August 22, 2011 by iamseanbrage
Wine lovers delight in the tasting. A chance to sip, sniff and spit with upturned pinkies in a fancy winery while a man named Guy waxes poetic about tannins. While most beer drinkers would take great pleasure in the sniffing and sipping, we would consider spitting a mortal sin. And as for Guy, well, he just doesn’t seem like our type. But the beer tasting party can be a great time for beer lovers, serving as a great place to discover new brews while enjoying the sense of well-being and community that comes when people gather in the name of beer. We recently enjoyed one heckuva good tasting party, and thought we’d share a few tips on hosting your own party and making it an unforgettable affair.
Tip #1: BYO Bombers.
As much fun as it would be to sample a bunch of session beers, we feel that the best tasting parties are poured out of 22oz bottles. Most of us like to think we are spontaneous, but if you’re the only one in charge of selecting brews, chances are high you’ll pick a few of your personal favorites instead of expanding your horizons. With a BYO Bomber party, you’ll ensure a wide, diverse range of styles and brews are ready for tasting come party time.
Your pocketbook will thank you as well, since the cost of providing enough big beers for a large group to taste could very quickly and easily cross the $100 mark. Going “BYOB” will keep your party affordable and ensure that everyone has something to contribute.
Tip #2: Keep the Session Beers Small.
Most beer tastings are going to consist of sampling a few large, unique brews every hour or so. But your guests are going to stay thirsty between tastings, so it’s not a bad idea to have a nice session beer on hand. And while it’s tempting to want to impress your guests with a high ABV, expensive beer for your “session” beer, your party is going to go a whole lot smoother if you stick small for the session.
We prefer to grab a fairly inexpensive, refreshing lager or pilsner for our session beers. You don’t want something that’s going to overpower or ruin your guests’ palates between samples, and smaller beers will be nice and unobtrusive. The whole idea of a session beer is to be drinkable in fairly large quantities, so selecting a beer with a fairly low ABV makes the most sense to us. We’ve even been known to grab some of the evil macro-brews as a session beer, as the light lager and pale pilsner categories can slake your thirst but keep you in great tasting shape.
For a really cost-effective party, find a local brew-pub that sells their beer in Growlers. A decent growler will only set you back around $8-14 per bottle, and you can get a decent low ABV mild ale, pilsner, or amber lager to keep your guests happy in between samplings.
Tip #3: The 3 H’s: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.
Let’s be real. You’re probably going to sample some pretty heavy beers. At our last tasting party, we didn’t sample anything below %8, and a couple of our bombers weighed in above 10% ABV. So unless you plan on running a hostel for drunkards overnight, you’re going to need to make sure everyone is drinking plenty of water. It’s easy and inexpensive to put pitchers of ice water out at your party, or better yet pickup a couple cases of bottled water and make sure your guests are drinking them.
Alcohol can dehydrate your body, and your guests are going to drink a lot of it. But if they’re heading off to pee every 20 minutes or so, then you’ll be doing your due diligence as a host keeping them hydrated.
Tip #4: Start Early and Pace Yourself
We once hosted a tasting party with a pretty large selection of expensive, hard to find beers. Within the first hour, our selection was almost entirely gone, leaving us fairly tipsy and extremely sad.
Serving your samples too close together is going to up the chances of over-embibing, and your palate needs time to recover between tastings if you really want to get the most out of your beer. Sampling no more than 1-3 beers each hour of your party will keep people happy, in a reasonable state of mind, and gives plenty of time for session drinks, water breaks, and those good times we all love so much.
Spread the good times out across a few hours and your guests will long remember your party.
Tip #5: Don’t Forget the Food
People love beer. But man, do people love food. If you want to serve up a memorable tasting party, then serve up a great selection of food that compliments your beer selections. With a BYOB party, there’s going to be a diverse mix of beers to try, and you want food that will compliment the beer.
It’s worth taking the time to do a little research on great food/beer pairings to make sure your party is a smash; we try to serve spicy food with hoppy beers, dark desserts with dark beers, and so on.
It’s also never a bad idea to have pretzels, nuts, and other high-carb snacks around. Pretzel rods are our “session snack” of choice, helping clear palates and fight hunger. Plus, the boost of carbs helps balance the alcohol intake, again helping your guests stay in tip-top tasting shape.
And if you’re still hoping to keep this a frugal affair, ask each guest to bring a bomber and an appetizer to share.
We think we’ve outlined some pretty great tips for serving a wonderful craft beer tasting party, and we’d love to hear your own tips and input. Now it’s time to go plan your next tasting!
Thoughts? Ideas? Opinions? Leave a comment or hit us at email@example.com