With an ever increasing number of breweries and beers to choose from we are now more than ever able to choose a drink that is something we really enjoy. However does all this choice actually make us happier in our decision? I recently watched a TED talk which argued the contrary case, and this got me thinking does the same apply to the beer we drink? Below I detail potential ways to try and avoid being dissatisfied while still being able to enjoy having a wide range choice.
With the UK now having the largest number of breweries (over 1,400 in 2015) since the 1930s and 40s we have an ever increasing amount of available beer to choose from. This increase is frankly quite staggering considering that as recently as the 1960s there were only about 300 breweries in the UK! In the words of Beer Sommelier Sophie Atherton “There’s now a beer for everyone – all the way from a sessionable pint of English bitter or locally produced lager on to hoppy craft brews and boozy barley wines or imperial stouts". Surely this is what everyone wants and all this choice is only a good thing right?
Perhaps not, I recently saw a TED talk from noted psychologist Barry Schwartz about the paradox of choice, www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on _the_paradox_of_choice where he makes the estimation that choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied. I can imagine that if you are new to the world of craft beer that seeing all this choice can actually be quite daunting and intimidating. So how do we avoid feelings of dissatisfaction? I have thought about this and put together a mini guide on how to approach craft beer and what sort of things to look out for and bear in mind.
- What is it that you like about the beers you enjoy?
Do you like traditional best bitters? Do you like powerfully hopped IPAs? How about sour beers? Each of these styles have their own unique characteristics. Be it the roasted maltiness of a porter, or the sourness of a spontaneously fermented lambic, or even the sweetness of a fruit beer. Everyone has personal preference and knowing what you like certainly helps you to choose new beers that are similar to your normal choices, therefore, reducing the risk of you picking something that is not your cup of tea, or bottle of beer!
- Fancy pump clips or labels don't always mean fancy beer!
Pump clips and labels are designed to draw your eye to them and entice you into buying them. Quite often they will also describe how amazing the beer is with a little story. Don't be seduced by these tactics. The beer in your glass doesn't have a label on it. So if it is a new beer to you ask around to see what people think of it and don't be afraid to ask the bar staff or shop staff what they think as well.
- How much do you want to experiment?
If you really want to experiment, then there are all sorts of things out there from fruit tripelbocks to sourdough fermented Berliner Weisse. The choice really is yours and the variety of flavours available is enormous. Or by experimenting do you mean, I just want to try something a little bit different that isn't too out there. In this case a dry hopped lager might be considered different. It's important to know what degree of experimentation you are happy with before you start.
- If you're in a pub, ask if you can try the beer before committing to a pint of it.
Any good pub or bar will let you have a try before you buy, so don't be shy, ask for a taster!
- Try different types of the same beer.
For example do you like stouts? If so why not try a milk, oyster or an oatmeal stout? Each have their own distinct characteristics and are still all stouts so there is a low risk that you won't enjoy it. The same goes for more styles of beer than you would initially think e.g. Pale Ales, Porters, Saisons
I hope these points will help you to explore the amazing variety of beer that is now available from brewers. Let me now how you get on and if these tips help.