First Beer Experiences – Natalya Watson

Throughout this month the Tryanuary team will be sharing stories about people’s first experiences with beer. Trying beer for the first time can be a daunting experience, and – let’s be honest – sometimes a difficult one. The bitterness found in beer can take some getting used to. But as you read the stories people have shared we hope you will see that it is worth it. If you give beer a chance, it will reward you with a world of flavours, experiences, and people who will make your life richer.

Here’s one from Natalya Watson, a self-proclaimed beer geek (and a Certified Cicerone®, if you’re looking for third-party verification of the aforementioned geek status). By day, she’s in charge of all things marketing for Duvel UK (shouting about great beers from Vedett, Duvel, Chouffe and more). By night, she hosts beery talks & tastings across London to share her love of beer with others. Keep up with Natalya’s latest blog posts and event updates on her website, WatsonsCorner.beer.

Natalya Watson, Certified Cicerone®

When did you have your first taste of beer?

Truthfully, probably, when I was seven or eight or so, when I had a sip of my dad’s Guinness. (There’s a great photo of me carefully cuddling the pint glass with a massive cheesy grin on, so I guess that means I liked it!). I can’t really say I remember that though, so I’d say my first taste of generic, bland beer was at a college party and my first taste of craft beer was a few years later from my local supermarket.

What was your impression of beer before then?

I didn’t know much about beer when I was in college, so I really thought the only two options available were Guinness (thanks, Dad!) and generic bland fizzy yellow stuff.

What was your reaction to that first sip?

When I started exploring the beer aisle in my local supermarket, I remember picking up Pyramid’s Apricot Ale, an apricot wheat beer, because I thought I’d enjoy the fruity flavours. And I was right. There was so much more going on in my glass than with that fizzy yellow stuff. From there, I stuck to fruit beers for a while, Seadog Blueberry and Abita Purple Haze were fun discoveries, but boy, have things changed since!

How have your thoughts about beer changed since then?

My fruit beer phase lasted for a while, but then I had some friends introduce me to pale ales and IPAs at our local pizza place and my palate began to expand. (This wasn’t just any pale ale or IPA, by the way. We were spoiled with Deschutes Mirror Pond and Pliny the Elder on tap at pretty much all times – I really didn’t know how good I had it!!). Since then, I was hooked. I wanted to learn everything I could about beer and I’ve tried my best to do just that.  Beer fascinated me then, and with all that I’ve learned, it fascinates me even more so now.

What beer would you recommend to someone who wants to try it for the first time, and why?

Having previously attempted to woo quite a few non-beer drinkers to the wonderful world of beer, I’ve found that sour styles, like a Berliner Weisse, work quite well. As many contain fruit, people who have a preference for juices, lemonade, or fruit-forward cocktails tend to find familiar flavours in this style. But even if they ultimately don’t think Berliner Weisse is the beer for them, it helps to change people’s perception of what beer is – it isn’t all just fizzy yellow stuff or boring brown and bitter. There’s a whole world of flavour out there just waiting to be discovered.

You can read more stories like this on the Tryanuary blog, and find them on social media using the #tryanuary and #my1stbeer hashtags – and share your own too.

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