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Like most of you here, I thoroughly enjoy beer. How can I try a wide variety beers without buying them by the case/spending a lot of money?

Aspiring beer enthusiast that is grows tired of the usual, and wants to branch out. Also on a broke, paying for school out of pocket, college kid budget.

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    in addition to my answer, if you let me know what sort of area within the US you are interested in I may be able to advise on festivals, tasting clubs etc. as well as other events that may be helpful. – MD-Tech May 29 '14 at 9:06
  • Local festivals are definitely the way too go to taste a large number of different beers easily. – wogsland Jan 3 '16 at 21:54
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You can look for breweries in your areas that give tours. These often include free tastings. (Since you mentioned you're from the Chicago area, I know there's a bus tour that takes you to different breweries in Chicago and Milwaukee. There's a fee, but you'd get to try a lot of different beers.)

Also, look for brewpubs and restaurants in your area that sell flights of beer. A flight is 4-5 samples of different beers served together. The cost is normally about the same as a full glass, and the total volume is usually the same or a little more. This allows you to try 4 or 5 different beers for about the same price as you'd normally pay for one.

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    +1 for flights, a great solution. Also, priorities! Stop wasting money on eg food and doing laundry when untried beer is awaiting your exploration! This is a good problem, have fun. :-) – moodboom May 29 '14 at 13:52
  • Unfortunately in my town, they can't sell in the grocery store. Mainly because much like the a lot of the midwest, a lot of the small town business comes from bars and liquor stores. (There are also a lot of Banks and Churches... Talk about mixing up ideologies) ;) – UberPwnd May 29 '14 at 14:25
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I will update this answer when I get more information from OP about region but I believe the following will be helpful: [edit]: reread the tags and spotted that it was US - think that my thoughts all still stand up but will check some specifics on US beer festivals.

In the UK and a few other countries and regions organizations like CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) run beer festivals which work out, on a pint for pint basis, cheaper when trying a wide variety of beers. Although there is usually an entry fee (at least as far as CAMRA events go) each drink tends to be cheaper and there is the option of trying more different beers by buying in half pint measures (recommended). The biggest benefit of going to festivals, however, is the range of beers available. A liquor store / off license / bar can only really stock a few different beers and these are usually ones that they can get consistently, in volume, and at either a suitable price or within their tie (don't get me started on the beer tie), whereas festivals are much freer to buy different beers from varying sources as they are one-off events and less restricted.

A second idea would be to set up a tasting club so that you can share the costs and the beers. This runs the risk (!) of making new friends as well!

source: I help to run a CAMRA beer festival and work at 2+ others dependent on my free time

  • I live where cornfields meet the edge of civilization about an hour outside of Chicago. – UberPwnd May 29 '14 at 11:15
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Most beer shops and some grocery stores (if that's legal in your state) allow you to do a "Mixer-Sixer" or "Create your own six-pack" where you can combine a variety of single bottles/cans for a variety six pack. You pay a little bit extra per bottle for the convenience but and you get to pick specifically which ones you try.

To learn your preferences, I would suggest the following styles: (ordered from darkest to lightest with a recommended beer in parenthesis)

  • Stout (Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout)
  • Double Bock/Doppelbock (Ayinger Doppelbock)
  • IPA (Dogfish Head 60min or 90min IPA)
  • Pale Ale (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale)
  • Pilsner (Bell's Beer by Bells Brewery - this is a traditional Czech Pilsner)
  • Hefeweizen (Paulaner Bavarian Hefeweizen)

EDIT

@Bill The Lizard's answer: Going on a brewery tour is definitely good advice. Additionally, you should consider getting beer on tap which tends to be fresher and in better condition while at restaurants or breweries. Furthermore, if you have the chance to visit a brewery, you should specifically try their seasonal, limited, and special releases.

Answered by: The Gastrograph Team

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I live in a state that (mostly) requires that you buy beer by the case. I feel your pain. ("Mostly": there's still the bar option, and there are a very few places where you can buy mixed cases or six-packs of things other than the big mainstream beers.)

The solution I'm partial to is the beer co-op. Mine started as a group of coworkers; we've scattered to a bunch of different companies by now, but the co-op remains. Every 4-6 weeks the organizer sends out email announcing a planned buy, with the goal of getting a multiple of 8 people (12 works, but we prefer 8). Participants get a case with variety of beers and divide the total cost. I've gotten to sample some beers I'd never have tried (or known about) otherwise. (Most people don't participate every time, but the organizer does because, hey, beer.)

If you're doing a co-op anyway, then it's easy to add on the occasional "side buy" -- something that comes in 25oz bottles, or is particularly expensive, etc. So long as there's enough interest to get the case, people can then buy them individually.

You can be very organized about this, requiring commitments in advance, or you can be flexible and deal with the occasional surplus. People interested enough to organize co-ops usually don't mind some surplus (assuming finances aren't too tight).

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If you venture west to Iowa most HyVee stores will let you do the mixer-sixer as Gastrograph describes. Two of Iowa's best breweries are on the eastern side of the state as well in Toppling Goliath and Backpocket.

  • That's not too far of a drive for me, just like a straight shot down 80 about an hour and a half! :D – UberPwnd May 29 '14 at 17:18
  • I also forgot about Great River Brewery. They make some really unique stuff. – rgdayo Jun 5 '14 at 21:27

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