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How to Host a Beer Tasting Party

by Kristi Quill February 14, 2017

How to Host a Beer Tasting Party

hosting a beer tasting party

Food, beer and friends. What more do you need?

You really can’t go wrong with planning a beer tasting party. Still, there are lots of things you can do to inject the most fun possible into an evening at home. And given the vast array of craft beers and craft breweries that have cropped up around the nation in the last couple of decades, you can repeat the basic beer theme multiple times with beers from different breweries, different beer tasting party games and different beer tasting party ideas — and never tire of the experience.

No matter what, the beer will be the star of the show, and we’ll talk about that later. For now, let’s get down to the details of getting a basic party revved up.

Hosting Your Own Beer Tasting Party

There is no one way to do this, of course, but you should consider some basic elements and how you want to handle the event before you jump in to planning. Here are a few things to consider when you’re planning a beer tasting party:

1. The Guest List

It’s best to keep this relatively short. Even though it’s tempting to invite all your friends and relatives to a fun event, gathering too many people could turn your night into more of a beer bust than a tasting party. No more than 10 adult guests is ideal, but it doesn’t have to be an adult-only evening.

Craft root beers are available in grocery stores in most parts of the country, so you could put on a mini-tasting for the kids, too, if they are old enough, or just give them a little craft table or some other diversion to keep them occupied while the big people do their thing.

beer tasting party guest list

2. Invitations

You could just email your guest list and invite them to stop by, but you’ll get much better results with physical invitations. You can buy pre-made cards or make them yourself. What you put on them is limited only by your creativity, but try to tailor the content to your guest list.

If you’re inviting a bunch of adults, for example, note the great beer, naturally, but throw in some other attractions of the night, too. A good football game on the big screen? A pool table in your den? Anything that will set the mood you want for your party.

If you’re after families with kids, make sure the invitation makes it clear that kids are invited and tells the parents a bit of what there will be for the little ones to do.

3. Beer Tasting Party Decorations and Equipment

To find everything you might want or need for your beer tasting in one place, from rustic wall hangings to beer flight glasses and trays, consider The Broory Company Craft Beer Goods selection. These accessories, decor options and more give you a great set of basic building blocks to anchor your party. From there, you can add some cool touches of your own.

For instance, try some small chalkboards to label what’s what and make sure your guests have one, too, so they can keep track of their favorite brews. You’ll likely have some food around, so beer cartons from the craft brews you’re serving can hold condiments and any utensils, writing or otherwise. Also, craft breweries commission some of the finest graphic art that’s produced in the country to decorate their brands, so you might as well use it to decorate your table as well.

If you want to go a little more upscale for your condiment and silverware holders, consider something like a tin farmhouse caddy or two. It’s just best to keep things on the rustic side. Beer meshes with good farmhouse ware, not fine china.

If you’re doing a seasonal beer tasting, consider adding the season to your décor. Some fall leaves for a harvest ale tasting will work well around the table, for example, or a box or two of vintage winter snowflakes could add a frosty look to your Christmas ale selections.

Aside from your tasting event, this is a beer party, so fill some large tubs with ice to keep your extra brews cold. You can line the tubs with trash bags to keep them from leaking, if that’s a concern.

Consider setting up a separate tub for sodas, water and root beer so the kids will know where to look. Adults who want to take a break from the alcohol will appreciate that, too.

Finally, you should keep a bucket near your tasting table with a pitcher of water nearby so guests can rinse their tasting glasses. Don’t scrimp on this and use a plastic bucket. A good metal one, lined with plastic if necessary, is more attractive. Remember, you taste with your eyes and nose as much as you do with your tongue.

4. The Food

Food and beer are so intertwined that it would be a crime to serve one without the other. And on a practical note, giving your guests something to snack on between beer tastes and full beers will help absorb the alcohol and keep things from turning too boozy.

What kinds of food to include in a beer tasting party is wide open as well, but it’s fun to try to focus it both on the beer and on your area. If you live near a seacoast, for example, consider featuring some cold shrimp and crab and go with a selection of crisp lagers for your tasting.

If it’s farm country at harvest time, fresh fruits and vegetables from the nearest farm stand are a hit, paired with ales. And since beer is the centerpiece, soft pretzels, mustards, cold meats, cheeses and some good German sauerkraut are always a great fit.

Serving your main items on a sturdy cutting board is a great way to tie the natural robustness of your beers to the rusticity of your food spread.

beer tasting food

5. Tasting Accessories

Giving beers a proper tasting doesn’t require a lot of special equipment, but having the right things on hand can certainly add to the experience.

If you splurge on anything, consider investing in a few craft beer flights, also sometimes called a beer flight tasting kit, a beer sampling kit or a beer tasting kit, to bring the experience of a good brew pub to the heart of your party. It’s best if you can provide a flight for each guest. We’ll get to the reason for this next.

The Main Event

A good beer flight is a tray of four glasses sized for tasting, not for downing full 12-oz. beers. To get the full flavor of a beer, a taste is considered 4 oz. in most pubs, and the perfect tasting glass will leave a little extra room for the beer’s aromas to build inside the glass before you drink it.

You could set up your flights with four full-sized beer glasses poured only a third full with no tray, but the aromas tend to dissipate a bit too much in such a large glass. It’s tougher to judge your pour amounts correctly — and it’s tougher for your guests to keep their tastings straight without the tray to keep the gaggle of glasses organized.

For all of those reasons, the best beer flight sampling kit will include four glasses of about 5 oz. capacity each.

And once that bit of detail is in place, you’re ready to set up your tasting.

The choice of beers is wide open and up to you, but since the whole point is to get your guests to concentrate on the flavors of their drinks, it’s good to set up some sort of a theme with contrasts between your selections.

For example, you could sample holiday brews from four different craft breweries, select four brews from a single brewery or select similar brews from different regions around the country and compare their styles. The possibilities are truly endless.

To go through a flight tasting, pour each flight so the lightest beer is on the left, with each one growing heavier. This refers to the taste, not the color — some light beers will be hoppier or heavier flavored with some other ingredient than darker beers, so the lighter flavors should go first.

beer flight set

Beer Tasting Score Card

You’ll want to come up with some sort of a tasting card for each guest to take notes on each beer as they taste it. Score things any way you’d like, but including a section for color is good, as is a section for aroma, taste and maybe palate, or feel. Finally, include some way to rate the beer overall — say, 1 to 10, or Foul to Tasty to Gotta Have More.

The tasting part of this is where you’ll find the most interesting conversations starting as you and your guests realize how uniquely people will react to the same flavors. To get this started, use your imagination on your taste, color and aroma labels. A beer might taste tart, bitter, spicy, fruity, sweet or high octane, for example. It might smell of citrus, sage, chocolate, burnt malt, spices or hops.

Instead of yellow to brown for colors, try golden to amber to red to dark brown and black. And the palate? Maybe it’s thin, full-bodied, medium, fizzy or downright chewy.

If you are feeling adventurous, you could go through two or three flights per guest with a different set of taste contrasts in each flight. Just have your guests rinse their glasses with the fresh water and bucket you provided near the table. Since there are only 4 oz. per pour, each flight will hold only 16 oz. — one really large regular beer — so you’re unlikely to wipe out anyone’s sobriety too substantially with a flight or two, unless you race through the whole series in 15 minutes.

And if you do, that’s what Uber and Lyft are for.

The tasting, of course, likely will not be the end of the evening so, depending on the number of guests you have invited, it would be good to keep an extra six pack of each of your tasting beers in the ice tub for guests who want a couple more of the ones they really liked.

Best Beers for a Beer Tasting Party

The beer you choose for your party is the factor that makes the event uniquely yours. The playing field is wide open here, but your party can take on more charm and interest if you choose your selections with some kind of theme in mind.

For example, if you and a few of your friends brew your own beers, your theme is obvious — have a tasting party to compare them.

If you decide to stick to commercial beers, pick your selections with some idea of how they might create interesting conversations at your tasting table. Many regions in the country have sprouted multiple craft breweries and brew pubs in recent years, so consider tasting a selection of a particular type of beers from your region. You could also base your selection on season with lagers in the summer, or stouts and porters in winter. You could do the same with specific seasonal beers that often include a wide array of flavor themes, from pumpkin and spice in the fall to any number of Christmas-related flavors in winter.

You may find that your selections will lead to conversations that drift far from the tasting to stories of travels, holidays past or favorite Christmas flavors — or just weird flavors your guests have tried in beers. That’s where the fun is!

beer tasting party breweries

Beer Tasting Party Games

Games are a great way to get the fun jump-started.

The blind tasting game is one of the most popular beer tasting party games. Wrap each bottle in brown paper as you serve it, then place an empty bottle of each beer type in a row in the order you served them.

The guests try to guess what each serving was. If you’re tasting a lager, an ale, a stout and a porter, you could just have them pick which type is which. If your friends are real beer whizzes, have them try to figure out which brewery each beer came from. Or, if you’re going with beers that all came from the same brewery, have them pick which is which — for example, which was the lager, the ale, the porter or the stout.

Come up with some sort of a prize, maybe a six-pack or a custom bottle opener for the person who gets the most right.

If your friends are crafty types, you might have them make take-home prizes, like coasters made out of bottle caps from the party, or bottle cap Christmas ornaments. Have them vote on the best craft to win the grand prize.

Often, though, you and your guests will probably find that the tasting is its own reward whether you turn it into a sporting contest or not.

 A Few Words About Beer

Beer is one of the oldest of manmade substances. Archeologists believe it dates back to the dawn of cereal agriculture more than 10,000 years ago. It was probably a prehistoric farmer who let bread ferment for a day or two in water, then took a drink — or 10. The earliest beer recipe, found on a Sumerian carving, is 3,900 years old.

Aside from its alcohol content, beer has tantalized human palates for eons with the complexity of its flavors. A good beer can take on a bewildering array of personalities, depending on how the brewer chooses to treat its basic flavor ingredients — fermented grain, malted barley and hops. And it can take on even greater character with the added natural flavors that are as diverse as the flavors we can add to soups, candy or bread.

Today, the U.S. is in the midst of a craft beer revolution. The number of small breweries and brew pubs exploded from about 100 in 1985 to 4,269 by 2015, according to the Brewers Association. Exceeding the 4,000 mark has not been done since 1873.

That means there is more malty, hoppy, roasted, smoky, fruity, tart goodness for you and your friends to taste —and then taste again, as often as you’d like.

At Barn Owl Primitives, we have the accessories you need host the perfect beer party. Whether it’s beer flights, vintage and handmade signs, metal bins or something else you’d like to incorporate into your bash, you’ll find the perfect touch of whimsical sophistication right here.

Happy partying!

Kristi Quill
Kristi Quill


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