Helping My Fiancee Like Beer

Casey McLain, May 28, 2015

When my fiancee and I started dating she was -- well to start with -- not my fiancee.

She wasn't even my girlfriend yet, and I was at the end of a month of not-drinking that I promise wasn't court-ordered or addiction related. I had known her during my first failed attempt at college, and she was succeeding at her first attempt at college in a town about 100 miles east of Seattle, Washington.

I went out under the pretense of a friendly hang-session, but I knew, her roommate/best friend knew, everyone knew but her, that I was not there to hang. I was throwing her Mariano Rivera's cutter, and she was the only one in the stadium that didn't see it coming. In fairness, my dating history being compared to Mariano Rivera's cutter is dumb.

"I may just get some Coronas and drink them in front of you," she said when I declined the opportunity to drink with her. She didn't, and like I said my abstinence related to alcohol wasn't addiction or crime related. I was trying to win a dumb bet with my friend.

But she had bad beer taste, or really no beer taste. To this point her decision making process for adult beverages was refined to either those with the least taste, or those that tasted the most like the "gummy bear" shots she had been bragging about at her local stupid dance club.

At this time my favorite beer was the pre-merger-to-CBA version of Drifter Pale Ale by Widmer. I'm not completely certain this beer has changed, or perhaps my tastebuds have become more accustomed to hops, but I will always remember it being better back then.

I remember quite clearly the night that the light went on that I may be able to convert this woman into a beer drinker: We were deep in the throws of PG-rated passion, when she did what she thought was something sexy -- she took the beer bottle out of my hands and took a big swig.

This moment was perhaps the only chance we ever had of re-creating a wildly passionate scene from a spanish-language soap opera. Instead, since she is an enormous dork, she took a drink and stopped all of the sexiness. "Wow, I actually kind of like this. It tastes kind of like orange juice."

You see, she comes from a long line of hop haters. Or I should say, she comes from a single generation of hop haters, and then mostly people I don't know well enough to determine if they have a societally acceptable world-view of hops. Her mom hates hops, and her dad likes a really specific ESB, which is a style that is usually heavily hopped, but this particular ESB drinks more like an amber ale. Her only exposure to hops of any significance was when she snuck some of these very ESBs in high school, and she hated them.

I had an idea.

My girlfriend and my relationship was a project already, and one that was one of my favorite things to work on ever. Making her a beer drinker would be like sanding one of the very roughest edges off of an otherwise beautiful sculpture. I didn't expect we'd go on to have a corny-sitcom-trope relationship in which I was "out drinking with the boys" while she was at home complaining about me. It did hypothesize however, that if I could convert her to even a fraction of the hop-tolerator that I'd become, we could have something really special brewing. (and fermenting)(hate me now please)

I should say that this will now take on a somewhat pretentious form of a "guide to life." I'm by no means qualified to guide your life. Live your own life. I should also say that while I am talking about my girlfriend there isn't anything that I've done to help my girlfriend (and now fiancee if you're reading this, babe) like beer that can't be repurposed for your boyfriend if you're a woman, or your boyfriend if you're a man, or your girlfriend if you're a woman. This is all just borrowed logic from other things that people taste for fun, combined with my wonderful fiancee and my stupid brain. Most of this can be repurposed (and I've done it) to help your siblings or parents like beer more.

The first thing for me was to get over the fear/annoyance of having someone drink from your drink. I have never liked this, and I don't like drinking out of other people's drinks. I don't know why this is, and I don't know why the introduction of dairy makes this seem extremely unappealing. But beer has alcohol in it and alcohol is used to sterilize things (a completely different form of alcohol, but shhh). So maybe that's adequate rationalization. I think part of it is that when you're letting someone try your beer they're normally getting the first or second drink from the glass, and that may be why it's less disgusting in my mind than when they drink from the bottom-third of a lukewarm latte.

Anyways, one of the key things for your pocketbook and overall happiness regarding getting someone to like beer is to make it so that they don't have to commit to a full pint. To this day I will quite often order a beer and my fiancee will say "I'm going to try that beer when you bring it back and see if I like it." You can also get flights of many different beers, but some places don't offer that, and I'd argue that splitting five ounces of beer isn't the best way to really determine if you like it, or how good it is.

Think about the other things your girlfriend or person likes. My fiancee likes raspberries a lot, and used to drink Jamba Juice like water (or how I drink beer). There are plenty of citrus and sweet flavors available in beers. In fact, I employed this logic early in our relationship when I discovered a sour program at one of our local breweries. We went to their inaugural sour festival, and to my chagrin, albeit not surprise, she hated every last sour.

But I kept trying thinking about her palate. I like big, citrusy, somewhat-out-of-balance IPAs already, so the leap from my likes to her palate was a short one. Widmer's Citra Blonde was the first beer that isolated a really citrusy hop well enough to convince her of this, but we got there eventually. To this day one of her favorite beers of all time is Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA (which is an underrated IPA and maybe the best IPA available in a six pack).

My mom likes sweets more, and this is reflected in the beers that don't make her wretch in horror (her transformation isn't complete yet). She will drink the normal beginner stuff a lot: fruit-infused wheat beers, light-lagers, etc. One day quite recently we were at our local beer heaven and they had Perennial Abraxas on tap. I got that beer and an IPA (the closest thing to a shot and a beer I'll ever do) and let the Abraxas warm up.

"Look for molasses and gingerbread." "OH WOW. It's even a little bit spicy!?" "They make it with peppers!" She didn't order an Abraxas next, but it was perhaps the first stout that didn't cause her to make the face that people make when they pick up a dirty sock, open a too-old tupperware container, or bite into an onion. She's learned that dark doesn't mean bitter, and dark doesn't mean high-in-alcohol in all cases.

Next, teach them how to taste something. This sounds stupid, just put it on your tongue and taste it you idiot, right? Well not really. I noticed that my fiancee would taste my beers, normally IPAs during this time in our relationship, and just say "too bitter." This included the most citrusy IPAs, and at the time her style of choice was an Oktoberfest lager. Eventually she moved on to higher gravity, thicker bodied amber ales, but her pursuit of hoppiness was an involuntary one to that point. I was a persistent annoying voice, telling her she should like the beers I was suggesting, and also that she needed to drink faster -- she used to drink about two-thirds of a beer to my four.

I improved this obstacle two-fold. I told her to take drinks when she was trying my beer that coated her entire tongue. Taste the entire spectrum of flavors available. All of a sudden she was tasting the piney, resiny, citrusy, juicy flavors I loved. Sure, there was a malt and bitter bomb every now and then that turned her off, but that turned me off too. She had reached a point where she had a discerning palate, not a general dislike of most beers.

The last thing is to understand that you probably won't love most beers. When I was growing up I listened to a lot of rap music. I only liked rap that was political, or that contained some sort of lyrical substance. This meant that while rap was (and still is) my favorite style of music, I disliked a lot more rap than I liked.

This is the way I feel about IPAs. There are a ton of gnarly hop bombs, and a bunch of bitter nightmares, but a really well-balanced, or slightly-off-balance-toward-citrusy IPA is hard to beat. For me anyways. Maybe you like dubstep and Zima. Maybe you like country music and bourbon stouts. Maybe you like Katy Perry and I don't know what pairs with Katy Perry.

All of our tastebuds are different, but beer is so dynamic that it's almost certain you'll find something that your person of interest likes if you try hard enough. By the time the next year rolled around my still-girlfriend thought that Citra Blonde tasted like domestic light lager. When Oktoberfest rolled around she took very little time realizing she had grown out of Oktoberfest lagers. She had moved onto pale ales, then IPAs, then Imperial IPAs.

And as if I hadn't created enough of a monster, she fell in love with sours, and even I'm not the kind of beer nerd that loves sours.