Dear new beer fan,
You recently asked me how I have had the opportunity to sample so many different brews given that we live in a location of limited availability. I have reflected on this for quite some time, with the goal of giving you a reasonably complete answer in a (somewhat) concise manner. To this end I have put pen to paper (or rather finger to keyboard) to come up with this roadmap to better beer.
First of all on this mission that you hope to undertake, it is imperative to try everything. Turning away tastes of new things is not always something that can be undone, and is therefore highly undesirable. But please know this, your choice to follow this route will have plateaus and valleys of the highest order. Trying a little of every beer that you come across will lead you to a world of new flavour and aromas, but not all of them will be pleasant.
So armed with the desire to taste a little of everything, one must begin with the obvious. When you see or hear of a new barley based beverage, try to obtain a sample. Many you will of course pay for, and occasionally some will be free. Some will come with a story, and some will come with an agenda. Both are acceptable as long as they are recognized for what they are.
To expand on the idea of trying everything, do yourself the favour of taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves locally. Some of these are obvious, some are far less so. All of them however will get you further on your quest.
As to some of the obvious method of sampling beer, lets dispense of these quickly.
Find your local liquor stores and buy samples. Many locations in Manitoba and indeed North America in general offer the opportunity to buy beer in singles (often known as taster/sample packs) and these allow you to try a large variety much more cheaply.
Always ask what is available at restaurants and lounges. While quite often you will find mass market lagers, higher end or specialty businesses frequently have a few rarities.
Seek out local breweries. Besides their own offerings, many breweries are glad to share their enthusiasm for any good beer.
Friends and family are often overlooked. In any group of people one is quite likely to encounter “that guy” (which may not actually be a guy) that revels in imbibing something different from the norm. Note that if you can’t find that person, you are probably the one! See what they have to offer, but be certain to reciprocate in order to keep the relationship two-way.
So, you ask, what are some of the ways to sample beer that are less than obvious? There are indeed several that I, and others, use often.
Tell people about your quest to find rare or craft beer. It may lead to some present surprises.
Travel outside your area as much as possible. My best beer finds have been outside the province, and indeed often outside the country.
Combine the two previous examples. If friends and family are away, ask them to keep you in mind. In my case my wife often looks out for my hobby and has found some great beer that I would never have had without her help.
Beer tastings and festival are a great source of variety. They allow the avid taster to sample many beverages for a reasonable price. Most larger cities have several tasting related groups or events, and some of them can be quite large.
Perhaps the best way to expand your beer horizons is to find like-minded people. Again, most larger urban centers have enthusiast clubs. These can range in size and purpose, but offer a great way to meet new people that share your enthusiasm.
Get into the hobby. To appreciate beer fully, one should know how it is made and what makes it unique. Making beer can also lead to a hobbyists club, and these are a great source of good beer and even better contacts for new sources of beer.
While I may have only touched the surface dear friend, I do hope that this collection of tips has put you on the path to bigger and better things.
I wish you the best of luck, and please keep me in mind if you come across anything interesting to taste!