Comments: I'll Give You a Topic...

Depends on the beer. Heineken, Harp, and most real German lagers taste good on the first sip.

Most domestic water-brews don't taste very good after hours of drinking them. Also, beer tastes better when your talking to pretty girls.

Posted by Paul at February 18, 2004 06:20 AM

The correct answer is zero. Beer always tastes good.

Posted by Jim at February 18, 2004 09:17 AM

I'm with Paul on this one. I've never enjoyed a popular domestic beer. I always drank them strictly for the alcohol content.

I blame peer pressure.

Posted by Harvey at February 18, 2004 09:22 AM

A good beer is a wonderful thing - and Heineken is not really a good beer, although it's not heinous. Like single-malt Scotch and fine wine, the best of beers to many palates are often the most radical, so you might want to start with some simpler ones to refine and define your tastes.

German-style Pilsners are a good place to start. Try a Jever, for example, or a Pilsner Urquell. Domestically, the pils or lager products by Red Tail (Mendocino) and Victory (Pennsylvania) are very good (also Brooklyn Brewery stuff - their Pils is excellent, the lager is fine). These are close to the narrow range that Americans perceive as beer, but they are fuller and tastier than American megabrews - which, since they are made from corn and rice in large part, are not technically beers by traditional definition.

Note that most American swill is bad beer based on fine traditions. So Pabst or Rheingold or whatever your trendy brand might be is bitter pale "premium lager" (the tech term for the genre) published under the trademark of breweries which used to make good beer but were closed down during Prohibition. Their current products bear no relation whatsoever to the beers that made them famous and successful.

More interesting on the German front are the weizens or wheat beers: try, say, a Franziskaner, and be aware that these are NOT traditionally drunk with a slice of lemon. The lemon phenom is an American misunderstanding (Kristalweizen is drunk with lemon, because it tastes like soap, but hefeweizen is not; we don't have kristal in this country, by and large. "Hefe" means "yeast," and the kristal weizens are filtered clear). If you like it go for it, but it's not necessary or "correct." These are best as summer beers, though they work year-round.

Probably the finest hefeweizen is Schneider Weisse, which is not too hard to find. It should be poured into a large glass with the yeast on the bottom poured out along with the beer, for flavor and color. Schneider's wheat double bok, Aventinus, is dark and extraordinary and quite strong, so be warned, but it's a world-class beer. NO LEMON AT ALL IN THIS ONE, and there's no debate on that topic.

The real fine ones are the Belgians. Duvel and Chimay and the like are always good bets, and they vary widely in taste (Chimay ain't what it once was). Note that Chimay has a layer of yeast on the bottom that you are *not* meant to drink, and so the bottle should not be agitated. The beer should not be served too cold (much of the cold beer tradition is owed to the simple fact that BudMillerCoors tastes like crap, and if it's not cold you can taste it, which is not good).

Lambic infusion beers (fruit flavored) range from the sugary Lindeman's, a good intro for the novice, to the tarter and more interesting Boon brand, to the challenging Cantillon and the like - it helps to know the nature of the beast before you try these latter ones, they are quite difficult. But Lindeman's is fun and will give you an idea of how wide a range of flavors a beer can have.

Domestic microbrews of fine quality include most stuff by Brooklyn Brewery, Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head, and Rogue. Canada's Unibroue puts out a wonderful range of products in the strong Belgian ale styles: Trois Pistoles, Fin du Monde and Maudite are all exceptional, and pretty widely available in the States. There are a lot of different flavors and approaches.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is a world class beer; their Monster barleywine is a big stomping love-it-or-hate-it thing. Sierra Nevada cruises on the Pale Ale, but their Harvest beer and their Stout and Porter are excellent (same with Anchor, the Porter is superb, and the Xmas beers are very interesting). Dogfish Head has a standard mass market Pale Ale, but they are a wild and woolly brewery and they make a ton of other small batch beers, including the amazing World Wide Stout, which clocks in at 22% alcohol. Simply incredible. And tasty.

Posted by Linus at February 18, 2004 12:25 PM

Drat. Y'all are being serious. Okay then...

The single finest beer I have ever had was Stovepipe Porter from the Otter Creek Brewing Company. Unfortunately I can't get it down here in Georgia and that has made me very sad.

Posted by Jim at February 18, 2004 03:01 PM

Laws being what laws are, there's probably not much Otter Creek can do to help. But take a look over at

http://www.ottercreekbrewing.com/home/otter_creek/locations.html

One never knows...might be worth the phone call. Especially since it's toll-free.

I've never had that one, I'll keep an eye out for it.

Posted by Linus at February 18, 2004 03:44 PM

To answer the question that was asked, one (1). Mow the grass on a hot summer afternoon, and there will be absolutely no question about it.

Posted by Rev. Mike at February 18, 2004 08:06 PM

As long as the beer in question doesn't begin with Bud*, you're probably on solid footing for a decent beer at the first sip. I'm excluding horse-filtered liquids such as Strohs or, God forbid, Red White and Blue from this discussion.

Posted by physics geek at February 19, 2004 03:37 PM

And beer always tastes good with spicy food.

Posted by Kevin at February 21, 2004 06:36 PM