Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I'm not a beer drinker

I, Thomas, am of course a beer drinker!

But, at the beer tastings I conduct in beer/wine stores - many, many Saturday afternoons and Friday nights - I encounter numerous personal reactions to beer. A common one is the comment, "I'm not a beer drinker," which usually is said to spare me from what is really meant, "I don't like beer." Another is to ask me, surrounded by cases of my beer, "Where can I buy this?" (Here's yet another.)

My employer Hugh Sisson has a blog he calls Diary of a Brewer. He recently wrote of his clever manner of addressing this not-a-beer-drinker reticence.

A wine industry friend of mine recently invited me to do a beer tasting for a group of his friends in his “wine group.” I jumped at the chance – this would be a captive audience on which to try my theory of “education can overcome most sales obstacles.”

Before we began the tasting, I surveyed the room, and found (not to my surprise) that almost everyone was less than enthusiastic about beer – “I don’t really like beer” was a common sentiment. Beer was something you kept around ice-cold in cans for tossing back on a hot day, and not much else.

I then asked them what kind of wine they liked and did not like. When I found someone who liked Cabernet but hated Riesling, I then asked “does your distaste for Riesling mean you don’t like wine, or you just don’t like Riesling?”

I then proceeded thru a guided tasting of Bavarian style hefeweizen, marzen lager, pale ale, IPA, and imperial stout. Suddenly I found people, in some cases much to their own surprise, enjoying at least one style of beer, and quite often several! After the tasting, I re-surveyed the room and got people to understand that the same principle they applied quite comfortably to wine, should also apply to beer. That is, if you like pale ale, but hate hefeweizen, then you do indeed like beer, and now have a better idea of what to look for the next time you visit the store.

I think I'll borrow that!

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