (Stone Brewing) ABV: 8.1% , IBU: –
- Milk Stout (Duck Rabbit) ABV: 5.7% , IBU: –
- Obsidian Stout (Deschutes) ABV: 6.0% , IBU: 55
Traditionally Porters were a less alcoholic version of Stout, or Stout was a stronger version of Porter. No beer enthusiasts can decide and nowadays the two varieties are very close. In general, you will find Porter to be a lighter and less alcoholic dark beer than what is listed above.
- Smoked Porter (Stone Brewing) ABV: 5.9% , IBU: 53
- Coconut Porter (Maui Brewing Co.) ABV: 6.0%, IBU: 30
- P-51 Porter (Wingman Brewers) ABV: 8.0% , IBU: 31
- Porter (Founders) ABV: 6.5% , IBU: 45
- Black Butte Porter (Deschutes) ABV: 5.2% , IBU: –
Other beery drinks
If you really strike out with all of the suggestions about, there still may be hope for your beerily-challenged friend. Although you probably won’t want to spend time brewing beer yourself for these drinks, you can still share a jar with them.
Shandy: a popular drink in the UK when I was growing up which meant you could have a beer and not totally clock out for the rest of the day. Simply mix half to a quarter of a glass of beer with lemonade. If you really want to impress your friends and family you can describe it as “Panaché’ which is the French for shandy. You can also call it Radler (German) or Clara (Spanish).
Syrup beer: Again falling back on my time spent in France, you can flavor your beer with a small addition of fruit syrup and freshen up a bad Kronenburg or just take some of the bitterness out of beer. Get some fancy ‘Monin‘ syrup in almost any flavor you like and add it to your beer. (link to Amazon)
If you want the best of both worlds, you can create a ‘Monaco’ which is grenadine syrup, lemonade, and lager.
Beer cocktails: If you are really determined to get that certain person to consume beer and enjoy it, then you can try mixing beer in a cocktail. This also works for when you have to get rid of stale beer, see my article on this here.
If they have a sweet tooth, then go for a fruit-based cocktail, if they like a particular type of spirit, be sure to include that in the recipe. The best beer to choose is one that doesn’t have a very strong or complex character, so light lagers are good ingredients for a beer cocktail.
Beers to brew for a newly converted beer drinker
Now that you have taken the time to explore your beer-shy test subject’s tolerance to bitterness as well as bombarding them with lots of varieties of beer in some beer tasting, you should have a better idea of what they like and don’t like. (Hopefully, something hit the mark, if it didn’t you may wish to drink the rest of the tasting sample yourself and just forget.)
Below are my suggestions for which home-brew recipe you can try for each variety of beer:
Home-Brew Saisons ales
Battre L’oie Saison (Extract)
This is perhaps an easier recipe to follow that the all grain version but it will produce an aromatic beer with a dry grainy malt character with hints of bitterness. You also have the added benefit of being able to easily add spices or fruit to this Saison base. Full recipe.
Home-Brew Sour Beer
Brewing a sour beer is actually a difficult prospect and isn’t advisable for a total beginner. There are just so many things to be vigilant about that you may not get the best-finished result.
If you do want to try brewing your own sour beer, check out this recipe.
Home-Brew White beer
If your novice beer drinker really liked the Witbier style, then you can’t go too wrong with the following recipe.
Home-Brew Fruit beer
There are many fruit beer recipes to follow, but the Hibiscus Mango Blonde is one of the top voted in the home-brewing community. It’s a recipe that originated in Costa Rica and is going to make those summer evenings on the deck a real joy.
Contrary to popular belief, not all IPA are face imploding bitterness. This recipe shows that the IPA style can easily be blended with a fresher and fruiter finish for those still with daintier taste buds. Check out the Maui Brewing Company POG IPA
I had to choose this one for its name, but it also is a very good American lager that won the 2017 National Home-brew Completion. Check out Phil’s Lager.
Home-Brew Red Ale
For those who like the caramel malty taste of Red ales, why not brew them up a batch of Brighid’s Irish Red Ale with its interesting rye based recipe.
If you are looking to brew a choco-stout sensation, look no further than this Yak & Yeti’s Chai Milk Stout Clone. It’s spicy, creamy and comes with all the characteristics of a good milk stout.
If you are looking for a light Porter with low IBUs then a good choice could be Eubayanus Brown Porter. Brewed with chocolate malt, it will be a delicious stepping stone for any anti-beer convert who is only just getting into beer appreciation.
Alternative ways to help people enjoy beer.
Sometimes it isn’t a question of the taste of beer, it’s the taste of beer just on its own. A great way to overcome the overpowering flavor that some beers have is to pair it with something else.
What food does beer go well with?
As a good French friend of mine said, “wine is just an ingredient it’s not alcohol”, and the same is true of beer (well, he might be a bit far off with the part about alcohol. The point he was trying to make was that we should always drink with the right food. So what goes well with beer and could this help someone overcome their beer aversion.
You might think that cheese is reserved for wine, but that just isn’t the case. Beer doesn’t hide the flavor of beer in the same way that wine does and in fact, its carbonation can intensify many aromas and tastes in ‘le fromage’.
Beer also helps remove the fattiness of cheese from your palate, so it is great between courses. You can pair almost any beer with any cheese and any cheese based dishes such as pizza or even sandwiches. However, for a stronger cheese, you may want to go for a darker beer.
Poultry, seafood, and pasta
When it comes to chicken and fish as well as many pasta dishes, you want to pair them with a lighter beer so that you don’t overpower their flavor. If eating grilled or fried, then a good light German-style beer is your friend.
However, if these types of dishes are served with a thicker sauce, then you have the right to up your beer to a heavier and richer variety. Belgian ales and wheat beers go very nicely with Chicken, fish and most pasta dishes.
Belgium is famous for being the inventor of French Fries (I know, just go with it!) and so you should follow their lead when eating fried pub style food. Go for a light lager so that you can cleanse your mouth without totally ruining the salty tastiness of your fries. Something like a Stella Artois or light German beer will always go well with this sort of food.
If you are digging into a juicy hamburger or high-quality steak then you will want to pair it with a darker beer such as a brown ale or stout. Although an IPA-style beer could work here, it will be harder to balance the strong hoppy aromas with the strong meat flavors. Better to order a stout or porter and savor the balance between those types of beer and the meat.
Although milk may be the best way to combat the spice in a curry or Mexican food, it’s not always as fun. Beer will cut through those chilies and bring about an entirely different eating experience. Generally, a lighter beer will pair best, but even an IPA will go very well with your spicy buffalo wings.
If unsure what type of beer to go with, stick with the region. For Mexican food, you can choose a good Mexican lager, for Chinese food, go for one of the European inspired brews from the orient.
If pairing beer with dessert doesn’t win over even the most adamant non-beerist, then I don’t know what will!
If you are eating rich chocolate brownies or cake, then sip a creamy stout at the same time; it’s amazing. Another approach to take is to pair your desserts with a fruity beer and marvel at the contrast in flavors you’ll get.
How to avoid the physical effects of beer
If you are feeling bloated, then you can drink water with lemon and cayenne pepper (half a lemon and a dash of cayenne pepper in a normal size glass of water).
You can also mix in turmeric to a smoothie as this ingredient has lost of detoxifying properties. You can even drink turmeric cocktails in between beers, but this may not work out well for you the next day.
Another cure for bloating after a beer drinking session is ginger tea. Ginger has a lot of benefits for the body and reducing bloating in the stomach is one of them.
We get hangovers because our bodies are dehydrated after drinking, so it’s always advisable to drink plenty of water while out partying and before going to bed. This can be easier said than done when you have had a skinful, but try to make a habit of drinking a pint or two before bed so that you don’t want to die the next morning!
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