There was the ill-fitting, dad-like white Polo shirt. And there was the Coors Light.

As I approached the dimly lit high table at the back of Wired Willy’s in Fort Worth, Texas, my attention ping ponged between the two of them, quickly determining which one might be worse.

Moments before, as my Uber arrived outside the bar, I received a text from my Bumble date, who I had procured between the day’s client meetings, saying, “I’m the nerd in the Polo and khakis.”

One could only assume that this served as acknowledgment of the poor wardrobe choice. However, when no similar apology was made for the Coors Light, it quickly won as the worse of the two offenses.

The point was only further made when he then asked what I would like to drink.

How to Choose the Right Beer3

“Let me see…” I said as I retrieved my phone from my clutch. “I’ve been using this new app called Barly that recommends beer based on what’s on draft…”

“Oh, wow, you’re sooo hipster,” he replied with a subtle Texan drawl. “You’re probably gonna order an IPA too!”

I held my tongue, scrolled through Barly’s picks and requested a local Peach IPA.
Meeting with the Beer Experts

At another dimly lit table at My Father’s Office on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica a few weeks before the Bumble encounter, I met with two gentlemen who I now imagine were similarly turned off by my taste in beer.

Barly Team

Alex and Nick started the app, Barly, with two of their friends when searching a beer menu in San Diego for the best choice. Now they’re four friends who are running it because they love it. I reached out to them because while I’ve been drinking beer for about 15 years – and have come a long way from drinking Milwaukee’s Best out of kegs in cornfields – I still don’t have a great answer for “What’s your favorite beer?”

Beer Guide: How to Choose the Right Beer Anywhere

“People saying they don’t like beer when they’ve only had Coors Light is like saying you don’t like dessert when all you’ve had is burnt apple pie,” Nick said as we started the conversation. A perfect analogy for a dessert fiend like me.

5 Tips for Choosing the Right Beer Anywhere

1. Start with your favorite food to determine flavor.

“Instead of saying, ‘What your favorite beer?’ I usually say, ‘What’s your favorite food?’” Craig explained as we sat each took our first sips of beer and bites of burger. My mind quickly flooded with dozens of food I could devour, from frozen Costco cream puffs to sliced mushrooms dipped in Trader Joe’s hummus. I wasn’t sure where to begin.

“In other words,” Nick added, sensing my slight panic, “What would you want for your last meal?”

Suddenly I recalled my latest palate choice within the Barly app: “Sour, Tart & Funky” and thought about sitting in a jail cell inhaling nothing but fish ‘n chips. Perhaps this flavor choice was innately based on the tartness of tartar sauce. I could see where they were going…

Decide what flavors you’re craving, from lemon-flavored Indian food to rich, decadent desserts, and use that as your guide.

Fortunately, within Barly, you can swap out or add to your Palate preferences at any time.

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2. Complement the food you’re eating.

Craig and Nick recommend using beer flavors to highlight recommended food pairings. For example, sweet goes with sweet and spicy pairs well with light but hoppy to cut the spice.

“It’s important to start with the flavors,” Nick continued. “It could be based on your the food or mood or the weather. So it’s context-based.”

Just then we had finished our beer and burger and were ready for a second beer. I was in the mood for dessert so we used the app to guide us. I reset my Palate preferences and Cascade Brewing Company’s Apricot Ale came to the top of the list for beers I might like on draft at Father’s Office. (In fact, the app was more accurate than their printed menu… points for the guys.)

3. Find a reliable source for quality of beers.

“Trusting beer experts can be bad,” Nick said. And I set down my beer. Wasn’t I talking to two of them?

“We’ve found that Google was better than bartenders,” Craig said.

“And beer nuts can be super intense,” Nick added. And I knew he wasn’t talking about a favorite road trip snack. According to the guys, they ‘beer experts’ typically recommend super hoppy or specialty which is why reading reviews is a better approach, similar to Yelp.

When creating Barly, they used numerous data sources to build their robust user reviews, from beer novices to connoisseurs, to aggregate enough data for accurate ratings.

4. When traveling, order beer with high ratings from breweries you’ve never heard of before.

When traveling, the guys recommend only ordering beer from local breweries while sticking to your palate. Look up the names of the specific breweries you visit to discover their highest rated beers on tap that match your palate. Barly features ratings for restaurants and breweries around the world so you’ll be sure to find new gems.

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5. For parties, avoid extremes and consider the crowd.

“Start with ‘Who’s party is it… and what would they have for their last meal?'” Nick explained when I asked how I not humiliate myself when gifting beers or bringing them for other party-goers. Use Barly when you get to the grocery store to look up reviews of potential beers.

Two recommended beers:

  • Briney Melon Gose – “People were interested. Everyone loved it, and it opened up their minds.” 8% alcohol content, juice, melon, salty, sweet.
  • Stone Xocoveza – Released around the holidays. Chocolate/cinnamon/nutmeg. “People go nuts over it.”

Before leaving my date, I would have pressed the need for him to download Barly to better his chances with beer-drinking women, but he was too busy telling me what he wanted to do to his intern on top of his work desk… Some people can’t be saved.


Download Barly on Android & iPhone – it’s free!