A ‘gateway beer’ is a term borrowed from drug terminology – it’s a beer you use to convert a friend, loved one, or a complete stranger a craft beer. My curent gateway beer is Emerson’s Bookbinder, which I discovered completely by accident. After a dinner, I left one in a friend’s fridge and two days later received a text message: ‘Whatever it is you left in my fridge is amazing.’ She’s been keen to try new beers ever since.
I use Bookbinder because it’s not challenging. It tastes markedly different from mainstream beers, but it doesn’t slap you around. My Dad agrees with this tactic – ease in the newbie in gently. He was discussing this tactic with Phil Murray in House on Hood who, while he sees the usefulness of starting with a comfortable beer like Bookbinder or a mild-but-sweet Belgian, also likes to take people out of their comfort-zone. For a tasting, he took his fiancee’s parents on a virtual tour of their tongue, comparing a Lambic with to an acidic white wine, a Smokin’ Bishop to a whisky and a New Zealand hoppy-as-hell IPA to show how hops have a flavour as complex as wine. The reactions were of complete amazement, that beer, previously known as that fizzy yellow stuff, could contain so many flavours.
So which makes a better gateway beer? A good version of what they normally drink or something completely different? Ultimately, it comes down to who you’re trying to convert and how. In a way I think not so much the choice of beer, but the situation in which they try it is important. A wine-loving foodie will be more susceptible to a beer and food matching tasting, a lad who loves his lager to beers in the lounge with the boys. For me, I think I’ll continue to use my guerilla fridge tactic – this way many of the things which may put the newbie off, such as price or someone watching them intently for a reaction, are removed and they are free to simply enjoy a good beer. And a few sips in, I think it’ll hit them: whatever I left in their fridge is amazing.
This post was written with the help of Phil Murray and a bottle of Tuatara Helles