I often get asked what is my favorite beer. As the years go by the question becomes harder and harder for me to answer. I have had such a vast variety of beer that picking one out of that multitude would honestly be difficult. My first taste of beer is one of my earliest memories. I am not sure I can even remember all of the beers I’ve had since, let alone each one well enough to recall its taste and how it compares to every other beer.
I doubt when someone asks me for my favorite beer that they are being quite so literal. Odds are they would be satisfied by my favorite recent beer. Answering that question is still hard to pin down. I try new beer just about every week. The kind of beer I might try next changes constantly depending on mood and circumstance. Picking a beer for the last month or so is just as hard as from my entire lifetime of enjoying beer.
Narrowing the choice other ways, for instance to a particular style or region, isn’t really any easier. I actively use a social drinking app, Untappd. Over the past handful of years, I have logged over seven hundred distinct beers. I can sort those beers in the app by the rating I gave each. The ranking is based on only 5 stars and the top most ratings still fill several pages. I doubt anyone asking would be patient enough for me to dig around on my phone for this list or be satisfied by me rattling off dozens of beers across a wide variety of styles and breweries.
Lately, I’ve been trying out a different, much simpler answer. When asked recently for my favorite beer, I answer that I like all beer. The response usually is skeptical–surely I can’t like every beer or I am just saying that to avoid answering the question. Yes, I really do try to find the charm of every beer I try and yes, honestly trying to pick one beer is quite difficult for me.
Craft beer continues to grow at an astonishing rate. Even with some recent consolidation in the industry, the choice as an enthusiast only continues to grow. Every time I go to a bottle shop, there is almost always a new beer I have never heard of. A lot of new breweries are on the smaller side, distributing locally only. When I travel, seeking out these local treasures is often more fun than any other part of the trip. Just keeping up with the breweries, established and new, around my home is becoming an almost a full time pursuit as each releases a growing complement of experimental one off and seasonal beers.
The quantity and variety of new beer can challenge even my prodigious enthusiasm. Thinking about my favorite beer this way is a nice reminder of the open and exploratory mindset that helps me best embrace the vast opportunities I face as a beer drinker. If I had one favorite or even a short list of favorites, I might be tempted to keeping drinking those beers when offered a choice between old favorites and something entirely new to me. I still often re-visit some stand out beers from time to time. Even my palate needs a rest some times. On the balance I receive more enjoyment from seeking out and trying new beers.
I am pretty certain that when someone asks me what my favorite beer is that is not really what they are asking anyway. A lot of my friends are not shy asking me for recommendations when we are out for beer. Some folks don’t seem comfortable asking me that. Maybe they find my enthusiasm for and knowledge of beer intimidating. I have seen enough beer enthusiasts exhibit a certain elitism about their pursuit that I definitely get that this can be off putting. Not everyone knows me well enough to understand that I try very hard to make my love of beer inclusive rather than some sort of weird status symbol.
When I feel that someone is asking me for my favorite as an easier way to get a recommendation, I happily reply with a question: What kinds of beer do you like? I am more than happy to use my vast knowledge of beer to match someone up with a brew I expect they will enjoy. To do that well, though, I need to understand what aspects of beer they enjoy the most. There is probably another whole essay in how to help someone pick a beer to try but put simply it is one of my favorite conversations to have, to learn what a friend likes well enough to help them find yet another beer that I hope they will enjoy.