Beer tastings are one of my favorite things to attend. It can be a well organized tasting at a bar, or simply having some friends over to taste a selection of beers we’re all sharing. Whatever the case, a good beer tasting breeds conversation and friendship while letting you try a variety of beers. In this post I will give you the basics of hosting your own beer tasting event.
Planning Your Tasting
Planning the beer tasting is the most important step. Remember, though, that a beer tasting is supposed to be fun, so don’t over-plan. Ideally the key ingredients to a good beer tasting are beer and food. Make sure to have a variety of beers to taste and some palate cleansing food to provide between beers.
Let’s look at the beer first. A great beer tasting has a general theme or goal attached to it. For example, tasting different IPAs or Christmas beers. You want to give a basic framework to the tasting to make sure it’s not just a regular night of drinking. A few good ideas are:
- Wine vs beer
- Traverse the range of basic styles. (Stout, Porter, Barleywine, Pale Ale, IPA)
- Stick to a specific style and get some offerings within it.(Different IPAs, Stouts, etc)
- Use a seasonal theme. (pumpkin beers, winter beers, summer beers)
- Sessionable beers (4% ABV or below)
- High alcohol beers (8% ABV or above)
There’s a ton of ideas out there. Be creative with it and everyone will have a great time. You could even get really interesting and pick all beers that play on the word “hops”(hopslam, hoptimus prime, etc) or all beers that have an animal on the label! Whatever you want to do, it’s your tasting.
Next, you want to have food to pair with the beer. Now, we don’t need to get into pairing a food with each beer, we’re doing a tasting here, not a beer dinner (which can also be fun). We just need to make sure there are palate cleansers available like bread, popcorn, basic crackers, and maybe even some light cheeses. Things to munch on while you drink that will not only cleanse the palate, but give you some food with your alcohol. Steer clear of salty or overpowering tastes when providing snacks as to not detract from the beer. I’d also recommend a few more substantial food stuffs for before or after the tasting, so no one leaves hungry. Deserts are a great idea, too!
2. Ordering The Beers
I don’t mean ordering from a bar here, I am talking about setting the proper oeach beer, it’s recommended that you taste in order of bitterness. This is where IBUs come in handy. A basic way of ordering the tasting is to do it by IBUs, or International Bitterness Units. Try the least bitter first and work your way up to the most bitter. This also goes for any beers with really strong tastes. Offer the weakest tasting beers first and move to the strongest. This assures you really taste each beer without your palate being wrecked.
3. Serving The Beer
We’ve talked about how to serve beer before, but here it’s worth mentioning again. Make sure all the beers are at their proper serving temperature. This can be done by storing upright in your fridge and removing the higher temperature beers a little bit before serving. I recommend using the most correct glassware possible, but ideally festival taster glasses or better yet, all snifters, are great to use. whatever glassware you use, make sure everyone has the same style glass so they all experience the beer the same way. Give everyone an equal amount of the beer and make sure the glasses are washed out between beers.
4. Tasting The Beer
After everything is set up and the beer has been served, it’s time to actually taste the beer. Have everyone describe the beer using food terms and descriptors if they are not beer smart. See what the general consensus is before moving on the the next beer. Depending on how big a bottle you are using and the size of the sample, this is a great time to allow a second serving for anyone wanting it, if there is any left.
Wrapping It Up
Here’s the quick and dirty version of a beer tasting:
- Plan the tasting and what beers will be present.
- Make sure you have some snacks and palate cleansers, including water.
- Order the beers you choose for the tasting from lightest taste/alcohol to highest taste/alcohol.
- Serve the beer in taster glasses or snifters, make sure everyone has a similar glass.
- Taste the beer by describing it using food terms, and allow everyone to have a say. Tasting beer is an individual experience, making it subjective.
That’s it! Now you’re ready to host a beer tasting for your friends. Have everyone bring a bottle matching up with the theme you chose, and have at it! Remember, this should be fun, so don’t stress about the details. Enjoy good beer with good friends and show off what you learned, while not being a beer snob!
Until next time,