Lifestyle & Seasonal

Host a beer tasting party on the patio

It’s time to get outside and do something a little different. A beer tasting party can be a sophisticated or simple home-brewed kind of affair.

Beer runs the gamut from simple, mass-produced ale to complex microbrews. A beer tasting party hosted on your own personal outdoor bar or patio is easy to set up and has high “edutainment” (entertaining education) value.

Find fine brews

For your tasting, pick a category. High-end, low-brow or a range of beers sets the party’s theme. Ales, stouts, or pilsners is another category choice to make. Five or so main beers will provide ample tasting opportunities for guests.

Glass or mini kegs

Serious beer enthusiasts insist on kegs of beer, as kegs deliver the most authentic taste. But unless you are having a party for over 100 people, stick with a mini keg for each beer. The next best option is bottles. Cans are better left to the tailgating parties, but if cans are the only option available for the beer you want to try, go for it. Provide clear glasses for pouring out.

The method

Beer tasting is very similar to wine tasting. In fact, tasting as an activity often follows the same rules: look, swirl, sniff then taste. Use these other senses first before you bring the substance into your mouth. Once the beer in in your mouth, don’t gulp it down. Let it sit for several seconds. The complexities of brews come out when the beer has time to hit all the taste centers on the tongue. Swallow or spit it out (like at wine tastings). Note: beer is best tasted cool, not cold. Coldness often masks the taste, so let the beer warm ever so slightly before serving.

The criteria

Since this is your party, you can choose the beer and how you and your guests will judge the beers. Usually at a tasting party, taste is the main factor. But with formal beer contests, the color, the head, and the body of the liquid are also assessed. It’s up to you how official your beer tasting will be.

Food for thought

Hearty picnic food will provide a good balance to the alcohol. Match your beer category with the meal. The brewers in any region construct their brews to go with the local faire. For example, German beers go with grilled bratwurst and sauerkraut on big fluffy rolls, and German-style soft, salty pretzels provide a taste-neutralizer guests can nibble on. Aligning the foods with the beers helps tasters absorb the subtler complexities of the brews.

Thinking of hosting a tasting party? Read our Beer Garden blog for how to set the stage for the ultimate beer tasting gathering.

As always, take care around alcohol and drink responsibly. This party is adults-only, and probably best thrown for neighbors who can walk home. Happy tasting!

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