Who says you have to start off with something impossibly hoppy, go to a pub you’ve never gone to before, try a beer you’ve never heard of before (and which probably has a double entrende name, wink wink, nudge nudge) or join a beer society to take your first steps in beer appreciation? Well, we certainly don’t. Nowadays, even your local convenience store tends to stock some unconventional beers. It’s no longer all lager or nothing in the shelves of these small corner shops.
You don’t need a beer guide or to do an immense amount of research to start your adventure to the world of beer. You can just visit your local and get an idea of what you like, and expand on the idea when you finally do enter a pub with a variety of beers that might at first frighten you.
Why? Why not. Beer appreciation is not about the subtle notes of malt or how it makes you think of the countryside and fresh air. It’s about how it makes you feel, how you relate to the beer and above all; to have fun with it. Sure, it is fun to visit a load of pubs and taste a load of different beers, but until you get yourself into a beer appreciating disposition, it’s hard to see why that would be
Am I right or am I right?
In order to prove our point, we went to our local corner shop (happened to be a Bargain Booze in Hoole this time) and picked three rather conventional but still somewhat more exciting beers than your average fizzy lager. We reckon these might be the perfect choice for you if you’re just starting your beer appreciation journey. They’re a little different even if they borderline mainstream, they’re safe enough to not be overpowering but still might give you a nudge towards the right direction.
Waggle Dance – Wells , 5,0%
A perfect example of how a beer can divide two people with different tastes. I find this beer rather pleasant. It’s sweet with the subtle taste of honey, but it’s not too sweet to actually overtake the palate. It still has a malty undertone and a bitter finish, something that I thoroughly enjoy. Tom on the other hand is not a fan. According to Tom, it’s quite plain, he can’t taste the honey enough and only finds it to have the light bitter taste of pale ale. Tom thinks it has an echo of sweetness, but not enough to warrant the honey aroma. Whereas we both agree there are better honey beers out there, we both think this is good starter one, especially for one you can find in a bottle in a shop near you.
Directors – Courage , 4.8%
Tom tells me that if his memory serves right, he first came across this beer back in the day when he first started up in the industry and the urban legend was that this Southern beer didn’t travel very well and you needed a lot of courage (see what they did there) to drink a pint of it up North. However, if you managed to get a good pint of it, it was a rather pleasant beer. We both agree that this premium bitter is malty, deep and has the very much expected bitter notes to it. Whereas I find it rather uninteresting even if tasty, I am reminded by Tom that this is a classic bitter which earns it’s “premium” title from its voltage and for the fact it plays homage to old school, traditional English bitters. For the “new generation” of beer drinkers and “hop heads” it might not hit the mark, but for someone starting to explore the world beyond fizzy lager it is a great beer to try, packed with deep undertones. Tom still would be happy to drink it, but I suspect it might be more for nostalgic reasons than anything else. Go figure. Good points for it is that even whereas in a bottle, it does taste like it was poured from a tap.
Wychcarft – Wytchwood , 4.5%
When I first started out with beer, Wytchwood brewery played a big part in getting me interested in the different types of beer. So excuse me while I feel nostalgic while I have my first sips of this. It still has the hoppy, bitter, crisp flavour that first made me fall in love with pale ale. Years of experimenting have not dimmed its fascination on me. Tom reminds me of their slogan on one of their more known beers, Hobgoblin: “What’s the matter lager boy, afraid of a little taste”, and all Wytchwood beers do live up to that motto. Whereas a commercial and national brewery, they do pay homage to the more outrageous beers out there, even though by modern brewing standards they don’t go totally out there.
However, it is a good start-up beer for hops and the bitter taste of pale ale. Even for an experienced beer appreciator, it’s not at all an unpleasant beer. It might not have the complex taste like its unconventional counterparts, but it still packs more flavour than your regular fizzy lager. It’s probably the best beer to try when you’re trying to distance yourself from the aforementioned tipple.
This article is a first of its kind of a series where we aim to prove (or disprove) you can find decent beer in supermarkets or a corner shop. In this series we will explore your average local shopping unit as well as introduce you to local speciality shops where you can get more outrageous beer as well as the know-how behind them. These beers are not for rating, so we shant be giving them the usual marks from one to five we give the guest ales we try on our adventures, this is just an introduction to beers you can find on a shelf near you. Watch this space for tips and local knowledge of the variety of beers around you!