Hosting a beer tasting is a lot like hosting any other type of party: how you do it depends on your style and personality.
A tasting can be a formal ‘sit down’ food and beer pairing, or an informal gathering of friends who enjoy good beer and company. Whatever your hosting style, remember that beer tasting is a social event, and any way you serve it, your guests are bound to have a great time.
The Brew Your first step should revolve around the party’s premise: Beer. Now you just need to narrow it down from the some 20,000 brands of beer available to 5-10 selections. Don’t worry; it’s not as daunting as it sounds. Think in terms of a theme for the night when making your tasting selections. Perhaps you are an imported beer fan, or your guests prefer a certain group of micro-breweries. You may choose to limit your tasting to certain regions, seasonal beers, high-alcohol brews, or a specific style of beer. Another option is the ‘everyone bring their favorite six-pack’ tasting. There are, however, some pros and some pitfalls to BYOB. On a positive note, it allows your guests to take part in determining the tasting menu, it lightens your expenses as the host, and gives you an opportunity to try something you might not otherwise have encountered. The drawbacks? BYOB brings in a huge element of surprise – and not always in a good way. In order to avoid 10 six-packs of Coors Light, it may be necessary to have guests ‘sign up’ for what they plan to bring to your party, or to assign guests a style and price range for their contribution.
The Order Most enthusiasts prefer to taste beers much like wine is tasted: from lightest to darkest in color and flavor. For example, try arranging your tasting order in a hierarchy by color, aroma, and style of beer. The lighter aromas, such as floral, citrus, and peaches should be earlier in the tasting, whereas heavier aromas, like chocolate, coffee, and anise, should be at the end. Limit your beer tasting to 10 different selections or styles; this allows for a big variety, but doesn’t wear out the palate. Pour a little of each beer into a glass and arrange them from lightest to darkest, then smell them to see if they are in the right order.
By the way, have you thought about what you plan to use for glasses for your tasting? Read on for some pointers and suggestions.