A Few Words on … the ‘starter beer’

rules 1

Most days of the week, I’ll have a beer during or after dinner. Sometimes I’ll even get crazy and have two because it’s what the doctor recommends. Or three, if I’m in Iceland, apparently.

But it’s those days where I have more than one beer I usually institute an informal rule – I have a “starter” beer. Technically, I suppose I’m following the similar methods one might use when enjoying a flight of beers. If I’m having something heavy in flavorful grains, hops or alcohol, I don’t want to shock my palate right away, I want to ease into enjoying a higher-end brew. Much like I stretch before exercise, I’m prepping my nose and tongue for a workout.

For example: I recently enjoyed/loved a bottle of Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout. At 18 percent ABV, it’s crazy boozy so I didn’t want to just dive in. To prepare my taste buds, I first had a bottle of my Poor Richard’s Ale homebrew I had sitting in my fridge. I don’t think I’m the only one who might recommend this:


Typically, I’m not selecting a “starter” beer with any method other than I want it to be fairly neutral and ease me into the second beer I’m more excited to drink. If I’m having a stout, I may pour a glass of Cigar City’s Maduro brown ale or a bottle of my own chocolate-vanilla porter. If I’m having an overly hoppy IPA, just about any of my homebrews might do, including a honey-basil ale or my blueberry wheat.

The goal of this is not to get drunk. I do it because I …

  1. Enjoy beer and like drinking a variety of brews.
  2. Believe that it has some sort of impact on my ability to enjoy my beer even more.

Or, this could just be some weird, quirky beer-drinking habit I’ve formed. Everyone’s got one, right?

+Bryan Roth


9 thoughts on “A Few Words on … the ‘starter beer’

  1. As craft beer continues to develop, don’t some of these rules make us sound like wine snobs?

    1. While I agree with proper drinking orders, this is a question us proponents of craft beer will soon face. (Didn’t want my original comment to seem negative…)

      1. No worries at all. Like I mention, this is really an “informal rule” I follow because I think in some cases it helps my experience. When I drink an actual flight of beer, for example, I never go light to dark, I go by flavor, always saving IPAs for the end. Just a matter of personal preference, really.

        The idea of the “starter beer” is something I enjoy, but by no means is it something that has to be done – by me or anyone else. I just think it’s a quirky thing that I often find myself doing.

        What about you – do you have anything of that sort?

      2. I actually do. I generally place my beer consuming in order of hops because they wreck the palette for all other beers. However, the problem with this rule is the maltier beers tend to be heavier and I don’t always want to start heavy.

  2. Then we have good common ground! I typically start with the lighter lager/ale available then mix in the porter/stout right before any IPAs. With some healthy doses of water in between. I want to get as much out of those hops as possible!

    1. I also approach tasting and flights in the same manner as you both. Water is key, as are some light snacks like fairly plain crackers and/or cheese. If I’m having just one beer, I’ll dive right into an IIPA if that’s what I want, though. Great post, Bryan. Cheers.

      1. Thanks, James! Definitely important notes on tastings.

  3. Yeeh. I have certainly experienced the hop killer a few times. Brown ales and Ambers do work well.

    1. Always good to stretch, lest you’ll injure yourself!

      Or something to that effect. Cheers!

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