Ordering beer at a bar is just like ordering food at a restaurant. You’re going to either play it safe or branch out. The options are never ending with beer, and while that may seem overwhelming, it’s actually a good thing. We talked to a certified Cicerone, aka beer expert, to answer the questions you might have about beer, but are too afraid to ask.

Put yourself in the scenario of being on a date. The two of you are just grabbing beers. You look at the selection on draft and start to wonder what to order. What’s a good beer to choose that you won’t get judged for? Do you get something conventional, like Bud Light, or do you try one of the craft beers that you’ve never heard of?

beer, coffee, stout, alcohol, liquor, lager
Sarah Schuette

While these thoughts are running through your head, you look to your date and wait for them to order. But they look at you, probably thinking the same thing.

You have two options: go the easy route and say, “I’ll have what he/she is having.” Or take the unanticipated route and totally surprise your date.

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Melanee Piskai

Rather than play it safe by ordering something you know you’ll enjoy but is not super exciting — have a conversation with the bartender about the beers they have on tap and conduct your own mini taste-test, mid-date. It will be an instant conversation starter, and frankly, it shows confidence.

“My best advice is to ask the bartender if there is anything they have on draft that they really love. That’s always a good place to start, and it makes you sound confident,” certified beer expert, Zach Mack shared with Spoon University. “Anyone looking to try something new radiates a certain type of confidence. Confidence comes in different ways, and in this case, it’s being willing to try something new.”

Most bartenders are willing to give you a sample of beers they have on tap. So let the bartender know what your taste preferences are, and be honest with what you don’t like.

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Photo Courtesy of Amanda Gajdosik

Know the differences between the two categories of beer: ales and lagers. Common misconceptions about the two types of beer is that the differences lie within the color or strength, when in fact, it’s all about the yeast that is used to brew them.

“Ales are made at warmer temperatures with top fermenting yeast. Lagers are made at colder temperatures with bottom fermenting yeast. And the result is different tastes,” explains Mack.

Lagers can be golden brown or dark in color, and they have a smooth finish to them. They’re typically Pilsners or certain types of German beers. Common brands of lagers include: Stella Artois, Miller, Budweiser, and Corona.

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Sharon Cho

Ales include a wide range of flavors and tastes, and is typically stronger in alcohol content. They are known for having bold and bitter flavors, like IPAs or Stouts.

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Lauren Thiersch

With the basics in mind, it really comes down to preference in taste. And the best thing you can do is to have an open mind because it shows confidence. It’s the only way to discover what you’re into — that goes for the date and the beer.