The Oktoberfest guide for people who (think they) don’t like beer

Top picks from local brewers for those new to craft beer

I’m not one to insert movie lines into a conversation very often – at least not with the same spirit, timing and frequency as my husband – but there is one line that I use quite regularly, whenever the conversation turns to beer. Beating my best imitation of David Bowie playing Andy Warhol in the 1996 movie BasquiatI joke with tunes, “I don’t like beer.”

Wines, cocktails, hard ciders – I have my list of favorite drinks, and it’s a menu that changes depending on the season and the occasion. But beer has never been my favorite drink. (And if there’s no other choice, I’ll usually skip it.) To me, the mention of beer reminds me, at best, of coolers full of Bud Light and Miller Lite – the predominant beers at family barbecues. At worst, I remember the stale, watered-down liquid trying to pass as beer at college parties. I don’t and will never like beer. Or could I?

My hophead friends tell me I’m missing something, especially with the advances in the craft and craft brewery scenes and the multitude of fresh and exciting options they’ve brought to the menu. So, with the Door County Beer Festival slated for June 18, I asked the pros at a few of the local breweries for their top “beginner” craft beer recommendations to convert a self-proclaimed non-beer drinker into a true believer.

Door County Brewing Co.: Big Sister

Flavor Profile: This hibiscus witbier not only makes a great introductory brew, but it’s a great choice on a hot summer afternoon. A super refreshing and crisp summer seasonal, it features a subtle spice from a Belgian yeast strain and floral acidity from the hibiscus flowers used to create it.

Why you should try it: Matt Sampson, director of brewing operations for Door County Brewing Co. and Hacienda Beer Co., said, “The beautiful pink hue immediately grabs your attention. [And] the pairing of hibiscus flowers and Belgian yeast character is a welcome and refreshing pairing in a world full of hoppy beers.

Hacienda Beer Co.: Citroën Motel

Flavor Profile: A lime and lemon verbena lager, with citrus notes and subtle herbal notes thanks to lots of fresh lime juice added towards the end of fermentation and lemon verbena added to the kettle.

Why you should try it: “If you like lime-based cocktails, or even a wedge of lime in your light lager, Motel Citroën will be familiar, yet intriguing due to the addition of lemon verbena,” Sampson says. “The star of the show, however, is this freshness [lime] juice, providing a canvas to sip all day in the summer.

Bridge Up Brewing: Knee-High Cream Ale

Flavor Profile: A light, crisp and slightly sweet cream beer due to the corn in the grain bill. Despite the name, there’s no cream in it, but it has a clean, approachable taste that makes you want to have another one. The lack of hoppy bitterness that tends to turn off so many is one of the reasons this is a top choice for people new to craft beer.

Why you should try it: “I call it lawn mower beer,” said managing partner Trent Snyder. It’s lower on the ABV [alcohol by volume] at 5.25%, making it a refreshing option for days filled with weekend warrior projects. “It really is a beer you can start with and stay with all day.”

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