How to Order Craft Beer

Order Craft Beer When You Don't Know What the Hell You're Doing

Order Craft Beer When You Don't Know What the Hell You're Doing

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I’m the guy who drinks Miller Lite because I like the taste. I acclimated to it in upstate New York and never stopped. But I’m not in New York anymore. I now live in a place where craft beer, like mountain-biking and sending your kids to coding camp, is firmly entrenched in what it means to belong. San Diegans dedicate Meetups, apps, and podcasts entirely to obsessing over it. In many business and romantic settings, you are judged partially on your beer preference. It says certain things about you, things I don’t want Miller Lite to say about me.

But what’s a beer moron supposed to do when walking into a bar faced with 50 unfamiliar names scrawled on a chalkboard and not a description of what they taste like? Am I supposed to order all 50? Then order another 50 at the bar next door?

Greg Homyak, co-host of the San Diego BeerTalk Radio podcast, agreed to craft-beer Yoda me. We’re at Urge American Gastropub in Rancho Bernardo, where he's ordering five four-ounce tasters of brew (aka flights) that he thinks someone of my (lack of) palate would prefer.

Homyak, a millennial IT specialist whose favorite beer is Dark Seas Russian Imperial Stout by Mission Brewing, suggests popping into any bar with more than 20 beers on tap and ordering a flight of light lagers called pilsners, then jotting down the name of the one you like best.

“If you like any mass-marketed American beer, it’s probably a pilsner,” he says. “There are plenty of pilsners from craft breweries you’re going to like better because they taste better, because they’re made from better ingredients and not in some automated factory where profit is valued over quality.”

You’re probably not as ignorant as I was before I started this article, so I assume you already know that “craft” beer has nothing to do with a beer type. “Craft” just means any beer manufactured by an independent brewer producing six million barrels of beer or fewer in a year. There are north of 120 of these microbreweries in San Diego and most brew all different beer types.

A lovely green-haired waitress named Amanda brings our first flight. Homyak is betting I will prefer Societe’s The Heiress. “A beer like Miller Lite is scientifically done well. But it [lacks] flavor. You can live your life drinking it, just like you can live your life eating McDonald’s. Or I can show you something you like better in craft beer.” Homyak is wrong. The Heiress is just OK to me. It doesn’t even taste as good as Miller Lite. I’m obviously the toughest case of beer ignorance he’s ever seen.

“No problem,” he says. “We’ll get it.”