Navigate the Beer Aisle: How to Decide Which Beer to Buy

It’s Friday afternoon and there you are, standing slack jawed in the beer aisle with a bewildered look on your face. Looking up and down, up and down. Pacing back and forth like a pigeon. You’re scared stiff to make a decision about what beer to buy in case you fuck up. You want to try something new, but instead you finally pick up a sixer of the same pale ale you always get. “Hey, it’s locally brewed and canned,” you tell yourself. You always support local. If this sounds familiar, then you’re in good company. It seems every time I go to the beer aisle there is at least half a dozen people wringing their hands about what beer they should get. They all look so pretty and shiny, how do you choose?

All that beer can be daunting. Beers from across the globe and just up the street, lined up for display. Brightly colored cans and labels nearly give you a seizure as you try to locate the style among all the clever names and graphics. No wonder making a decision is hard. It’s the paradox of choice. Too many decisions can make us paralyzed and unable to pick anything. However, this effect can be mitigated with a few simple tricks.

Beer Aisle

Have an idea of what you want BEFORE you get to the store

You’re the guy who waits till he gets to the front of the line at the bar to think about what he wants aren’t you? Since you always get the same thing there too, making decisions under pressure might not be your strong suit. Before you get out of your car, take a breath, and actually make a conscious decision about what you want. In the mood for an IPA? Well great, that narrows it down. Now you can focus in on a particular style. The same way you shouldn’t go shopping without a grocery list, choosing a beer without a clear idea of what you want is a no-no.

Might I suggest that you go outside your comfort zone a bit as well. If you always drink IPAs, why not go for a Pilsner instead? Variety is the spice of life, so shake things up a bit. You could even focus in on different styles that blend things you know you already enjoy. Try a hoppy amber ale, or an imperial Pilsner. They might be the gateway into different styles you didn’t know you’d enjoy. If you have a good bottle shop nearby, you could always do the opposite, though. Just choose everything. Fill a six pack with everything that catches your eye and make a do it yourself flight. Why not, right?

Use your smart phone you dummy

Useful for more than just sending dick pics to that girl you’re chatting up on tinder, your phone can actually be in incredible source of information for choosing your next beer. I’m sure you have Untappd installed, but you likely don’t use its full capacity. Have you ever noticed that when you check in a beer it will give you suggestions for others you might enjoy? Just tap the plus sign and they’re added to your wish list. Check your list for beers and hunt them down. Pretend you’re playing Pokemon Go and catch them all.

Did you also know that you can use your phone to check and see what others think about the beer you’re contemplating? Check reviews to see what the masses say. If 50% say it’s a drain pour, then maybe put it back on the shelf and scratch it off the list. Try not to get too caught up in reviews though. If I want to see a movie that gets bad reviews, I usually go with my gut. Finding a critic you generally agree with is also a good tactic. As always, remember to use your functioning brain though.

Ask the staff

Scared of technology? If you are, then human interaction maybe a tall order, but consider actually taking the guy keeping the beer aisle stocked offer when he asks if he can help you with anything. Odds are he knows a good bit about it if hes chosen to spend his days roaming up and down aisles of beer for a living. Here are a few sample questions you might try:

I enjoy [blank]. Do you have any suggestions?

Do you have anything new in?

What is your favorite new beer you’ve tried recently?

Not brain busting stuff for sure, but it can be tough to ask for help sometimes. Maybe it’s a cliché, but I’ve seen women ask for suggestion much more often than men. Don’t be afraid to ask for helps fellas. Odds are the friendly bearded guy in the red polo is more than happy to point you in the right direction. If you go to the same bottle shop often enough to become a regular, you might even build enough cred to have the staff notify you of special releases or if you’re really lucky, hold back a secret stash for you. This is far and away the best way to find some whales, bro.

The beer aisle is massive, and growing larger and growing daily. You’ll never, ever try them all, but it helps to know the landscape. Even if you started at the top left and started working your way to the bottom right, you wouldn’t make it a single case over before they rearranged and you had to start completely over. A few minutes of thoughtful consideration and prep work is all you need to spend less time in the market and actually enjoying a delicious brew. Now just freaking pick something and get the weekend started!