If you’d prefer to have friends over for finely crafted brews instead of heading to the fairgrounds for a rowdy Oktoberfest, consider celebrating the holiday that honors beer with a tasting party. Rather than fighting the crowds, your guests will enjoy a varied selection of the best brews in an intimate setting. However, it takes more effort than picking up a 12-pack to host a classy tasting party. If you’re in the dark about beer tasting etiquette, just follow these steps to make your get-together a success:
Surprise with a Themed Invite: Start by inviting your guests with beer-themed invites. We offer a variety of fun personalized Oktoberfest party invitations, or try making your own in the shape of a beer bottle or mug.
Choose the Right Beers: There are a variety of ways to pick the right brews for the guests at your party.
- Buy a range of beers at random, different types of beer as well as brands.
- Focus your party on a certain type of brew – ale, lager, stout, pilsner, wheat, etc.
- BYOB! Ask guests to bring their favorite six or twelve pack to the event (just make sure there are no repeats or poor quality beers beforehand). This approach will spark conversation as guests discuss the qualities of their favorite brews.
- Have a Brew Off! Compare and contrast two types of beers. Domestic vs. Imported. Microbrew vs. National Brand. East vs. West Coast.
- If you are part of a beer savvy group, find a few home brews (including those made by your guests!).
- Try choosing beers for particular seasons (Winter/Christmas Ales, etc.).
Serving Classy Beers in a Classy Way: With numerous beers to choose from, make sure friends understand how to progress through the beer tasting, especially if a few have never been to a one before.
- Clearly display a bottle of each beer. The bottles may be separated on a long bar, or you could organize the beers by having each type on the top of separate small round tops, creating “tasting stations” to travel between.
- Surround each bottle of brew with numerous beer tasting glasses filled with just 3 ounces of beer apiece. (You don’t want your guests falling down after tasting only three beers!) Avoid plastic and Styrofoam cups, and remember that the wider the glass, the better the beer will taste (due largely in part to the nose’s access to the aroma).
- Provide a card for each beer, describing its origin, maker, and flavor. Try placing the card in a picture frame, so it is protected, clearly displayed, and looks classy.
- Offer full-sized glasses and additional bottles of each beer in an extra cooler, so guests can have a glass of their favorite during and after the tasting.
Guiding Guests through the Tasting: At a beer tasting, brews are often served from the lightest to heaviest beers (determined by alcohol content or hoppiness, not by color), so the drinker’s palate is not overwhelmed by the flavors. To make sure guests aren’t confused about which beers to drink first, make sure you clearly identify the order of your brews. If you have a long bar, organize them from lightest to heaviest along it, and advise guests to work from one end to the other. Another option is to number the beers, so guests know to start with 1, 2, and 3 before jumping to 9 and 10.
Judging the Brews: Hand each guest a judging card (there are many versions available for free online) as they enter. Your guests should judge each beer on the following characteristics: Aroma, Appearance, Flavor, Mouthfeel, and Overall Impression. Once guests are done judging, tabulate the scores and award a first, second, and third prize. Surprise your friends by raffling off a six-pack of the three winners!
Pairing Your Beers with Food: To counteract the dizzying effects of alcohol and to cleanse the palate, make sure to offer a variety of munchies for guests to grab. Bowls of pretzels, crackers and cheese, a fruit or vegetable platter, and chips and dip work well.
Beer Tasting Party Favors: Send friends home with one of these ideas.
- Try a beer stein filled with caramel corn and a list of all the beers they’ve tried over the course of the evening.
- Give each guest an empty six-pack, and let them fill it with beers from the evening, mix and match style.
- Make soft pretzels and individually wrap them. Send one home with each guest along with the recipe!
- Bags of pretzels or peanuts will do the trick if you add a themed beer bottle/mug tag saying thank you.
- Try one of Party411.com’s awesome Oktoberfest party favors!