Having a group of friends over on a Sunday evening is always a wonderful way to spend some time. Now, add in a bit of beer-tasting fun and things get really enjoyable. Hosting a beer tasting doesn’t have to be an extravagant production – unless you want it to be. Follow the guidelines below, you and your friends are sure to have an evening that is remembered for a long time to come.
Know Your Audience
Before you decide on a slate of beers to serve, take a good look at your guest list. Are most of the people you are inviting craft beer fans already? Or, do they drink mostly domestic beers. Are any of your guests wine aficionados or foodies? All of these questions are important to help you determine what to serve.
Pick Your Theme
After you have determined your guest list and gauged the type of group you will be entertaining, it is time to choose a theme. Some themes to think about might include:
Regional Beer Spotlight
This could be a focus on local breweries or beers from areas outside your location. You could choose three or four local breweries and serve two beers from each. Or, you could concentrate on beers from well-known beer areas like Asheville, N.C., Denver, Colo. or San Diego, Calif. Another route could be to serve beers from a specific country like Belgium, Germany or Great Britain.
Beers for Wine Lovers
If the group coming over are mostly wine drinkers, consider a theme that highlights beers with wine-like characteristics. Think sour Lambics, Flemish Red or Brown ales or Berliner Weiss brews. Both Lambic and Berliner Weiss styles come in a number of fruit varietals that should appeal to wine lovers and open their eyes to the complexities that can be found in beer.
Foodie Beer and Food Pairing
Pairing food with wine has been a long-standing tradition. But, paring food with beer is a newer phenomenon. Pick beers that will match up to each of four or five courses. Also, plan on serving appetizer-sized portions of each food. There are a number of excellent resources on the Internet for matching beer and food flavors. One of the best is from CraftBeer.com and can be found in the Educational Tools section of the website.
Class it Up
Serve the beers you will be tasting in wine glasses. The tapered top helps to hold in aromas and guest will feel more elegant holding them. In addition, a small two- to three-ounce pour – something that is highly recommended and customary at beer tastings – looks like a good-sized pour.
Guide the Tasting
Now that you have chosen the type of tasting you want to have and chosen the beers you will serve, do some homework on the styles and specific beers your guests will taste. Use resources like RateBeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com to see what other tasters have said about the beers you have chosen. As you pour each beer provide some details about it. Talk about things like the style, how that style evolved, the brewery the beer came from and where it is located, the alcohol content and aroma and flavors that can be expected.
By providing guests with tasting notes you open the conversation. As your friends taste your beer choices, ask them their thoughts on the offering. Do they agree with what others say about the beer? What flavors do they detect? Would they drink the beer again?
Wait 15 minutes or so between opening each beer to allow guests to talk among themselves about what they just tasted.
The bottom line is to have a good time. Don’t add so much structure to the event that it feels stuffy. Play some great tunes in the background and enjoy spending time with your friends.