Hosting a successful beer tasting event for friends and family is easy, fun and educational: You’ll never again be able to just pick up a six pack at the grocery store without scrutinizing the ingredients and origins of your choice brew.
You’ve probably sampled wines at tasting parties or wineries, but as microbreweries pop up all over the world and beer flavours multiply, beer tasting parties are taking center stage. A beer tasting party is simple to organize and host by following just a few steps and guidelines. Customize all the aspects based on the tastes and preferences of your guests.
People who have never tasted anything but run-of-the-mill lagers and pilsners are typically leery of new beers, so gently lead them into new pastures with light-coloured beers. Although darker beer is generally associated with heavy tastes, golden, blonde and light pale ales have distinct flavours that make them perfect for crossover beer drinkers. If your guests are beer aficionados who regularly pick the newest, trendiest beer in the cooler, indulge them with a selection of dark and light varieties. For the beer lover on a diet — and you know there will be at least one in the crowd — offer a selection of full-flavoured, low-carb/low-cal beers such as Molson 67.
Besides ingredients, temperature is the biggest influence on the taste of beer. Regardless of the type of beer, it should be stored between 7 degrees C and 13 degrees C. To maintain optimum flavour, store the beer upright and away from direct light, and keep its environment consistent. An extra refrigerator set to the correct temperature and devoted to beer chilling is perfect. Serve lighter beers like lagers and pilsners between 7 degrees C and 10 degrees C, standard ales and stouts between 10 degrees C and 13 degrees C, and strong beers and ales between 13 degrees C and 16 degrees C. A good rule of thumb to follow is the higher the alcohol content, the higher the preferred serving temperature.
Setting up the venue
While pilsner glasses or beer pint glasses are a nice touch, it’s fine to use wine goblets or tumblers for serving. Avoid plastic, paper or metal containers that impart beer with off tastes. Serve the varieties one at a time and have pitchers of water and water glasses available for guests to cleanse their palates in between tastings, as well as a rinsing station for glasses to avoid mixing beer flavours. Spittoons are not appropriate because, unlike wine, beer has to be swallowed for the tastes to be appreciated and analyzed. Provide mildly seasoned crackers or lightly salted popcorn to keep palates fresh. Avoid spicy or salty foods that confuse the taste buds.
Lighten up the party with blind tastings of specified brands and types. List all the offerings on a large erasable board and let each person rate them on a scale of one to 10 for appearance, flavour, head quality and aftertaste. Create a door prize by filling a decorative basket with one bottle of each featured beer.
At the end of the party, you and your guests will be more “beer educated” — and what better setting is there to get an education? You may not agree on what beer is best, but the path to learning couldn’t be more fun to navigate.