How to host a beer tasting party
Beer has many different characteristics thanks to its varied ingredients, with hundreds of malted barley varieties, yeast strains and hops.
Denis da Silva, SAB Brewer at Newlands Brewery in Cape Town believes that beer is more versatile than wine because “beer is food”.
“Beer is good, food is good, but nothing beats good food with good beer,” says Da Silva.
So here’s how to get started:
1. CONFIRM NUMBER OF GUESTS FOR CATERING
The number of guests determines the quantities you need for catering – in this case, the number of beers you need to purchase (and food to accompany).
A six-pack of each beer for a party of 20 people works out to be three servings per 340ml bottle of beer.
2. THE BEER
Provide your guests with a variety of flavours:
· CRISP: All round lightness, less body with a sharp crispness and gentle lingering bitterness, like Castle LITE.
· HOP: Hop bitterness like a Hansa Pilsner with its unique Saaz hop or the Jacob’s Pale Ale from Newlands Spring Brewing Company with earthy and peppery notes.
· MALT: Clean, somewhat dry, somewhat bitter, never sweet lager like Castle Lager or some roasted, caramel, toffee notes from Jacobs Pale Ale.
· ROAST: Rich and smooth with roasted full mouthfeel, like Castle Milk Stout or some chocolate and coca notes from Choc Stout.
· FRUITY: Low bitterness with a distinctive fruity aroma and taste, like The Newlands Spring Co – Passionate Blond with its distinctive passion fruit aroma or Carver’s Weiss & Mountain Weiss with a zesty banana aroma with hints of clove and vanilla.
· FLAVOURED: There is a variety to select from – the Flying Fish range of low bitterness fruit flavoured beers (orange, lemon and apple), Castle LITE Lime or the most recently-launched Liberado, a tequila flavoured beer with fresh lemon notes.
3. SERVED CHILLED
Make sure you serve chilled beers to optimise the tasting experience.
Keep them in the fridge or an ice bucket until they are served.
In between beers, it is recommended to cleanse your palate with water.
The best part of a beer tasting (besides the beer, of course) is you are not limited to serving your beers in standard beer glassware.
Mix things up with a variety of glassware styles per beer style – standard/classic, snifter/goblet, tulip, flute, pilsner/weizen or stange.
Glasses with a wide bowl and narrow mouth help ‘trap’ the beer’s aromas in the glass, making for a better tasting experience. But don’t worry if you do not have a vast selection of glassware – all that matters is that it is clean with no soapy residues as this will kill your foam.
It is best to use smaller glassware in a beer tasting as you will only be pouring the beer into a third of the glass. Remember it is a taster only.
If you are only providing snacks, then make sure you have an assortment of low flavoured foods as to not compromise your palate – such as unsalted pretzels or crackers and raw vegetables (carrot and celery sticks).
7. PLATED COURSES
If you really want to wow your guests, host your beer tasting with a food pairing.
Take your time serving each dish because a beer and food pairing is best enjoyed slowly.
Depending on your resources and style, you can have fun setting up the décor for your beer tasting party.
You can label ice buckets with the various beers you will be tasting and have beer tasting key notes printed, explaining the beers you will be serving. You can even go as far as printing beer score sheets – allowing guests to score the beer tastes for themselves.
9. BLIND TASTER
If you are into party games, you could build a blind tasting into the evening’s proceedings. Away from eyeshot, pour a beer of your choice into jug and then serve to guests with the notion they need to guess what beer it is.
You can even have a prize for the correct guess – a six pack of their favourite beer or dinner on you.
10. DESIGNATED DRIVERS
Because you want your guests to drink responsibly, ensure everyone has booked a driving service to get them safely home.
11. EDUTAINMENT (education + information)
Encourage discussions among your guests so they are having fun while learning about the tastes of beer.