In the world of microbrewed beers there are many defined styles. Wheat, Ale, Pilsner, Pale Ale, IPA, Amber, Red, Porter, Stout, the list can go on and on. Each brewer, however, takes pride in putting their signature on the styles that they brew by using different malts, grains and hops. This results in sometimes wildly different flavors even though the beers may be all brewed in the same style.
If you are an avid brewpub visitor like Tim (brewmaster) and I are, than you’ll want to be sure that you will enjoy an entire pint of the beer you order (not that we have ever let a beer go to waste). Whenever we go to a new brewpub, which is pretty often, we start by ordering a sampler or “flight” of their beers and share it. Ordering the sampler allows us to try several beers and helps us to decide what we will order a pint of. Tim and I have very different tastes for beer. I live in a world of dark porters, stouts and very hoppy IPAs. Tim tends to lean toward the brown, amber, and Abbey style beers. By sharing a sampler we not only have the opportunity to branch outside of our box, but also we gain a better understanding of what the brewmaster at the Pub specializes in. I think every brewmaster has a signature beer recipe, like every chef has a signature dish.
If you are unable to find a sampler or “flight” on the menu ask the server or bartender. Each pub seems to handle their sampler a little differently. Most will have a set price around $5-$7 and serve all of their microbrews in 2 – 4oz glasses. Some brewpubs will allow you to choose 4-6 of their beers and perhaps charge you $1 more for additional samples. All in all you can expect to pay about $1 per 3oz sample. If this sounds like too much of a financial commitment for you, and you know what kind of beer you usually drink, simply ask the bartender for a sample of that particular beer. That sample 99% of the time will be free.
Samplers are just one more way that the small brewer (and brewpubs) are setting themselves apart from the mass consumption brews. By supporting the small brewer, you are helping another “little guy” survive in a sea of big fish (with small small beers). Drink responsibly and enjoy.