Pintful: New to craft beer? Try these tips to get started

jfrank@newsobserver.comJuly 2, 2013 

  • What’s On Tap Natty Greene’s Concert

    6-10 p.m. Thursday, 345 S. Elm St., Greensboro

    The brewery’s Greensboro location hosts a free outdoor concert featuring Keller Williams and the Travelin’ McCourys to start the Fourth of July events. Expect good music and good craft beer. Info:

    NoDa Cask Release

    Friday at Beer Study, 106A N. Graham St., Chapel Hill

    NoDa’s head brewer is a Chapel Hill native, and Beer Study is showcasing the Charlotte brewery with a special cask release. The NoDa’s Hop, Drop ’n Roll India pale ale is aged and served with mango and pineapple. Info:

    Homebrew Tap Release

    4 p.m. Saturday at Raleigh Brewing Co., 3709 Neil St., Raleigh

    Homebrewers Jeremy and Jay Bond and Whit Baker get a tap at the brewery this weekend to showcase their pale ale made with all New Zealand hops. Donations are accepted and benefit the Mitchell Bays Turner Fund, to help children with infant leukemia, which the Bonds’ niece has. Info:

If you’re new to craft beer and walk into Good Bottle Co. in Charlotte, owner Chris Hunt has you covered.

Just look for the sign that says, “Father-in-Law Tap.”

It’s not an insult, Hunt says, just an indicator. The sign marks the lightest-colored, least-hoppy beer on draft at the craft beer haven just south of downtown.

Put more bluntly, it means: Bud Light drinkers start here.

The sign made me laugh when I visited in May. And the offering was Oskar Blue’s Mama’s Little Yella Pils, a great pilsner now brewed in Brevard.

More than a year ago, I began working to convert my Bud Light-drinking father-in-law to the flavor oasis of craft beer.

And for those looking to make the leap or preach the good word to friends, this is a good time of year to start the enlightenment.

The summer months fill beer shelves with straw-colored kölschs, cold-clear pilsners and fruity wheat beers that are light-bodied and easy on the palate. Pick the right one, pour it in a glass, and the difference only hits with the first satisfying sip.

This is how I started with my father-in-law.

We began with Stella Artois, the well-known Belgian pilsner lager, an easy introduction. The next step moved to domestic pilsners, available at most grocery stores: Left Hand’s Polestar and Northcoast’s Scrimshaw.

And now he’s consistently buying North Carolina beers, either Winston-Salem’s Foothills Torch Pilsner or Kinston’s Mother Earth Endless River kölsch.

For the most part, the conversion was a success. Dark beers remain an enigma, but the progress from macro to microbrew is substantial.

Chris White at Tyler’s Taproom in Raleigh begins newcomers with a question. “It all depends on what they normally drink, and that’s how we start it,” he said. “Do they like more hoppy beers, more flavorful beers or sweeter beers?”

For a light lager drinker, White picked a local option. He pointed to a kölsch from White Street Brewing in Wake Forest. “A little more flavorful with a slightly hoppy finish,” he said.

At Beer Study, a Chapel Hill bottle shop, Andy Dodson is quick to recommend the same beer style, though an authentic version from Cologne, Germany, where it originated. He likes the Gaffel Kölsch. It’s a crisp, clean taste with a touch more hops than the traditional light beer.

For those looking to take the next step, Dodson and Beer Study’s manager, JD Schlick, suggest moving up the hoppy scale into pale ales, such as Olde Hickory’s Table Rock or Sweetwater’s 420. Or take a side trip into Belgian wheat beers with Natty Greene’s Wildflower Wit and Big Boss’ Blanco Diablo, two North Carolina offerings.

Siavash Kouchek at Sam’s Quik Shop in Durham adds another North Carolina beer to the list: Highland Brewing’s Gaelic Ale, an American amber from Asheville that puts a local option on the list for those who like New Belgium’s Fat Tire.

The newcomers, he said, are usually people introduced to craft beer by friends or family. “And once they try it, they get hooked on it,” he said.

What I’m tasting

For those who want a darker summer beer, Lonerider Brewing’s latest seasonal beer in six-packs fits the bill. True Britt is an English-style session ale with a mild spicy hop character that balances well with the malt sweetness. And unlike the bigger-is-better mentality in craft beer right now, True Britt’s 4.8 percent ABV makes it possible to enjoy without worrying about alcohol content. About $10 for a six-pack.

Contact John at 919-829-4698 or On Twitter @ByJohnFrank.

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