Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Beer: Do's and Don'ts for Hosting a Beer Tasting

A very impressive Collection of Sierra Nevada Beers.
Wait, we're drinking all of those tonight?
A fun thing for beer lovers to do, besides drinking beer, is to drink beer with friends.  One way to do this is to host a beer tasting.  These events can be set up in a myriad of ways so, to be helpful, here's some do's and don'ts for setting up a beer tasting event.

Do: Host a beer tasting event.  Everyone loves beer and would love to go to a fun event at your abode.

Don't: Invite every living soul you know.  Events like this tend to work better when between a gathering and a shindig, as opposed to full Hootenany (As described by Seth Green's character Oz in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode Dead Man's Party): "Well, a gathering is brie, mellow song stylings; shindig, dip, less mellow song stylings, perhaps a large amount of malt beverage; and hootenanny, well it's chock full of hoot, [with] just a little bit of nanny."

Personally, I'm at a loss of how to deal with more than 10-12 people at a time.  Somewhere around there, plus or minus, depending on how good you are in a social environment and knowing your specific circle of friends, is probably a good limit for a tasting.

Do: Plan.  Come up with a theme, have food pairings that could be as simple as cheeses, or as involved as full meal courses.  If you're having an event that features a single brewery, contact them - they may be able to set you up with some stuff to give to your friends.  Have some trivia or some other games to play.

Don't: Save up beers for two calendar years for a tasting.  Some beers, like IPAs, are best enjoyed fresh.  While they don't go 'food-poisoning-style' bad, their flavors can change which could turn someone off to a specific beer or brewery.

Do: Think about how many beers you want people to taste and have the appropriate sized glasses/cups available.  If you're using the same glasses, figure out a way to rinse them out.  I personally like tasting sizes between 2 and 3 ounces.  Gives you enough to get a couple good sips which gives you more capacity to enjoy a larger variety of beers.

Don't: Poison your guests by having too many beers or pouring too large tastings.  Because I'm a nerd who likes math, I like to calculate how many drinks am I giving people.  Sum the ABV of each beer multiply by the expected tasting size (in ounces), divide by 12 and 5%.  The final number is how many 5% beers you're serving.

For example, if I were hosting an West Coast IPA event and want to serve 3 ounces each of Karl Strauss Tower 10 (6.5%), Stone IPA (6.9%), Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA (7.5%), Sierra Nevada Torpedo (7.2%) and Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA (7.5%) to my guests I would calculate the beer load as (6.5%+6.9%+7.5%+7.2%+7.5%)*3/12/5% = 2.05 beers.

Somewhere between 2 and 3 beers, as calculated this way, should be a good point for most tastings (guess I should add another IPA or two to my example or bump the portions).  There is a point where if you drink too much of a few drinks, you're actually not getting as much out of each beer.  Well, besides really drunk.  Of course, after the tasting part of the event, there's always time for more beer.

Do: If you can't stop yourself and you happen to have 26 beers to have people taste, organize the event with the ones you'd like everyone to try before the event descends into blissful beer-fueled anarchy.

Don't: While you know your friends and their significant others, don't assume that all of them will understand the concept of sipping a small amount of beer.  Give some people some background on the brewery, the beer, the style, or what to expect.  While I think telling people what the flavors are can bias them towards the same, asking them to describe the nose, the texture, the first and maybe last flavor they pick up on a sip.

Do: Put an order to the beers being tasted.  While starting with a sour, jumping to a barrel aged stout, and then an IPA, and finishing with a Saison may be funny in theory, it's just kind of mean and also doesn't sell the beer well.

BeerTutor and BeerAppreciation.com (via acui.org) have some good information on how to pick an order for your beverages based partly on the style of event.

Don't: be afraid to mix things up if it makes sense.  A double IPA may follow a brown or a red better than a regular IPA, depending on the beers you're sharing.

Do: Keep the beer at an appropriate temperature.  That means giving stouts, porters, and some other high octane beers some time to warm up (45-55 degrees).  Not everything needs to be consumed at near freezing temperatures (like Heineken) to be enjoyed.  A lot of beer labels will tell you the perfect serving temperature.

Don't: Forget to have fun.  Beer should be fun.  While a tasting event is also about experiencing something new and possibly educating people about how beer is more than just the American generics, it's really about getting together with friends and enjoying a couple beers.

Do: Make sure people have designated drivers or a place to crash.

Do: Recycle.  It's good for the planet.

Enjoy and Cheers!

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