Say you really like wine, but beer isn't your thing. Or you're really into craft brews but have never really appreciated a good glass of wine.
If either of those is the case, going to a bar focused on the drink you're not familiar means your order is going to be a complete stab in the dark. And if you don't like whatever you choose, the experience will probably discourage you from trying again in the future.
The trick is to know just enough about how beer and wine match up to confidently order something you know you'll enjoy. They are profoundly different drinks, to be sure, and there aren't clear-cut analogues between every style of beer and varietal of wine. A few, though, are close enough that you can draw a line between what you do like on one side, and what you'll probably like on the other.
IPAs and Sauvignon Blanc
Tropical and Potent
IPAs that pack a lot of tropical hop notes – an established and still-growing trend in the craft beer world – balance out their higher ABVs and firm bitterness with a juicy kind of sweetness. Sauvignon blanc is similarly heady, and bursts with a similar tropical fruit flavor.
If you're going from the wine to the beer, though, make sure to order the right kind of IPA, because the hop notes can be all over the place depending on which varietal is used. Citra and Amarillo hops are especially fruity – look for beers that use those.
Imperial Stouts and Bordeaux
Strong and Unsubtle
Bordeaux has a powerful flavor concentration, with in-your-face notes of dark cherry, licorice, and berries being common. Big, boozy stouts have equally potent flavors – coffee, cocoa, plums, figs – and ABVs that can stretch into the double digits, approaching a wine-like alcohol presence.
Bordeaux is more fruity and stouts are more bitter and roasty, of course, but the two share an intentional lack of subtlety and share some echoes of coffee and dark fruit tasting notes.
Sour Ales and Riesling
Fruity and Light
Semi-sweet Rieslings are crisp and sweet, driven by a white peach kind of flavor. Certain sour beers are very similar – especially the ones that are aged in wine barrels with fruit – but carry an additional tartness.
If you like Rieslings, look for any lighter-colored sour ale. If you like sour ales, pick up a Riesling that's more sweet than dry.
Pilsners and Pinot Gris
Simple and Refreshing
If you just want something to gulp down on a hot day, these are the styles for you. They're both thirst-quenching, straightforward, and light enough that you can drink a few without blowing out your taste buds.
Pilsners are made with very light malts and minimal hop presence, so you get a crisp zing of sweetness and not too much else. Pinot Gris has a similarly light flavor – the grapes are usually harvested while young to maximize the refreshing notes and minimize the fruit flavors.
There are some other tangential similarities among wine and beer types, but they're a little less overt. Especially when it comes to red wines, which can have heavy tannin presences that no beer style effectively imitates. Try these ones, though, see what you think, and branch out accordingly.
See? Not so intimidating.