How does one best experience craft beer?
The success of small and independent brewers suggests that there are many takes on this question. No brewer has the same approach to brewing as another, nor do they necessarily approach each of their own beers in the same way. The result of the exponential approaches to making beer means you have a wide range of beers to choose from. This choice and variety of craft beers is a boon for the beer lover, but also presents apprehension for one brewer who believes the subtle nuances of each beer offering gets lost in a tradition that most beer fans expect at every craft brewery – the sample flight.
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“Five ounces is the smallest portion we will pour for a customer,” says Jeanne Kitayama, “as we know that it takes more than a sip to truly taste a beer.”
Jeanne has run Haines Brewing Company for the past 19 years along with co-owner Paul Wheeler. The brewery has a strict no sips policy and does not offer taster flights. They fear that the business of beer has negatively affected the enjoyment of craft beer: “Consumers want to compare beers and switch back and forth between brews within a flight, yet: 1) Flavors linger and mix on their palates; 2) Carbonation and character change at different rates; 3) Flavors change with temperature.”
The brewery wants consumers to fight their FOMO (fear of missing out), not by ordering all of the beers on a flight, but to make a choice and appreciate each of their beers on its own merits. “We have put out a rack card called ‘It Takes More Than a Sip’ with three steps explaining aroma, appearance, and savoring the flavor.”
The brewery’s dedication to showcasing each beer’s quality is not limited to the flight paddle — they want to ensure the beer that goes out the door meets their expectation too. “We charge a deposit on our growlers, so customers have the option to return their growlers for their money back, said Kitayama,” If they would like a refill, we switch their return bottle out with a growler we have cleaned (soaked with PBW cleaner overnight), rinsed, inspected through a halogen light, sanitized, and inspected again,” says the brewery owners, “In this way we know that customers receive our beer in its best condition.”
For visitors, the stringency can be a shock.
“Customers complain about our policies which are based on producing and sharing quality brews,” explains Kitayama. “Our local customers know our policies, and know they are getting quality craft beer in their glasses and growlers. Additionally, deposits on growlers promote reusable glass and lighten carbon footprints.”
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Kitayama and Wheeler are not the only ones to speak out against flights. They cite Andy Crouch’s 2017 piece “Remembering How to Enjoy Beer” in which Crouch also laments that beer flights simply don’t give beer drinkers the full picture of how craft beer is meant to be enjoyed: “Unfortunately, samplers provide consumers with an inherently incomplete drinking experience. With their limited pour size and almost uniform inability to allow for proper head formation, carbonation, or aromatic development, they’re unable to offer even a reliable snapshot of a beer’s spirit.”
No great beer experience is the same, nor can such experiences be duplicated. Haines Brewing is taking a stand to do what they can to control their end of the bargain: offering beer of high-quality in the way they intended. For many beer enthusiasts, their policies may seem tough, but Haines Brewing insists that they are not negotiable and that the brewery will remain a no flight zone.
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Beer lovers have become consumed by the anxiety of missing out on the experience others are having. With so many choices, we have lost the ability to, well, choose, opting for a shotgun approach of all the options. Picking them all has become a normal decision in regard to flights, but by having them all, Haines believes the experience is diminished all together.
For me, I’m not against flights, but I won’t complain if a brewery like Haines challenges me to think critically about and make a choice on the beer that I order. It might be the best beer choice I ever make.
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This article originally appeared on craftbeer.com