Looking for an excuse to throw a beer party?
Look no further. Beer tasting parties are trendy and hugely popular on the international party scene. What better way to please your guests than to plan a beer tasting event? Invite your beer-loving friends and any party lovers who would enjoy exploring the contemporary beer scene.
Most adults, at some time, have been to wine tasting events—and the formula is well known. Wine tasting parties tend to be rather restrained affairs that require much effort on the part of the host to “get the party going.” However, beer-tasting events are quite the opposite.
Perhaps the popularity of beer tasting over wine tasting has something to do with the difference in etiquette: where wine tasters are obliged to spit out their samples, beer tasters actually consume the beer in order to appreciate its merits!
In short, beer theme parties seem to attract the types of guests who are keen to party. No wonder the new breed of beer tasting events is so popular!
Choosing Beers for Beer Tasting Parties
Keep things simple. Choose no more than ten to twelve different beers. Aim for a range of different types and styles of beer: pale, dark, hoppy, malty, lambic, non-lambic, etc.
Here are some suggestions for beer samples:
- Ayinger Bräu Weisse has a fresh, fruity flavor.
- Celebrator Dopplebock is strong, dark and deliciously rich.
- Cooper & Sons Ale is a great summer beer from Australia.
- Marston’s Pedigree has excellent balance between malty and hoppy flavors.
- Durham Brewery Temptation, formerly called Imperial Russian stout, has dark treacle and coffee flavors.
- Geary’s Special Hampshire Ale is hoppy with a fruity citrus finish.
- Lindemans Framboise Lambic is yeast-free beer with an exquisite raspberry flavor.
- Old Suffolk has a rich chocolate flavor.
- Orval Trappist Ale has complex flavors and an impressive head.
- Samuel Smith Old Brewery Pale Ale is an elegant, classic pale ale.
Serving Beer and Food
Serve a buffet-style selection of food that pairs particularly well with all types of beers. Invite guests to cleanse their palates between beer tastings by nibbling on the different foods.
Aim to choose foods that complement your beer menu; avoid serving foods that are too strongly flavored or overly spicy as these may dominate the flavors of the beers. Safe bets include bread-based nibbles, crackers, fruit, crudités, mild cheeses and cold meats.
However, bear in mind that half the fun of a beer tasting bash is the joy of trying out different foods that go well with beer. Provide a few more unusual treats such as patés, pickles, smoked sausages and even chocolate-based creations. You can guarantee that as the evening progresses, the guests will become more adventurous!
Tips for Throwing Beer Tasting Events
The following tips will help you throw a successful beer tasting party:
- Provide score sheets with a point system. Rate the beers according to appearance, bouquet, flavor, texture, final taste and overall impressions. Add a section for notes and observations.
- Start the beer tasting session with the subtlest flavored first, progressing to the more intense flavored beers.
- Pour three or four ounces per sample into the guests’ glasses. Make sure the beer glasses are spotlessly clean to avoid tainting the flavors.
- Serve ales at a temperature of around 55°F, lagers at a cooler 45°F.
- Pool your expertise; encourage guests to exchange tasting notes.
- Don’t rush through the beer tasting session; savor each beer at leisure. Cheers!
Useful Beer Tasting Terms
You may also want to pass out sheets with the following beer tasting terms. Inexperienced beer drinkers may find it helpful as they try to pin down the differences between beers.
- Amber describes medium intensity colored beers, ranging between pale and dark.
- Balance, as with wine, describes how a good beer should exhibit a perfect balance of ingredients, bouquet, texture and aroma. Neither the malty sweetness nor the hoppy bitterness should dominate.
- Bitterness in beer comes from the hops. Generally the higher the hop content, the more bitter the beer.
- Big beer refers to the richness or fullness of flavor derived from the malt. Big beers often have a high alcohol content.
- Black describes non-transparent, deep, dark brown beers.
- Body, as with wine, refers to the “mouthfeel,” the impact and texture of the beer on the palate.
- Bouquet , another wine tasting term, describes the beer’s complex aromas.
- Caramel refers to a buttery, toffee-flavored aftertaste.
- Clean refers to pure, crisp, fresh tasting beer, free of sediment. The opposite of clean is cloying.
- Clove refers to the flavor of wheat beers that often resembles the taste of cloves.
- Crisp, often associated with lagers and weiss beers, refers to a beer’s acidity and refreshing qualities.
- Depth denotes both the beer’s richness and its complexity of flavors.
- Finish, another wine tasting term, describes a beer’s aftertaste and your final impression of it.
- Flat refers to characterless, dull, insipid, often insufficiently carbonated beer.
- Flowery refers to the flowery aroma hops give beer.
- Fresh refers to a beer free from oxidation.
- Full-bodied characterizes malty beers with complex flavors.
- Haze, caused by yeast or protein suspension, refers to a cloudy appearance and slightly musty taste.
- The head is the frothy top layer that forms when beer is poured into a glass.
- Hoppy refers to a beer with a high hop content.
- Malty is the term for sweet, smoky, earthy flavored beers that have undertones of treacle, caramel or molasses.
- Oxidized, like wine, refers to the liquid’s exposure to oxygen.
- Smooth characterizes easy drinking beers with great mouthfeel.
- Spicy refers to a distinctly hoppy flavor or the aroma of herbs.
- Thin refers to a watery, one-dimensional beer that lacks body or character.