I brought a bomber of Stone RIS over to a bbq last weekend to introduce some newly 21 folks to how dark a beer really can be. I figured, hey, let's not ease these people in...toss them in the deep end and get some reactions.
"This tastes like Guinness!"
I've found 2 major things that I feel many homebrewers and micro fans in general tend to forget...
1) Just because someone doesn't drink beer doesn't mean that they need to start off with a Blonde Ale or Mild. My Fiance doesn't like most of the beers I buy or have made, but she loves a good porter (The bourbon porter at the Ren Faire in PA was by far her favorite beer ever)
2) To us (with acclimated palates), the difference between a german lager and and a pale ale may be STRIKING, but to the uninitiated they can't tell. Even with a wider style gap, let's face it....beer is composed of the same basic ingredients. You may be able to see the differences between the maltiness and hoppiness of an English Mild and an American Stout...but to them they're still tasting Malted barley, hops, and yeast. Even an English Mild is a huge leap in flavor from a BMC.
my 2 cents