What is a Beer Flight?

With the growing interest in new and local breweries, you may have heard people using the term ‘beer flight.’ Or perhaps you’ve seen large wooden paddles full of small glasses of different beer and wondered what it was.

Whether you’re new to the craft beer scene or just want some additional information about beer flights, let’s discuss what makes beer flights so appealing.

A beer flight is a method of sampling beer that allows someone to taste 4-6 different beers at the same time.

Beer flights in taprooms and brewpubs are the equivalent of wine tasting. It is a simple way to determine the style and type of beer of you without having to order a full pint of each.

paddle of beer flight

While beer flights have been common at taprooms for some time now, they are becoming increasingly more popular at brewpub restaurants and bars who specialize in carrying beer from a variety of breweries.

Why Drink a Beer Flight?


Have you ever walked into a bar or brewery and stared at the menu because you have absolutely no idea what to order?

A flight of beer allows you to sample a variety of beer without committing to just one.

Nobody likes trying to down a pint of beer they don’t enjoy – but certainly don’t want to let it go to waste.

The purpose of a beer flight is to sample several varieties of beer and choose a suitable beer. However, you can order beer flights to study different flavors of the beer. Breweries usually state the ingredients of their brews, which help beginners to understand the characteristics of beers.

You can your sweet time sampling and then order a pint of the beer that suits your taste. Or order another flight so you can try all the brewery’s beers (Untappd beer tally fanatics, I’m looking at you.)

What to Expect

Sample Sizes

A flight typically contains 4-6 different beers in sizes ranging from 2-6-ounce glasses. The tradition for serving a beer flight includes 4-6 mini glasses of beer on a wooden paddle with holes to hold the beer glasses.

Some bars serve up to 8-glasses of beer for a beer flight if they have a particularly big menu.

The sizes of the beer glasses vary from pub to pub. A flight of 4 beers will likely have bigger glasses than those providing 8-beers.

But you don’t have to worry about the size of the glasses as long as you get to sample well-crafted brews. Most flights equal 1 pint, or one standard sized beer.

The Presentation

The classic presentation has several glasses holding different brews on a wooden paddle with holes for the drinks.

Others replace the paddle with metal or use attractive wooden designs.

The beer arrangement starts with lighter beers on one end and heavier ones on the other. For IPA heavy breweries, you may find your flight arranged from lightest IBUs (a bitterness rating) to highest. For breweries who specialize in high alcohol beers, you may find the beers arranged from lowest to higherst alcohol by volume.

So, do keep in mind, you won’t always see beer arranged from lightest in color to darkest, like you would expect at wine tasting.

The Cost

The average cost of a beer flight is roughly the same amount of a single pint, which is a reasonable price. You can sample a wide selection of beers without putting a dent into your bank account.

It is a cost-effective way than ordering pint after pint of different beers just to sample them.

flight of beer

How to Drink a Flight of Beer

Generally, you can start tasting the brews on your beer flight however you like.

However, it is better that you start with the lighter beers as they do not have a strong taste.

When you start with a strong beer, the character of the beer can overshadow the taste of lighter ones. Therefore, you won’t get to savor all the flavors that the lighter beers have.

Types of Beer Flights

Single Style

The single style of beer flights is popular in brewpubs who carry beer from multiple breweries.

You can sample a variety of beers and explore new flavors. For example, you may be able to tast 6 different IPAs to determine your favorite. Or maybe you’d prefer to sample all stouts.

With a single beer flight, you can taste the different interpretations of a particular style to find a new favorite.

It is an excellent style for beginners who are looking for a beer they can drink regularly. It can help you decide what kind of beer person you are. You can be a lager or porter person.

Horizontal Flight

A horizontal beer flight presents several brews from the same brewery. This is the style of flight most often found at brewery taprooms, who will be serving the beers they created.

It is a fun way to explore the local breweries and flavors. Most breweries will allow you to select from any of their offerings, which is great if you know what types of beer you prefer. However, if you’re not sure, don’t hesitate to ask your server for recommendations of their most popular beers or any specialties.

Once you’ve established your personal taste, it is fun to do horizontal flights at several local breweries to determine your favorite(s).

Vertical Flight

Vertical beer flights are for serious beer nerds, because it requires a certain level of expertise to understand the aging process of a beer.

A vertical beer flight includes the same beer in different aging stages. It can also include the evolution of a beer. It is rare to see a vertical beer flight, mostly set up like wine tasting events.


Now that you know what a beer flight is and how you can experience one, it is time to explore your local craft beer pubs and breweries.

Sampling beer flights is a fun experience for new and seasoned craft beer lovers alike.

You can create an adventure of exploring the beer flavors that different breweries have to offer.

Ordering beer flights is also a fun way to broaden your beer palate and learn about what styles you prefer. Maybe you prefer stouts to IPAs? Your knowledge of your preferences can be helpful when ordering beer in the future.

Have fun and enjoy your beer flight experience.

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