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Hosting a Beer Tasting Party

If you’re a beer aficionado and have lots of friends who share your passion for this foamy drink, perhaps you’ve considered hosting a beer tasting party. Tasting parties are quite popular these days and – like wine tasting – they are designed to bring beer fans together to allow them to experience different types of this popular beverage.
Beer tasting – unlike the college “kegger” – is serious business and meant only for those who really want to learn more about beer, not for those who are just interested in obtaining a buzz for the evening. It’s an opportunity to compare notes, share opinions, and form new favorites in the fascinating world of this popular alcoholic beverage. Here are a few quick tips on how to organize a beer tasting event.

o Keep it small – You’ll find that serious beer drinkers, like wine fans, prefer to gather in small groups, so limit your tasting party to about 6 to 10 guests. Limiting the number of guests makes it less likely that the tasting will develop into a party and become more difficult to manage. Also, it requires that you purchase less beer, therefore keeping the cost to a minimum.

o Choose a theme – Like any party, it’s good to go with a theme for your beer tasting. You may want to limit the tasting to beers from a particular country, like Germany or Belgium, or may choose to highlight a style, like ales, pilsners, or wheat beers. You may be limited to what you can buy in the area where you live, so do a little window shopping first before you decide on your focus.

o Purchase ample amounts of beer, but not too much. – You want to have enough beer for tasting plus a few extra bottles for after tasting, so guests can try more of their new favorites. A good rule of thumb for the tasting portion of the evening is to figure on 4 ounces of each beer per person or – in most cases – a bottle of beer (usually about 12 oz.) for every 3 people. Tasting party experts say that provides enough beer for more than one swallow so that guests can truly taste enough to form an opinion.

o Store the beer properly before the party – Different kinds of beer should be kept at different temperatures for the best results and so that guests can gather all the flavor possible from their sips. Lagers, wheat beers and lighter beers should be served at cooler temperatures of around 35°F to 45°F, while ales are better at warmer temps of about 40°F to 50°F. Always keep bottles upright so the taste isn’t polluted by the metal cap and don’t shake it. The fresher, the better, so buy your beer just before the party.

o Organize the beers – Like wine, there should be an order in which the beers are tasted. Most often, you’ll offer the lightest in flavor first and progress to the heaviest. You may be tempted to organize by color, but that’s not always accurate because some companies use coloring to make their beers look darker.

o Include some light food – Unless you’re doing a beer and food pairing dinner, you don’t need to serve a large meal during your tasting party. Cheese and bread or crackers are a good idea, and the latter can serve to cleanse the palate between sips. Have a pitcher of water available as well.

o Consider a blind tasting – Lots of beer lovers have pre-conceived notions about certain kinds of beers, so it’s often a good idea not to reveal the name or type until after each tasting. This allows your guests to keep a more open mind. In addition, you may want to provide them with a notebook and pencil so they can jot down what they like (or don’t like) about each beer.