What is a Beer Flight? Guide to Flights of Craft Beer

A flight of beer typically consists of several small samples of different styles of beer, allowing the drinker to sample different beers that the brewery offers and compare different releases or recipes. When you go to a new brewery, ordering a craft beer flight is usually the best way to try the different types of beers they make.

Sample multiple beers
Make sure you like one before ordering a full pint
Try high ABV beers without drinking a full pint  Types of Flights: 
Horizontal beer flights are the most common type of flight, and are made up of different kinds of beer. They usually reflect the brewery's flagship beers or are chosen by the consumer, and are usually drank from lightest to darkest.
Vertical beer flights are a flight of multiple vintages or releases of a single beer.
Single style beer flights are a flight of multiple recipes of a single style of beer, such as an IPA flight.

Why order a beer flight?

There are a few good reasons to order a beer flight. Beer flights are the perfect option for beer tasting at a new brewery that has a lot of beers that you want to try. Ordering a flight of beer instead of pints allows you to sample a variety of beers in smaller quantities. This can be a great way to try new beers and discover new favorites without drinking too much. 

It can also be a good option if you’re not sure what you want to drink and want to try a few different options before you commit to a full 16-ounce pint of beer. If you’re at an expensive brewery, it can be helpful to make sure you enjoy the taste of a beer before you risk the cost of a full pint of beer on one you might not like. Finally, ordering a beer flight lets you try a smaller serving of high ABV beers without having to drink a full glass.

A flight served at Random Row Brewing Co. that featured 6 different beers.

What size is a flight of beer? How many ounces are in a flight glass? How many beers are typically included in a flight?

The number of beers in a tasting flight can vary depending on the brewery or bar, but typically it includes 4-6 smaller-sized glasses (usually around 3-5-ounce pours of each) of different beers to taste and compare.

In general, a flight of beer is usually between 16oz and 24oz in total.

How do you serve a flight of beer?

To serve a flight of beer, you typically serve small glasses of different types of beer on a tray or beer flight paddle, and you will often arrange them in a specific order based on flavor and intensity. This allows the taster to sample different types of beer and compare them side by side. It’s also common for breweries and bars to set up preset flights and provide a description of each beer in the flight to guide the taster’s experience.

A beer flight paddle is a wooden board designed to hold small glasses of beer, typically used for sampling different types of beer in a brewery or pub. You can also buy beer flight sets and beer flight paddles to create your own beer flights at home.

Every homebrewer should have a couple of beer flight sets on hand to serve homebrew flights! Serving flights of your homebrew is a very satisfying experience. A few of our favorite options for flight sets for using at home are:

You can also make your own flight set! Check out this awesome flight board my Dad made for me out of a piece of cedar! He even made me a couple of tap handles to match it, and it’s my favorite way to serve flights of my homebrewed beer!

A homemade flight set made from a single piece of cedar.

What are the best beers to include in a beer flight?

The best beers to include in a horizontal beer flight are usually a mix of different styles, flavors and strengths. A great horizontal flight will usually include a light beer (like a pilsner, kolsch, or blonde ale) , a hoppy beer (like a pale ale or an IPA), a malty beer (like an amber ale or oktoberfest), and a dark beer (like a porter or stout). These are not hard rules, so feel free to experiment and include your personal favorites, local specialties, or the brewery’s flagship beers!

Many breweries that offer flights will also have a few curated flights to choose from. Some are horizontal flights (the most common type) which include a few beers of different styles to showcase the brewery’s flagship beers. You may also see curated single style beer flights, which will showcase a few different recipes of a single style, like an IPA flight, a hazy IPA flight, a stout flight, etc.

What do you need to serve a beer flight?

While you don’t need any special equipment or glassware to serve a beer flight, there are a few items that make the experience better. First, you’ll need a set of beer flight glasses (sometimes called sample glasses), which are usually 5oz glasses. You can buy them inexpensively online on Amazon or most homebrew supply stores.

Because it can be hard to carry a bunch of small glasses, we also recommend a flight paddle. A beer flight paddle is a board (usually made of wood or plastic) designed to hold small glasses of beer. You can buy a beer flight set or beer flight paddle to create your own beer flights at home, and they’re relatively inexpensive. You can sometimes find them in retail stores, but there are also plenty available on Amazon.

How to order and drink a beer flight

Most breweries that serve beer flights will have a set number of beers that are included and let you choose which beers you want from the menu. Some breweries will exclude certain beers from flights, especially when they have certain beers that are limited release or are cellared and can’t be poured in small quantities.

Some breweries charge a set price for a flight, while others will have pricing for individual sample pours and let you build a flight from as few or as many beers as you want. Breweries that serve flights will also usually have recommendations on which beers to drink in the flight, and may even have curated flights where they have selected specific beers for each flight.

How to organize a beer flight and what order to drink the beer in

To organize a beer flight, you should start by selecting the beers that you want to taste in the flight. For a standard (horizontal) flight, it is usually best to choose beers that have different flavor profiles, strengths, and styles. Pour a small sample of each beer (usually 3-5oz pours depending on how many beers are included in the flight), and label them so you remember which beer is which.

You can arrange them in a specific order, such as from lightest to darkest, or by the intensity of their flavors or ABV. It’s generally recommended to start with the lightest beer and move towards darker or stronger ones when drinking a beer flight. This helps to avoid overwhelming your palate with strong flavors early on. 

A beer flight organized from light to dark.

What is the difference between a flight and a growler?

A flight typically refers to a serving of small portions of several different drinks, such as beers or wines, for tasting or sampling. A growler, on the other hand, is a container, usually made of glass or metal, used to transport and store draft beer. Growlers are generally made to hold either 32oz or 64oz of beer temporarily so that it can be consumed offsite from the brewery. To learn more about growlers, check out our article All About Beer Growlers.

Horizontal vs vertical vs single style beer flights

Horizontal beer flights are the most common type of flight, and are made up of different kinds of beer. They usually reflect the brewery’s flagship beers or are chosen by the consumer, and are usually drank from lightest to darkest.

Vertical beer flights are a flight of multiple vintages or releases of a single beer.

Single style beer flights are a flight of multiple recipes of a single style of beer, such as an IPA flight.

Vertical flights for sampling different vintages of beer

If you’re a serious beer enthusiast, vertical flights can be an excellent way to explore the intricacies of a particular beer recipe. A vertical flight is essentially tasting multiple vintages or releases of a single beer. This is especially helpful for homebrewers who want to see how minor changes in ingredients or brewing process can alter the finished beer. This is also a great way to test the impacts of different water profiles or yeasts on a given recipe.

Two vertical flights showing different yeast in the same recipe.

Here are some things to keep in mind when trying a vertical flight of beers:

  • Choose a beer style that interests you and find different vintages of the same beer. It’s common to try three to five vintages side by side. Usually, darker beers like porters and Belgian beers are used for this flight because they offer complex nuances that evolve over time and store better than hoppy or lighter beers.
  • Start with the oldest beer first and work your way up to the newest. This will allow you to taste how the beer has changed over time.
  • Take note of the aromas, flavors, and mouthfeel of each beer. You may notice subtle differences between each vintage. You can download our Beer Tasting Worksheet on the Resources Page to help with this!
  • Consider pairing the beers with food to enhance the flavors of both. For example, a stout vertical flight could be paired with chocolate desserts or roasted meats.
  • Have fun with it! Vertical flights are a great way to learn about your favorite beer styles and discover new favorites.

Thank you!

Now you know a little bit more about beer flights and you’re ready to start sampling! If you found this article was helpful, please share it with your friends using the social media share buttons below! We need your help getting the word out about BrewTogether!

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