If you and your friends prefer a six-pack of craft beer to a good bottle of wine, you might want to consider hosting a beer tasting party. Contrary to a frat house kegger, beer tasting parties can be chic and refined, and you shouldn’t have to collect cars keys at the end of the night.
As microbreweries continue to spring up all across the country, the number of craft beer enthusiasts is growing like wildfire. All it takes is a quick look at your local grocery store’s beer isle to prove that out. In the market where I shop, just as much cooler space is occupied by specialty beers as the mass produced varieties.
Don’t worry if you have some friends who don’t care too much for beer. This is a “tasting” experience, not a “drinking” experience. Just invite people who are open-minded and like trying new things. Keep in mind that you’ll want everyone to be together for the experience, so don’t invite more than you can comfortably seat in one room. I’ve found six to ten to be a good number.
As much as I hate recommending plastic, you certainly don’t want to have to do dishes between each tasting. I like using the five-ounce clear plastic tumblers. The shape is nice, you can still see the beer’s hue, and they don’t have an odor so the qualities of the beer are not compromised.
I recommend purchasing six different brews, and count on four ounces per person. I usually buy a little more than that in case of spills, or if after the tasting someone wants another. It goes without saying that you should buy bottles, not cans.
I put one bottle of each beer up for display, in the order we taste them. I find that my guests like to refer back to the name and brewery as they continue to taste other beers. Plus, the look of the bottle adds to the experience.
You can serve all wheats or all porters, for example, or choose one beer from six different categories.
Don’t pour the beer until you’re ready to taste and discuss. Ask your guests to wait and taste together, and encourage everyone to enter the discussion to add their thoughts and opinions. I always provide a pen and paper for each guest, so they can make notes to take home with them if they wish.
Even though no one will be drinking more than two or three total drinks, it’s still a good idea to serve snacks. I do this before and after however – never during the tasting.