How To Buy Beer Like A Nerd

My methodology of buying craft beer in a way that diversifies risk and maximizes enjoyment.

This article was tagged with: Beer

There are 1110 words in this article, and it will probably take you less than 6 minutes to read it.

This article was published 2023-10-06 00:00:00 -0400, which makes this post and me old when I published it.

Buying Singles & Diversification

98% of the time when I am buying beer, I am buying beer singles. This limits the kinds of places where I can buy beer, but Total Wine lets you buy singles, and also locally in Central MD I love The Perfect Pour and in NoVA, I love The Brew Shop. Buying singles is more expensive than if you would have just bought a {four, six, twelve} pack of beer, but by buying singles you diversify risk with the variety that you choose. You don’t have the experience of buying a beer that you think you’ll like, but then are just stuck with three more cans of a beer that you don’t really like. When I am buying beer singles, I am usually buying six of them at a time to emulate the feeling of buying a six-pack of beer. This is a good constraint for me so that I spend less money, but also give some thought into diversifying the six-pack.

I’ve written about it before, but I really value trying new things, I am trying new beers to experience new things and flavors that are not available in other beverages. So instead of getting the same beer over and over again, I strive to get new beers of varying styles and brewers. If you saw me in the store you would definitely see me pull out and put back a lot of different cans, but I try to be very efficient when I am buying things in-store, usually I aim to be in and out within 20 minutes. In this article, I have laid out my personal methodology for buying beer so that hopefully you can adopt some of these practices into your purchasing method so that you can buy beer more intentionally.

My Method

  1. Check the canning date
    • IPAs should ideally be drank within three months (90 days) of the canning date, and other beers usually within 6 months (180 days).
    • I check all my cans for dates, but not all breweries have them. Even if I know the brewery is good, if their can doesn’t have a date, I don’t buy their cans because I am not going to pay up to $8 for a can that could be have lost its flavor. I’ll try to get them on draft instead because I have a bit more faith in the freshness of a draft at least.
    • You can read more about this topic from Firestone Walker, an iconic American craft brewery.
  2. Check if I’ve had the beer before
    • As I said previously, I like to try new things, so I try not to buy the same beer twice.
    • I remember most of the beers I’ve drank (more like recognition than recall), but at the time of writing I’ve tried 892 beers, so sometimes I have to double check just in case.
  3. Check if I’ve had anything from the brewery before
    • I try to balance my six-pack with beers from renowned breweries, local breweries, and breweries that I haven’t tried before. I don’t have any kind of fixed ratio, but I find that just being aware of this diversifies my picks.
    • I really like Other Half, Crooked Crab, and Ocelot just to name a few.
  4. Check the style (and by extension, alcohol content)
    • I like IPAs the most, but I also try to get Lagers and Sours as well so I don’t get flavor fatigue over IPAs. I don’t really like Stouts or Farmhouse Ales so I very rarely get them because if I am going to go further out of my comfort zone, I’d rather do it where its a taster where it is free or low-cost to try something new.
    • Beer styles have a typical ABV range associated with them, so I am always on the look out for a good Pale Ale/Session IPA because they will have less alcohol than a typical IPA.
      • Session IPAs are in somewhat of a weird place right now, but Hazy Pale Ales are on the rise.
      • I prefer lower ABV beers if I can, but as long as they’re under 8% I can usually enjoy them casually.
      • I like Single IPAs and can do Double IPAs, but Triple IPAs are a bit out of my wheelhouse because I often find that they are very sweet and hopped to a point where I can barely taste anything. This is just my personal opinion, I know that there are a lot of beer lovers out there who love TIPAs. TIPAs also can be like 10% ABV which is just far too much for me.
    • If you are just getting into beer, you should try a couple of different styles and take note of which ones you like and don’t like
  5. Check the hops/mix-ins
    • I really like Nelson Sauvin hops and am not super enthralled by Great American C-hops so when the can lists the hops, I try to see if it’ll be something that I know I’ll like.
    • If it’s a common hop combination like Mosaic + Citra I may hold off on it if I don’t see anything more unique. However, beers can have the same hop combination but taste totally different, and I am aware of that, so I don’t discount every single Mosiac + Citra beer I see, to use that example again.
    • Some sours/other beers are “fruited” meaning that they will add purée or some other form of fruit flavor into the beer. I don’t like coconut, so I obviously stay away from beers that have added coconut.
    • Some beers have added lactose for sweetness and mouthfeel. Some people really like this and some don’t, so just look out for it, especially if you have an intolerance!
  6. Check the can design/bottle cap
    • I love great packaging design/branding, and I think craft beer as a whole does an exemplary job with it. Because of this, I keep a scrapbook of cool can labels, which you can see a preview of in another of my posts. I also collect bottle caps to make magnets from them!
    • Something that is related to can design is the can size. Most craft breweries do 16oz cans so I don’t have much of a choice, but if I see a 12oz can (which is quite rare), I will usually get it.
      • It’ll be cheaper and less of a waste if I end up not liking.

Other Beer Articles

How do I decide my favorite breweries?

An exploration of what it means to have a favorite brewery in the face of imperfection and changing tastes.

I Drank 1,000 Beers!

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What Makes A Great Brewery Experience?

There are a lot of good breweries, but what makes one great?

How to Try More Beer

Various ways to try more craft beer and fill out that Untappd profile.

Why Get Into Beer?

Reasons why you should give beer a chance.

My Favorite Breweries

A list of my favorite breweries grouped by personal enjoyment and quality of beer.