With the growth of breweries and craft beer bars in Orange County, you're eventually going to end up at one for a date, but for some of you not-so-savvy beer drinkers, a night out to a brewery can be intimidating. Long, winding draft and bottle menus stare at you from the moment you enter a craft beer bar, and the choices fluctuate with each visit. It can be tough to have a "usual" order at places like Native Son Alehouse or The Copper Door, and while rotation is ideal for the avid beer snob, it's not so fun for first-timers on a date. Here's how to combine romance and craft beer.
1. Ask for tasters
Asking for tasters is like dating. You want to make sure you don't commit a significant other (or a beer) that's not your type, so taste your beer like you would date around before settling down.
What's better, tasters (unlike first dates) aren't intimidating. They're self explanatory, just a taste of the beer. Just make sure you're not jerk; don't ask for a taster of every red, blonde or porter on draft. Tasters done, at least your beer won't be the reason for your bad date.
2. Have an opinion
Don't hesitate to vocalize your opinion about your beer. Your date took you to a brewery or brewpub because they like beer and probably want to see if you like it too. Merely saying that the beer is "good" doesn't cut it. Take your opinion to the next level and explain why you like or dislike the beer in front of you.
Beer is only made up of four main ingredients: water, hops, barley and yeast, and the barley and hops, along with any other adjunct like orange peel or chocolate, will lend to the way your beer tastes. Talking about how the beer tastes and smells will score big points. Use words like "hoppy," "smooth," "malty," "bright," "tart," "funky," or "fruity." Or, simply be honest. If a saison tastes like green olives (like they tend to do for me) just say so. You won't be wrong because it's what you think it tastes like.
3. Don't be afraid to sound a little dumb
It's all right if you're not up to date on all the hottest beer news. You don't need to know what some brewery out in Pennsylvania is barrel-aging or that a brewer from Minnesota is moving to a brewery in Oregon. Yes, these issues fill the mind of the beer enthusiast, but I'm here to tell you that it's okay that you don't know these things.
It's important to keep in mind that everyone, at one point or another, drank macro-brewed beer. Do not become intimidated by the slight of douchebaggery that can sometimes creep its way into your date's beer glass (though by all means be turned off). Just have a drink, enjoy yourself and maybe you'll learn something new.
4. Try everything
Craft brewers make a point of making eccentric and interesting beer. It's a slap in the face to scoff at their refusal to brew or serve anything that tastes remotely like a Corona or Budweiser. Ordering a flight, a sampler of about four to six, five-ounce beers, will be your best bet. A lot of the time, you can just pick and choose which beer you'd like in your flight. Your date or bartender can assist you with this. Remember, beers like pilsners and blondes will be lighter and friendlier, ambers, browns and reds will be maltier, pale ales and IPAs will be bitter and stouts and porters will be roast-y. If the bar offers a fixed flight option, take it. This will quell any decision-making anxiety and will present a balanced set of beers for you to try.
5. Don't get too drunk too fast
In the world of craft beer, you must learn the art of pacing yourself. Craft beer is not the same as Bud Light, Miller Light, Coors Light or any of their non-light counterparts. You can down three Bud Lights during a game of beer pong and hardly get a proper buzz. Do that with an IPA, say a Recursion 2.0 from Bottle Logic or a Big Whig from Noble Ale Works and you're gonna start wobbling…hard. Even if you're just drinking an amber, a pale ale or even a pilsner, the fact is, craft beer is more robust than the typical tailgate. And the beers that will appeal to the first-time craft drinkers will most likely be of the sweeter Belgian persuasion (Dubbels, Tripels and Quads), which have a knee-wobbling average ABV of about 8-12 percent. That means that one Tripel, a sweet and clove-y beer, will be equivalent to about three regular Budweisers. Also, many of our Orange County brewers do a good job of masking their alcohol in fun and appealing flavors like coffee, watermelon, raspberry and chocolate. So take it easy until you know what you can handle, especially on a first date.