Looking to get out of the house for a couple of beers, but not in the mood for the bar scene? Try a beer tasting.

Looking to get out of the house for a couple of beers, but not in the mood for the bar scene? Try a beer tasting. We found the one at Blacklick Wine & Spirits to be a fun alternative to bellying up to a bar. It had a friendly vibe, a nice variety of brews, it was cheap, and we got enough helpful information to make beer drinking interactive and downright educational.

MELISSA: Geoff and I have had our share of beer-drinking adventures. We've toured the Guinness brewery in Dublin, Ireland, and sampled dozens of microbrews at beer festivals in Ohio and Michigan. We try to frequent local bars with extensive beer lists. Geoff knows what he likes, but for me it's often hit or miss. I tend to rely on the bartender's description rather than the type of beer when ordering. That's why I jumped at the chance to attend a beer tasting at Blacklick Wine & Spirits. I'd like to have a better sense of what to expect when I order a brew.

GEOFF: The theme this week was German beers and included pilsners, weissbier, dunkle, landbier and zwickl. The last two I'd never heard of - I drink with more enthusiasm than knowledge - and looked forward to trying something new. All for $8? Sign me up!

MELISSA: A few minutes into the tasting, it became obvious that the crowd was full of regulars. The store hosts a tasting every Thursday and Friday, from 6 to 8 p.m. (You can drop in any time during the tasting.) Attendees greeted each other warmly and chit-chatted between beers. The group was even friendly to newcomers. Before long, people were walking up to Geoff and me and introducing themselves. It was a fun, easy crowd. Participants said they come often to the tastings because it's a great way to try new things, and it helped them figure out their beer likes and
dislikes.

GEOFF: We've been to a lot of wine tastings in our day but this event had a much different feel. Low-key. Sociable. A nice cross-section of people, about 16 in all. Mostly guys but couples, too. Cleverly, the store was simultaneously hosting a wine tasting at the other end of the store. Some couples went their separate ways and kept dropping in on each other and comparing notes. For younger, single people, this might be the first stop on a long night out. For married couples who gave up that lifestyle two kids ago, it's a responsible way to try six beers after work and still get home in time to pack lunches for the kids.

MELISSA: This tasting showcased Veldensteiner, which is making its debut in Ohio stores. The nice thing about a tasting is you can savor the beers you like and not worry about the ones you don't. It's not like you're paying by the glass. We liked one sample well enough to buy some to take home. Although I'm normally a wine drinker, I've got to say this is one time when you should stand by your man. Try the beers. It's a fun time. It also would make a great Father's Day present. You can buy gift certificates or just head over there as a surprise.

Beer tastings, while not as common as wine tastings, can be found around the city. Here is a sampling of places that offer them:

Blacklick Wine & Spirits, 7199 E. Broad St., Blacklick, 614-322-6689, blacklickwine.com Ale Wine & Spirits (the sister store of Blacklick Wine & Spirits), 7560 Guard Well St., Powell, 740-881-0318, alewineandspirits.com The Hills Market, 7860 Olentangy River Rd., 614-846-3220, thehillsmarket.com Whole Foods Market, 3670 W. Dublin-Granville Rd., 614-760-5556, wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/columbus