Craft beer tastings are one of my favorite things to do with friends. Not only are they a great way to try new beers, they are also a great way to meet new people and create new relationships. I’ve met 10 new people in the last week through craft beer tastings and beer events. If you decide to have a tasting with a friend, have them invite someone you don’t know and vice versa. It makes it even more enjoyable to invite people who don’t know much about beer. It’s exciting to see their reactions to extremely sour beers and sweet stouts when they are used to drinking Bud and Coors. It’s also worthwhile to show people craft beer and get them off of that watered down stuff they shove down your throat in the media.
There really isn’t a right or wrong way to do a tasting, but here are some things I have found to make my tastings better, memorable, and less of a headache the next morning if you know what I mean:
- Do not over do it.
Anyone can line up 15 beers for 3 people and drink them, but are you really getting the full experience? After about 7 or 8 of those you really start to lose your pallet. Obviously the more people participating the more beers you can expect to try. Try to keep tastings to 6-8 people at the max and have at least 2-4oz per beer per person. So, if you are sampling 12oz bottles, try to bring two of them if there are more than 6 people. It’s easy to get carried away at a tasting. As beer lovers, we love to try as many new beers as possible, and when it’s available, it’s fun to keep going and going. If possible, keep your intake below 60 ounces unless you are doing a tasting with a lot of low ABV beers, then you can get a little higher than that.
- Eat a sizable meal before a tasting.
Bread products and foods such as milk and cheese coat your stomach and small intestine slowing the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Nibbling on finger foods and drinking plenty of water throughout the tasting slows down the intoxication process as well. It’s even better if the host has a cookout or cooks a meal for the people coming to the tasting. This gives everyone time to get acquainted before you jump right into the beer. In addition to dinner, I prefer to use lime water as a pallet cleanser in between beers and always have plenty of cheese and crackers available. I’m not a big cucumber fan, but I’ve heard cucumber water is a beneficial pallet cleanser too.
- Mix it up.
I am a stout lover through and through, but drinking 10 different stouts in a night can be hard on anyone. Try to have at least 2-3 styles of beer to sample. Get some hoppy beers and sour beers to balance out the sweet stouts. I call them peaks and valleys. Peaks being lighter, crisper, sour or hoppy and valleys being the bigger, sweeter stouts, barley wines, etc. The best tastings, in my opinion, have lots of peaks and valleys.
- Have something to do other than drink.
The NBA playoffs are on. This means, not only are you trying new beers but rooting for your team. Having another activity going on during a tasting will help to set the mood for a slow paced night. If you’re not a sports fan, board games and video games would suffice. I also enjoy incorporating a cigar into the tasting. If you do indulge in a cigar, make sure it is at the end of the tasting as to not ruin your pallet. Football, baseball, and other sporting events are great reasons to get together, watch the game, and have a beer tasting with your friends.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Have plenty of glasses for people to let a beer warm up. I would suggest two glasses per person as a minimum. I try to keep a pretty large collection of different types of glasses around so I never run into a beer I don’t have a glass for. Mix beers together to see the result. One of my favorite things is to drink a mixture of White Oak Jai Alai and Regular Jai Alai. By itself, Jai Alai is not any thing special and I think that the White Oak is a little strong by itself. However, when you mix them together you have one of my favorite IPA’s on the planet. A mixture of Hunahpu, Double Barrel Hunahpu, and California Brandy Barrel Hunahpu is shown below and it was fantastic by the way. Suicide tastings are something else that’s necessary to try. This can be done a couple of ways. Either put the first ounce of each beer you taste into a pitcher for a tasting at the end or take whatever beer you have leftover and mix it all together. This can create something magical or awful but it’s worth the risk. Blind tastings are also a must. Have someone from the tasting go in the other room and pour beers so that no one knows which is which. This takes the hype out of the beer you are drinking and puts everything on a level playing field. Drink a sip or two, discuss, and then reveal. I like to leave a couple ounces in the glass so that I can appreciate the beer once I know what it is.
- Be generous.
Not everyone has all the White Whales of craft beer to share. If you do, share it with your friends. I have found that the more generous you are with your beers, the more generous everyone else will be as well. I typically bring 5 or 6 beers to tastings that I want to drink and 4 to 5 other beers that people may have never tried and may want to.
- Be safe.
Host your tasting at a place with public transportation or have a Designated Driver for the participants. Worst-case scenario, or best for some, offer a couch or a guest bedroom for people that should not drive. No one wants to have a great night of great beers with friends ruined by a DUI or a car accident.
- Last but not least. Don’t forget the graveyard pictures to make your friends jealous.
I love nothing more than bragging on social media about my latest beer consumption at a tasting. Also, this helps me keep record of the beers I’ve tried. Once you’ve uploaded those pictures, I’d recommend putting a hash tag with them so that other people with the same interests can get connected with you. This is another opportunity to see the types of beer people around the world are having and any great ideas you can implement at your next beer tasting.
Get started and share your best beer tasting ideas with others at:
#craftbeer or facebook.com/ArlosCraftBeerGuide
Cheers to new beers!