I love hosting parties. Since my love affair with beer went into overdrive, I’ve made it my business to introduce my friends to different brews with impromptu tastings at my East Atlanta condo. There’s always beer in the ‘fridge and my friends are always eager to taste.
Since launching ABB, I’ve continued to host tastings but on a more formal level. They’re still pretty laid back, interactive and fun, each with its own special twist. Still, at the core of each tasting event are a few basic principles. I’ve abbreviated them here for you to use at your own at-home beer tasting event.
Step 1: Pick a Theme
It could be as simple as hosting a tasting by style [an all IPA tasting; a journey through Barleywines], a food pairing [think: beer + cheese, beer + chocolate] or a blind tasting that encourages guests to rely on their sense of smell and taste [bottles concealed]. Have fun – the possibilities are endless! Click here for more theme ideas
Step 2: Collect Your Tasting Tools
You’ll need a few, low cost but effective tools to pull off your tasting like a pro. To organize the brews that guests will taste, I suggest using a tasting mat. You can download a mat for free or make your own super cool chalkboard style mat-slash-tablecloth.
You’ll also want guests to be able to take note of and/or rate the beers they taste. Scoresheets are a great tool and the Glitter Guide has some great, free downloadables.Coordinating tools with your tasting theme is also a great idea. If you’re going with the blind tasting theme, you may want to conceal the bottles. There are all sorts of bottle cover solutions – from the very economical brown paper bag to these fancy looking [but easy to do] printable beer labels brought to you by Mad In Crafts [shown below].
Step 3: Check Your Set Up
There are a few things that you need to have in place in order to make your crib beer tasting ready. Here they are:
- A long table, countertop or bar with enough room for glassware, bottles and other tasting stuff.
- Good lighting so guests can take note of the beer color and appearance.
- Glassware! Many use plastic cups but I recommend wineglasses for beer tastings with 3 oz pours – you need something with a slightly tapered rim and room to swirl! [I go to Ikea for my very low cost stemware]
- Light snacks [pretzels, salted popcorn, nuts]
- Water for rinsing glasses and palates
- Discard buckets [for shame]
Step 4: Do Your Homework!
As the host, you’ll need to prep for the party. Start by getting to know the beers you’re presenting. A few things to be sure you look up:
- Brewery history
- Alcohol by Volume [ABV]
- Style background – Check out my favorite tool
- Unique ingredients, spices or qualities of the brew
- Bitterness, also know as International Bitterness Units [IBU]
- Proper serving temperatures & glassware – Find that info here, too!
- Food pairing ideas
- How to properly taste beer – Here’s a great tool with all of the basic steps.
Knowing this stuff will make you sound like a boss!
Step 5: Host Your Tasting!
It’s tasting day and you’re pumped [and thirsty]. Run over this quick checklist to be sure you have everything you need:
- Set up Tasting Area – mats, scorecards, pens
- Refrigerate Beer Well in Advance – Test the temperatures before guests arrive and throughout the tasting!
- Being with a review of how to taste with your guests
- Pour Up! Progress from lower to higher ABV + from less to more hoppy beers.
- Rinse + snack between tastes – have water and snacks handy.
- Discuss + Enjoy!
I hope this quick reference is helpful as you plan to host your own at-home tasting! If you’re in the metro Atlanta area, have read this guide and still don’t want to DIY, give me a shout – I’d love to come host one for you and your friends!