Stage One: An Introduction
You’re at a party and the usual Bud and Coors are nowhere to be found. Someone suggests something with a bit more flavor (maybe Bass or Blue Moon). It’s not terrible, but it certainly takes more effort than you’re accustomed to.
Stage Two: Branching Out
You seek out other “craft” beers, but only safe varieties: Pale Ale, Amber, Blonde. Maybe a Brown Ale or Wheat. Your palate begins to expand.
Stage Three: Big Guns
You try your first of the more extreme beer styles: an IPA or Stout, maybe even a Barleywine or Belgian Quad. At first you’re offended by the robust flavors, but you’re also impressed with yourself for tackling this new challenge.
Stage Four: Hop Head
You were blown away by that IPA you tried. Are there even hoppier beers out there? How hoppy can a beer be? What’s the difference between an IPA, a Double IPA, and an Imperial IPA? You learn what IBU and dry-hopped mean. How many IBUs can you stuff into a beer? You know the names of a few hop strains.
Stage Five: Darkness
You are getting burnt out on pure lupulin madness and seek some balance. You make your way through Porters, Stouts, Imperial Stouts, and Barleywines. The higher the ABV the better. Aged in bourbon barrels? Yes please!
Stage Six: Trappist
These monks are on to something. You experiment with various Belgian styles: Saison, Dubbel, Tripel, Quad. You have deep thoughts about yeast.
Stage Seven: Full Circle
Did you know Americans didn’t invent Lagers and Pilsners? They can actually have really nice flavors if they’re not watered down and mass-produced! These Germans are on to something. They came up with other styles! Helles, Marzen, Dunkel, Bock. Those Brits have been doing this for a while as well. ESB, Mild, English Pale Ale. You learn about casks, CAMRA, and the Reinheitsgebot.
Stage Eight: Pucker Up
You try a sour beer. What the fuck is that all about? Beer can taste like that? You make your way through Gose, Berliner Weisse, Oud Bruin, Lambic, and various fruity beers. Real beer isn’t supposed to have fruit, right? You can just let this stuff sit in barrels and throw fruit at it? You learn about spontaneous fermentation.
Stage Nine: Zen
All beer is good, it’s only a matter of the appropriate beer for the occasion. Sure, you still have your go to styles (IPA, Stout, Sour) but you’re open to anything that resembles beer. Maybe even the occasional Gruit or Mead. There are styles you may never totally come around to for regular consumption (Bocks, Smoked) but you can appreciate the art that went into making them. You’ve experimented with homebrewing and taken a few brewery tours. You have a basic understanding of the brewing process and its infinite variables and outcomes. You look into BJCP and Cicerone.