The Perfect Beers to Fill Out a Six-Mixer for a Craft Newbie
I had a good group of total beer snobs raising me up from the day that I was legal to drink, give or take a few years. I was fresh in college and didn’t have a lot of friends (not because I moved far away--I was just a weird kid in high school), so it’s not like I was getting invited to every party in town. Somehow I made a couple friends through the college radio station. By the next semester I had moved in with them, and I still remember the first time one of them asked me if I wanted to try a beer. I wasn’t sure. What if I didn’t like it? What if it made me feel weird? They reassured me and, almost ritualistically, someone curated a six mixer and there, in the company of good friends and several seasons of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on DVD, I tried my first beer.
(Disclaimer: Since we’re all perfectly law-abiding citizens here, we’re going to frame this within the context of you, a person of legal age, giving a six mixer to someone who is crossing the final hurdle of adult legal freedom and celebrating the last birthday anyone gives a $hit about. That’s how we’re giving this advice. How you use it is on you.)
A handful of criteria factored into choosing the beers on this list.
Beer Selection Criteria
You wouldn’t put an Old Rasputin down in front of someone who’s never tried beer before. That would be like dropping Ulysses on a child who’s still learning the alphabet. It’s all letters and sounds, sure, but you have to develop the vocabulary first. They sure aren’t going to “get” it, and they probably won’t even like it.
If you’re like me, once you started drinking beer, learning everything you could about it became a priority. That meant having conversations and growing from solid starting points. Is putting a Sierra Nevada beer on the list an “inspired” choice? Maybe not, but one way or another I bet we’d all have something to say about it. Not to mention, these are beers that are typically widely distributed "go-to" beer options. You would not send a first time sushi eater on a hunt for a poisonous blowfish for good reason.
We wanted to find beers that represented their given styles well. No one’s first beer needs to be a doughnut-flavored brown ale. In fact no beer needs to be that.
Now, to the list. The order of tasting doesn’t matter all too much.
1. SweetWater 420
This is the definition of “beer.” It’s like when people ask me how I enjoy driving a Honda Civic. The Honda Civic is “car.” It does car things perfectly well but will never blow you away. It’s like someone read a book called How to Make a Car and then made a car. 420 is the Civic of beers. Swat down any dumb jokes about the dumb name with a firm hand. We were all young once, but the young must learn some day.
2. New Belgium 1554
Okay, okay, maybe I’m being a little sentimental here. This was, after all, my very first beer. But it must have worked, right? The flavor is a little subdued, and the sweet cola finish and medium body will be immediately familiar.
3. Founders All Day IPA
Ah, the IPA. For many, the be-all-end-all of craft beer. There’s only one on this list because I’d like the next generation of drinkers to do a little better than us in that respect. Founders is a solid choice for IPAs because their entire lineup is reliable (wait ‘til they hear about KBS), but also because it’s not a total hop bomb. Those who seek the hop will find it with little trouble, and this inoffensive IPA is a good gateway.
4. Blue Moon
You look your friend in the eye, say “this is not craft,” and then you smash the bottle on the ground. Don’t clean up after yourself. Any lacerations incurred will serve as a painful reminder.
5. Yuengling Summer Wheat
6. Highland Oatmeal Porter
Do you have any other picks for a first outing into craft beer? Stories about how you got into the habit? Give us a word in the comments.