A beer tasting party is perfect to celebrate Oktoberfest, an adult birthday party or just a reason to get your friends together for a little fun – especially for a backyard BBQ in the summer.
Choose Your Beer
It’s best to choose 4 different beer to compare but there is so much choice in the theme:
- If your party is with close friends, ask each one to bring their favorite beer – enough for everyone at the party to taste test – to see how it holds up mano-a-mano against everyone else’s fav. Just ensure there are no duplicates.
- Have a seasonal choice such as pumpkin ales in the fall or Oktoberfest beer in October.
- Choose your favorite brewery and sample their different beer from light to dark.
- Compare domestic to imported beer.
- Compare different breweries in a particular style of beer such as stout, lager, ales.
You’ll need about a 1/2 a of bottle beer for each guest to sample, and extras for consumption later.
Once you’ve decided on the beer to taste test, find some background information on each one such as brewing history, the brewer’s tasting notes and where it’s brewed.
The Beer Glasses
You’ll need one glass for each beer sample served per person. (ie: 4 beers sampled by 6 people = 48 glasses) That’s a lot of glasses. Check with a party rental place (no washing!), or visit your local dollar store. You can use shot glasses, water glasses – whatever. The glass style should be the same for everyone for a particular beer – the different shapes can affect the aroma and the head – but each beer can have a different glass style if need be.
Beer is better in glasses, but you could also use plastic cups. Be sure to use clear ones so they can examine the color, purity and head of the beer.
You will also need glasses to serve water to cleanse the palate between beer choices.
Here’s how to have a party with Beer Bottles.
The Home Tasting Tool Kit is available from Home Wet Bar for $20.50 with everything you need for your Beer Tasting Party – especially if you’re serving beer in bottles rather than glasses.This beer tasting set was created by Jeff Alworth who has been writing about the craft of beer brewing for over a decade.
Features of the Beer is Art Tasting Tool Kit:
- The ultimate guide to beer perfect for the avid beer drinker
- A 48-page booklet that breaks down the types of beer with information about background and flavors
- Four beer journal notepads with a reference card which features words to describe what you taste
- 18 paper covers and twine so you can cover the labels
The Party Table
The Food Matches
It is important to cleanse the palate after each sampling and what better way to do that than with food?
Food lowers the alcohol level in the bloodstream and makes beer tasting a party.
When pairing beer with food, start by matching qualities in the beer with corresponding qualities in food. There’s a “food match” when the combination of beer and food creates a flavor sensation.
Here are some suggestions of food pairings:
Start by pairing beer with cheeses that compliment their flavor. Ask everyone to take a sip of beer and then taste its cheese counterpart. This is a great way to introduce the idea of taste testing, so make your first food match with a cheese.
Light beer, pilsners and fruit flavored ales are best paired with soft cheeses like brie, camembert and capricorn goat whose subtle flavor won’t overpower the beer.
Wheat beers pair well with tangy cheeses such as emmantal or swiss.
Stout, porter and dark, malty beers are best suited to the intense flavor of aged cheeses.
You can make them individual-sized or you can make them couple-sized for a Lady and the Tramp moment – German style.
They go well with Pilsners or lighter-bodied pale ales.
I saw Martha Stewart make these last week on Martha Bakes and they looked wonderful. You can find her recipe here.
If you don’t want to bake it from scratch but want the DIY homemade feel, use store-bought frozen bread dough:
- Cut dough into 12 pieces and roll into 18″ ropes.
- Shape each rope into the pretzel shape (see how here.)
- Put on a greased baking sheet and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven at 475. While you’re waiting, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 3 tbsp baking soda.
- Boil pretzels, 1-2 minutes per side, until puffy and shiny. Let them drain on a wire rack for a few minutes.
- Put pretzels on baking sheet, sprinkle with pretzel salt and bake until cooked through – about 15 minutes.
Pretzels should be stored in an air tight container when not being served. Reheat in oven at 250 for a few minutes for your party.
Try these Jug Sliders with amber lagers or pale ales.
Bacon Maple Cupcakes
These Bacon Maple Cupcakes go well with lighter-bodied pale ales or American craft-brewed stouts.
The Beer Tasting
Get Them Warmed Up
Get Them Set Up
Give each participant a score sheet and a pen:
- Want to keep it simple? Use the Beerology Evaluation Sheet.
- Want to make it “official” looking? Use the Homebrewers Association Beer Scoresheet.
Serve the beer:
Most types of beer should be served cool, so store them in your fridge and take them out before sampling. Take Pilsners out 15 minutes before tasting, wheats, pale ales and dark ales 25 minutes. High-alcohol beers should be served at room temperature so take them out of the fridge at least 45 minutes before tasting – more is better.
Fill the glasses:
Fill each glass only 1/3 full to allow space for the aroma, which is important in beer sampling. Make sure there is a head because it will be judged.
Order of serving:
Beer should be tasted from the lightest flavors to heaviest. Note that it’s not by color but by flavor. The beer with the most hops and alcohol content should be left to last because they have the heaviest flavor.
On with the Judging
Explain how to taste test beer. With wine tasting there’s swishing – not so with beer because it is tasted at the back of the tongue. Take a sip and reflect on the flavor.
As they sip each beer, remind them of what they’re looking for:
- Hold the glass up to the light and note the color of the beer.
- Decide on the clarity ranging from brilliant to cloudy.
- Is the head thick or thin? If it has peaks it is considered “rocky”.
- If there is a thick head that lingers it is considered a well-crafted beer.
- As you drink your beer note the pattern the foam leaves on the glass – this is call Belgian lace – more pattern means better beer quality.
- Sniffing the beer opens up the palate for tasting. If you can’t discover an aroma, swirl the beer in your glass (or try the Aroma Booster).
- Decide if it smells hoppy (sharp), malty (sweet) or fruity.
- Do you like the aroma – or not?
- The first sip can taste different from the after taste, so pay close attention to your initial sensation.
- Beer is tasted at the back of the tongue, so take a minute to hold the beer in your mouth before swallowing.
- How intense is the flavor? How bitter?
- Compare the taste to other foods you know.
- This is important in beer tasting and refers to the texture of the beer in your mouth, not the taste. Is it silky, heavy, fizzy?
- High alcohol beer can feel warm compared to bitter beer that feels astringent.
- Is it pleasant or unpleasant?
- Take a second and third sip with pauses between each.
- What are the lingering flavors after you swallow? Are they different from the first sip? How?
- Is the after taste sweet or bitter?
- Did you find the taste lively, balanced or flat?
Now pair with the food choice and record how the beer taste changes itself or enhances the taste of the food.
Cleanse the palate with water before moving on to the next beer.
Continue until all beer has been tasted and the results have been tallied. Which beer was the favorite? If your friends contributed their choices for the beer tasting party, consider giving the winner a prize.
Want to Put More Play in your Beer Tasting Party?
Put the party into your beer tasting with the Beer Nerd Board Game.
Set up for four players, each person moves around the board answering trivia questions that test their technical and historical knowledge of beer – about stouts, hops, brewing techniques, and more (such as What is the difference between English and American pale ales? What led monks to become commercial brewers?)
Trivia questions range from general to really specific, and are challenging but not too obscure.
If they land on a blind taste test, they take a sip and try to identify the brew from 3 pre-selected beers. (Its more fun if you select beer choices that are close in color and/or taste to make it more difficult.)
Can add more players by including your own play pieces because there are many trivia cards.
Available from Uncommon Goods for $35
Prizes or Party Favor Ideas
You could send home a few bottles of your homebrew or your favorite beer, but don’t you think these gift ideas are more fun?
($28 set of 4 from Uncommon Goods)
Set includes one 8 oz jar each of IPA, Black IPA, Porter and Oatmeal Stout.
The traditional ingredients of beer (hops, malt and yeast) are rendered into jellies that balance malty sweetness with the hop profiles of the beer styles used: floral and spicy notes in the IPA and Black IPA, smoky-sweet in the porter, roasty and earthy in the stout.
Add a distinctive touch to cheese platters, use them to glaze meats, mix them in cocktails and salad dressings, use them for irresistible baking (like peanut butter and porter muffins), or indulge in a grown-up PB & J. Handmade in Waterbury Center, VT.
Draft Beer Jelly Belly allows you to enjoy the taste of a freshly poured draft beer without the alcohol. Jewel-like finish for a fresh from the tap bubbly look. Case of 12 Draft Beer Jelly Belly 3.5 oz packages for $26.99 from Jelly Belly
($40 Uncommon Goods)
Includes metal lamp frame and lamp base. Finished lamp: 15″ H x 9″ dia., Upper Ring: 2.6″ dia, Lower Ring: 1.8″ dia. Bottles not included. 60W compact fluorescent lightbulb included.
I hope this helps you plan the style of beer tasting party that your group of friends enjoy most.