One of craft beer’s most exciting qualities is the variety of styles and flavors available to the adventurous imbiber, not to mention the array of packages and serving sizes. But alongside all those options looms the specter of indecision. How do you pick from a list of dozens of beers ranging from IPAs to esoteric experimentations? One solution is to order a taster flight.
A flight of tasters — four or five short pours of different vintages or varietals — is common in the wine world, and craft brewery tasting rooms have long relied on a lineup of small samplers to introduce drinkers to their offerings. Flights are an obvious choice for someone new to craft beer, but even if you think you’ve tried them all, you can still enjoy the possibilities flights offer. Here are a few strategies for your next taster flight:
A study in styles
Whether you’re a devout IPA lover or you’re unsure about all the new craft lagers, a flight offers an easy way to compare and contrast different examples of the same style from different breweries. Line up four IPAs and find which one you like best, or pick a couple of stouts and a couple of porters and try to taste the differences.
Explore food pairings
Perhaps the best way to get comfortable pairing beer with food is to try a bunch of beers with the same dish. Trying a pale ale, a stout, a pilsner and something sour alongside your burger or chicken sandwich is the shortcut to unlocking the power of food pairings.
Flying with friends
Craft beer is social, but sitting down to a taster flight with a friend is high-intensity training for your taste buds. The key here is to talk about the beers as you drink them — what you like, what you don't, what you agree about and why your buddy is wrong. It’s also a great way to learn about a new friend’s preferences. “Flights are great for first dates,” says Blue Palms Brewhouse founder Brian Lenzo. “You gotta put your cellphone down and talk to each other while you’re drinking.”
Build a progression
Think about the order in which you drink the individual beers in a flight, and build yourself a story in beer. Start with something light and refreshing — a lager or a blonde ale — then progress to more full-flavored, stronger brews: pale ale, then an IPA, or a brown ale and then a stout. Finally, finish strong — literally. Pick a hefty beer with a high alcohol content and the flavor volume to match it, like an imperial stout, a double (or triple) IPA, or a barleywine.
Where to take flight
Try Hollywood’s craft beer capital Blue Palms Brewhouse, where you can pick anything off the list of 24 taps to construct your $11 custom flight, or Mikkeller Bar in South Park, where the $20 flight option is the best way to tackle one of the best beer lists in the city (and where you can actually end up with taster glasses that cost you less per ounce than a full pour). Mikkeller also offers special $15 flights on Monday and Tuesday evenings. At Brewport Tap House in El Segundo, you not only get to build your own flight, you get to pour it with a self-serve draft setup.
Blue Palms Brewhouse, 6124 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 464-2337, www.bluepalmsbrewhouse.com.
Brewport Tap House, 204 Main St., El Segundo, (310) 648-8972, www.brewporttaphouse.com.