Beer Tasting Flights – The Best Way to Dive Right into the Craft Brewing World

When you hear the words, “flight” chances are pretty good that your first thought is of aviation world. However, there’s more here than airplanes. The world of craft beer has beer “tasting flights” and while they’re something different to most drinkers, they’re excellent ways to get up close and personal with some of the new options that have come to market, without the risk of buying an entire 6-pack that you may or may not enjoy. So, what is a beer-tasting flight? What should you know about them? We’ll cover all that and more below.

What Is a Beer Tasting Flight?

A beer-tasting flight is essentially nothing more than an order of different beers. They’re served in smaller glasses than usual (the actual size varies depending on the bar or pub you’re in), and those glasses can contain any type of brew that the establishment offers. You’ll find a similar concept employed in the world of wine tasting, and it works phenomenally well for craft beers, where there’s an immense amount of disparity between beer styles and brewers.

You choose several types of beer (the number on offer depends on the flight in question) and then sample them as you wish. You’ll find that most places offering flights can make suggestions, but you’re also free to choose your options on your own. 

Vertical and Horizontal Flights

Two terms that have carried over from the wine tasting world are vertical flights and horizontal flights. That has nothing to do with the arrangement of the glasses. Instead, it has to do with the beers selected for your tasting. A horizontal flight would be several different beers from various breweries within the same beer type (a flight of stouts, for example). A vertical flight is a selection of different beers from the same brewery (you could sample a multitude of New Belgium’s offerings, for instance). Both types of flights give you the means to enjoy beers that you might have never tried before, and can give considerable insight into the character and style of a particular brewery (vertical flights).

Tips for Choosing Flights

While beer-tasting flights are excellent ways to learn more about your options in the world of craft beer, choosing your beverages can be tough, particularly if you’re new to craft brewing in the first place. Here are some important tips to help you make a good decision:

1. Let the Pub Suggest Options – Establishments offering beer-tasting flights usually have some very experienced, educated staff on hand. You can give them an idea of what type of beer you prefer, and they’ll make several different suggestions for your flight based on that information. Alternatively, you can tell them a type of beer you’ve been interested in trying, and they’ll suggest a range of options they think will please your palate.

2. Go with Your Gut – If you prefer choosing options on your own, then go with your gut. Peruse the pub’s tap menu and choose anything that sounds good (most menus will give you the beer name, the brewery name and a brief description of the brew in question). This is an excellent way to explore the craft brew world on your own, based on your own instincts and what appeals to you personally. Of course, the staff should be happy to help explain any particular brew better if you’re in doubt.

3. One Style, Multiple Brewers – The horizontal flight is an excellent way to get a feel for different brewing techniques within the same style. You could choose a selection of porters, stouts, red ales or any other type you might fancy and savor the flavor and character differences between various brewers. This is an ideal choice for the more experienced beer lover who wants to drill down into the various options they have.

4. Multiple Styles, One Brewer – The vertical flight can help you gain greater insight into a single brewery by providing you with a selection of different beers they put out. This is one of the more common options out there (simply because it’s more usual for a pub to have multiple taps from one brewer). This is also a good choice for those new to the world of craft beer or those looking to expand their palate beyond the norm.

5. Curated Flights – Curated flights are the best choice for those who don’t want to choose, or who don’t really care about choice (brand new craft beer drinkers, for instance). A curated flight is either chosen by the staff, or it’s a selection of beers from a sponsoring brewery or a specific type of style. You just order the flight and sit back to enjoy, no stress or worry involved.

Where Do You Find Beer Tasting Flights?

Until recently, finding beer-tasting flights was easier said than done. However, you’ll find that more and more breweries are offering this type of sampling on their property (as part of a facility tour or as a standalone option available in their tasting rooms). There is also a shift in the pub and bar industry. In tandem with the increased interest in craft brews, more establishments are hiring knowledgeable staff and offering beer flight options for patrons, though this is not the norm for all establishments and you’ll have to search your local area to find out what your options are.

In Summation

Beer-tasting flights might be something brought over from the world of wine, but there are few better ways to really explore the amazing options out there in the craft brewing industry. Whether you’re looking to learn more about a single brewery by sampling all of their options or you want to try out multiple names in the same style, there’s no better way to go about it than by enjoying a flight or two. What’s more, these are great options for groups – a couple of flights can make for a very fun evening out.

Posted on May 1, 2013 and filed under 2013, Festivals and Events.