One thing I’ve always wanted to do but have been hesitant to try is letting a server choose my beer for me. Thankfully for the beer-drinking consumer, a lot of restaurants and breweries are prioritizing employee education when it comes to beer service and beer pairing the same way many have already been prioritizing wine service and pairing education. When I’m out somewhere that serves beer, I’m usually up for sampling anything; however, there are a lot of beers I overlook on the menu. If there’s a new beer from a particular brewery that I want to try, I look for that. If there’s a style I’m in the mood for, I look for that. Also, when faced with a tap list that includes more than a dozen or so choices, I don’t typically take the time to study the menu and absorb all the beers they have to offer.
I admit it: I’m a control freak. I like to plan everything that can possibly be planned and don’t like when something doesn’t go according to plan. As you can imagine, this makes me a ton of fun when it come to spontaneity and taking risks. The control freak in me did not want to leave the beer decision making to someone I didn’t know – what if I didn’t like the beer?
Then I realized that it’s very rare for me to try a beer that I simply don’t like or can’t appreciate. There aren’t really any beer styles that I just do not like, but even for those styles I can still appreciate them within their style. The only type of beer I can’t enjoy is ginger beers, not because there’s anything wrong with ginger beers, but because I just don’t like ginger.
The other reason holding me back from letting someone else choose my beer is not knowing what the person choosing my beer knows about beer. However, this fear was easily remedied by doing my experiment at a restaurant where I know from experience that the servers are well-trained in the beers they serve and are happy to help choose a beer: Mac’s Speed Shop.
While I really don’t intend to turn this into an advertisement for Mac’s, I will say that one reason I go to Mac’s regularly is that I always receive excellent service and the beer selection is expansive and features a ton of North Carolina and South Carolina beer. As an aside, I think I’m the only person in the world who goes to Mac’s, a famed BBQ restaurant, for the veggie burger.
I ordered one beer before dinner to help bolster my courage. When it came time for the second round, I glanced at the menu and then told the server, “Surprise me.” Without missing a beat, she asked what types of beer I usually drink, to which I answered that I like all types and didn’t care which style or what the alcohol content was, although I did ask that it not be an IPA simply because there was a good chance I had already had most of the IPAs on the menu.
After a couple minutes, our server came back with an Abby’s Amber from Double Barley Brewing, located in Smithfield, North Carolina. The choice could not have been better: it was a beer I had never had before, it was a style that I’m really into right now, and it complemented my burger perfectly. I think American Ambers and American Reds are overlooked quite a bit for flashier beer styles like IPAs, stouts, and sours. However, lately I’ve rediscovered the style and really enjoy them. They’re perfect on a day when I don’t want a lager, but I do want something that’s got a smooth flavor and won’t destroy my palate. This choice was a home run! Because our server was busy, I didn’t get a chance to ask her how she came to choose the Abby’s Amber, but she did an excellent job with her choice.
As I mentioned above, as much as I like to try different beers, I tend to gravitate toward the same types of beers when I’m out and often don’t take the time to study the beer menu and look at everything that’s offered. However, letting my server choose my beer for me introduced me to a new beer that’s not only a style that I like, but is also from a brewery that I like (Thrilla in Vanilla Porter – yes please!). Going forward, I resolve to loosen the reins a little bit and let someone else choose my beer for me more often.
What experiences have you had with letting someone else choose your beer? Where are some of your favorite places to be surprised with a beer?