May 31 2013 05:48 PM

A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single brew

Some see beer is as a treacherous arena.
illustration by Ian Cheesman

When most people hear others state emphatically, "I don't like beer," it's rightfully understood as a signal that an alternative should be considered. To me, that's just an invitation to wage war against their mistaken sensibilities and drag them into the sprawling and fantastical world of beer fandom. It's the kind of rabid proselytizing that makes me such an effective beer writer, if also an abysmal party host.

Over the years, I've experimented with several beers that I thought were capable of converting an unbeliever. Typically, they veered to the sweeter and maltier since those flavor profiles are seldom the ones that drive folks away. For a while, I extolled the virtues of hefeweizens because their full body and mild wheat and citrus notes make them almost entirely inoffensive to tenderfoot palates, but the problem is, this is not a battle one can win by simply leaving someone undisgusted. The hefe may do its part to convince the person that not all beers offend, but it lacks something to redeem beer as a breed.

Truthfully, hefeweizen just isn't that sexy a beer. Take a moment and reflect on the most wonderful and sumptuous slice of wheat bread you've ever had. Even if you can summon a sufficiently vivid wheat-bread memory, it's not likely to have you starry-eyed and drooling. No, to conjure that sort of attachment, we need to delve deeper, examining flavors that beguile and bewitch us in a more primal way. I'm speaking, of course, about meth. Sadly, no brewer that I'm aware of has had the gumption to manufacture a beer featuring illicit stimulants, so we're left with the slightly more pedestrian chocolate.

Brown ales and stouts have a much broader capacity to nudge unbelievers toward beer. The darker beers summon more associations with coffee and dark chocolates, two flavor profiles that have proven themselves effective in fostering addiction elsewhere. It's why there are few better beers to draw in converts than the Karl Strauss Wreck Alley Stout, whose notes of espresso and Whoppers-style sweetness are devastatingly effective at getting beer neophytes to embrace my scary new world. But even that victory is only a step in the right direction.

The problem is one of bridging gaps. Beer has such a vast palate of flavors to behold that you can hardly say enjoying one equates to beer adoration. There's no minimum number of beers to enjoy to qualify for conversion, but I'm not satisfied with a symbolic victory. They must not only enjoy beer; they must fully appreciate how I was 100-percent right about it all along.

I might as well admit there's a very good reason I've ruminated on this for so long. As much as it pains me to admit, I'm currently sharing a bed with a woman who doesn't share my zeal for this majestic libation. It's time to change that, because everyone knows the key to a happy marriage is the squelching of dissent. Please join my journey in doing so in the new CityBeat beer blog, "Get to the Pint," which will also feature my backward opinions on myriad other beer-related topics.

Write to and Ian blogs at and you can follow him on Twitter @iancheesman.


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