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Courting the reluctant beer drinker

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You're attracted to each other. You share a lot of interests. But you love beer and your companion doesn't. This doesn't have to be the end of a beautiful relationship.

First, a digression. Most people who maintain that they "don't like beer" are (I hate to say it) women. There may be just as many men as women who genuinely don't care for beer, but I've come to suspect two things: Women have been persuaded that it's charmingly girlish to dislike beer, and young men reaching puberty all take a vow that includes the words "I will never turn down a brew." So this advice on how to make beer more appealing to non-beer drinkers is definitely biased to address female objections. However, only the final arguments are exclusively meant to win over reluctant female beer drinkers.

 

Problem: Your companion "doesn't like the taste of beer."

Solution: One style of beer dominates beer sales: so-called international pale lager. This style accounts for about nine of every 10 beers sold worldwide, and it includes Budweiser, Heineken, Corona, Kirin and Stella—and every other pale yellow beer you can mention. This beer style is refreshing, clean and highly carbonated, and people who "don't like beer" usually have this style in mind. But there are more than 70 other identified beer styles in the world, each with its own character, and one may be just right for your companion.

Find out what other drinks your date enjoys. Acidic white wines? Try a Hoegaarden, a refreshing, citrusy wheat beer from Belgium, or a Blue Moon, a somewhat tamer U.S. version made by Coors. Rum and coke? A brown ale, such as Newcastle Brown, or a German dunkel, with its nutty overtones, has echoes of cola in its finish.

Strong coffee? Pick a cool stout as an experiment. Assertive red wines? Try a spicy saison-style farmhouse ale from Belgium or France. Anything flavored with chocolate? Stout, again, or a porter. A brandy sipper? Suggest a strong, sweet beer style also meant to be enjoyed slowly: a Belgian abbey-style beer (try Ommegang) or a German-style bock beer, such as Rogue's Dead Guy. Gin and tonic? Try the bitter snap of an India pale ale.

The point is, almost every beverage has a beer-equivalent, a beer with a similar profile that might prove a surprising pleasure for the beer-reluctant. A good beer-tender should be able to suggest a selection that fits a friend's flavor preference.

 

Problem: Your date fears that beer is fattening.

Solution: This is easy. It's not the beer; it's the chips. A 12-ounce serving of some beers contains as many calories as one of those dinky pots of flavored yogurt. And if you sip a beer, it can also take the edge off the appetite. This isn't true of all beers, though: The richer, high alcohol beers are, indeed, higher in calories. But a pint of Guinness—that dark, indulgent-looking beer—contains 170 calories. Who knew that was a "light" beer?

 

Problem: Beer makes your date feel "bloated."

Solution: This could be one of two different complaints.

1) If your companion finds beer too filling, then the problems may be with the high levels of carbonation in mainstream lager, which is very gassy. Styles of beer popular with craft brewers are often brewed and served at much lower levels of carbonation. Try one of these on draft, and see if the lower fizz appeals.

2) If beer upsets your companion's stomach (and on a date, that's a polite euphemism for "I've had microbrewed beer before, and it gave me gas"), this is a delicate problem. Some brews are more troublesome than others. The culprit is probably the yeast. Bottle-conditioned beers, which contain live yeast, may be something to avoid.

 

Problem: Beer has such a "guy" image.

Solution: First, we must concede that this is true. Men account for 83 percent of the beer consumed in this country, whereas they account for 76 percent of all alcohol consumed, so beer is a pretty male beverage in modern America. But there are two intriguing appeals for women.

1) Ethnobotanical appeal: Hops, the dominant plant used to flavor and preserve beer for five centuries, contain high amounts of phytoestrogens, plant compounds with estrogen-like properties. These have led to some cases of breast enlargement in men who consume excessive amounts of beer. Hops may also be the source of an unwelcome complaint known as "brewers' droop." On second thought, this might not be a good date conversation, although it's a great argument why a hoppy IPA is more a woman's drink than it is a man's ...

2) Historical/ anthropological appeal: There is a good case to be made that beer is the most feminine of all beverages. Its ingredients are the same as those found in a good loaf of bread, and brewing, along with baking, used to be the most basic part of the women's role in the home and the economy. Women were the original brewers, and still are in many traditional societies. So urge your companion to honor her gender's long history of brewing prowess, and tell her you'd be honored to join her in a very feminine beverage: beer.

Julie Johnson is the editor of All About Beer Magazine. She can be reached at editor@allaboutbeer.com.

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