Flights & Pints

maurice amon beer flightOne of my favorite pastimes is craft beer exploration.  It’s sometimes unfortunate that when you list beer as a hobby, it also means one of your hobbies is getting drunk.  And when you’re into the kinds of beers like – imperial stouts, double IPAs, Belgian quads – it’s easy to lose track of the night!

So, when I set out for an evening of beer exploration, the responsible choice is to order a flight.  For the uninitiated, a flight is a collection of small glasses, each filled with a different beer.  Typically there are four glasses, anywhere from 4oz to 8oz, served on a slat of wood with round holes to keep the glasses in place.

There are just so many advantages to ordering flights, even beyond keeping your alcohol intake in check.  First, it’s a great way to try many beers in one sitting.  If you’re planning on having four pints with some friends, that pretty much equals to sixteen beers, if the bar has enough beers on tap!  Beyond that, it can also be fun to select beers that will complement or contrast with one another.  For instance, trying four IPAs with different prominent hop varieties would be a great way to understand the effect hops has on aroma and flavor.  Ordering a flight can also be a magical experience when ordered with a food with varied flavors – a meat and cheese plate is the classic example.  Choosing a few beers that you think will pair with the house cheeses, then playing around with combinations can often make for some outstanding flavor combinations.

But there’s a flip-side to ordering a flight.  Great beer tasters will tell you that you only need 2oz of beer in order to understand it’s profile fully.  For the average person, and me, that can be a little more difficult.  Sometimes when I’m tasting a flight, because there’s so little liquid in the glass, I focus too hard on the qualities of the beer.  What happens is that I often judge it more harshly than if I was leisurely sipping from an imperial pint.  Take Finback Brewery’s new Smoked Porter.  In a flight glass, I thought the flavor was tinny and flat.  But, less than a week later, I was given a pint and LOVED it.

Can someone truly understand a beer after only 4oz?  If so, what hope do we have for making even a dent in the many brands and offerings out there in the craft beer world?  Thus is just one of the beer-drinker’s dilemma 🙂