Many craft beer-focused bars and restaurants offer beer tasting flights -- a lineup of smaller glasses of different beers -- and whether you’re a beer aficionado or new to the craft beer world, they are a great way to experience a variety of different beers and discover new favorites. And they can be a cost-effect way to train your palate to recognize the differences between similar brews.
While it can be daunting to pick a cohesive lineup of beers from a list of a dozen or more taps, there are a few methods you can employ to get the most of your order. While more common to wine tasting, horizontal and vertical flights (a collection of varieties from a single producer or area or several vintages of the same type of wine, respectively) are also available in the craft beer world. Vertical flights are a great way to experience the way a beer can change when properly cellared, but they are more rare and usually reserved for special events. Finding several beers from a single brewery on tap is more common, and it’s a great way to get a feel for a brewery’s character.
Selecting a few beers of the same style from different breweries -- all porters, or a selection of L.A.'s Best IPAs for example -- is a low-risk way to get to know a style you might not be familiar with. Of course, just picking a lineup of beers that sound good at the moment is always a good idea, and ordering a couple brews you know you’ll enjoy and a couple of beers you haven’t tried is a safe way to experiment.
If you can’t make up your mind or have no idea where to even start when picking the beers yourself, ask your server; he or she should be happy to help fill out your flight or offer suggestions to get you started. Some establishments, like California-beer hot-spot Mohawk Bend, remove the burden of choice by offering a curated flight -- often featuring a specific brewery or style.
Other places that offer taster flights, and have knowledgeable staffs that can help guide your selections, include: Blue Palms Brewhouse in Hollywood, Haven Gastropub in Pasadena and Old Town Orange, 38 Degrees in Alhambra, City Tavern in Culver City (and soon downtown L.A.), and Santa Monica’s Library Alehouse. All of LA’s breweries will also offer flights of their house beers in their tap rooms, and this is the best way to get a feel for the brewery’s strengths. Orange County’s the Bruery, Eagle Rock Brewing and Beachwood BBQ and Brewing in downtown Long Beach all have great flight programs.