What Are Beer Flights? (Plus Where To Find Them & What To Order!)

A key feature of many beer menus nowadays is the beer flight. Beer flights come in many shapes and sizes and can be found everywhere from specialty breweries to your local pub.  

Beer flights are samplers of a few beers on the menu. These can come in a variety of sizes and shapes, with many different styles of beer represented. They’re often served on a wooden board or decorative plank, with built-in grooves to hold each glass. 

If you find yourself lost in a sea of options for beer flights or wondering which beers to pair together, you’re not alone. Read on to find out more about beer flights, what they are, and how to order them. 

What are beer flights?

Sometimes, ordering at a bar or brewery can be intimidating. Beer flights may seem like they’re only for “beer people” who really know what they’re doing. But that’s not true anymore! Beer flights are for everyone.

Beer flights are named as such because of a secondary definition of the word “flight”. The word can be used to describe a group of birds in motion, like a flying vee. 

According to Flitebrite, beer flights really started to take off around 2011, as more and more consumers became interested in tasting beer at the height of the craft beer boom. Since then, they’ve continued to increase in popularity, such that you can find flights not just at specialty tasting rooms, but sometimes even at your average everyday pub.

How many beers are in a flight?

There’s no hard and fast rule that says how many beers should be in a flight, but because they’re for sampling, you can always assume you’ll get to try multiple beers.

Beer flights almost always contain 3-5 beers and typically revolve around a certain beer style (in which all the beers are the same style, such as pale ales or stouts) or a specific brewery which will include many different styles of beer.

Most bars offer a set number of beers in every beer flight. So even if they have an option to choose your own beers, you’ll be limited to 3-5 per flight.

How many ounces in a flight of beer?

There’s no set number of ounces in a beer flight either. Assuming a 4-6oz pour and 3-5 beers per flight, you can safely assume an average beer flight will contain 12-30 ounces of beer. Since a pint contains 16 ounces of beer, this means each beer flight will contain 1-2 beers worth of liquid.

If you calculate the price per ounce of beer, you may find most bars charging a slightly higher rate per ounce for a flight than they do for a pint.

Before you jump to conclusions, bear in mind that it takes longer to pour a flight than a single beer. It also means more glassware and equipment, like boards, to manage and clean. Finally, the educational component of beer flights often requires a more specialized staff, and more time with each customer. Beer flights are worth every penny.

How much does a beer flight cost?

Beer flight costs vary greatly depending on the venue you’re at and the types of beer in the flight. 

On average, a flight of beer usually costs between $10 and $20. You’ll pay a premium for higher gravity beers, educational materials, or showmanship.

The internet was recently abuzz discussing the $75 beer flight at Oga’s Cantina in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It comes with a decorative souvenir board, and it’s the first place in Disneyland to serve alcohol. After a hot day waiting in line for the teacups that $75 may sound worth it!

Is there anything special about beer flight glasses?

Beer flight glasses can take a variety of different shapes and sizes. They usually share a handful of common characteristics:

  • Size: glassware used for beer flights is usually 6-8 ounces, with pours ranging from 4-6 ounces. For very high proof beers, or liquor, the glasses may be smaller.
  • Shape: though shapes can vary, they almost always will have a wide top. This allows you to take in the aromas of the beers more easily.
  • Sturdy: carrying five or ten beers across a busy bar is no small feat, so beer flight glasses rarely have tall skinny stems or other features that would make them easy to tip over.

If you wanted to pour your own beer flight at home, choose small juice glasses that are uniform in size and shape. This will help you to evaluate each beer equally.

For an extra fun challenge, have a friend pour the beers for you so you can taste them blindly! See if you can guess which beer is which.

How does a beer flight work?

Beer flights can take a wide variety of forms so always ask your server for details. Some bars offer set menus of flights, curated around a style or theme.

For example, a bar may offer a flight of Pale Ales and include an IPA, APA, and a DIPA. Or, a bar may let you choose the beers in your flight from their entire menu.

How to order a beer flight

No matter what form your flight takes, don’t overthink it! Flights are designed to be a good way to taste the unique flavor characteristics of an assortment of beers on the menu. 

If given the chance to select your own beers, order a good mix of beers you think you’ll like. A flight can be a great opportunity to try something new, but is also a low-commitment way to revisit a style you haven’t enjoyed in the past. 

Keep in mind the strength and flavor of each beer you select, and remember you’ll be drinking them one after another. If you’re not sure what would pair best together, ask your bartender for advice.

How to drink a flight of beer

Many bars and breweries will arrange all the beers in your flight in the order you recommend they taste them. Some may even have labels for each glass that recommend a drinking order and describe things like tasting notes and beer styles.

As a general rule of thumb, always drink the beers in a flight from lightest to darkest. Lighter beers often have a more delicate flavor and are easily overpowered by heavier dark beers.

When in doubt, as your bartender! Most bars that offer flights have a recommended tasting order and can tell you all about each beer you selected.

Should you finish the first beer in a flight before taking a sip of the next one?

There’s an age-old battle between beer fans when it comes to enjoying a beer fight. Some people prefer to fully finish the first beer in a flight before tasting the next one. Others like to take a sip from each beer (in order of course), and repeat this process until all the beers are finished. 

The simple answer is, you can and should drink a beer flight however you prefer! Finishing each beer one-by-one is a good way to focus on each one, however, there is some benefit to skipping around. Tasting other beers can mean your palate will pick up on different nuances on your next few sips.

Are beer flights for sharing?

This will be unique at every bar, but it’s typically not unusual to order a beer flight all for yourself. That said, if you and a friend are looking to “try before you buy”, ordering a flight to share can be a great way to try several beers before ordering a whole pint.

Just be wary of sharing germs: don’t be afraid to ask for a set of empty glasses to split the beers evenly!

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