(Photo by - Chris Weiss)
Snap-a-do! National American Beer Day is upon us and I can’t think of a better time to drink beer! To officially toast this important holiday, host a beer tasting event that will impress even the biggest beer geeks.
I'll get into detail about what you'll need for a successful event, but here are the must-haves at a glance:
- A group of awesome friends you want in your company (As small as 2, or as large as your space can hold).
- A wide range of beer types from Sours to Barrel Aged Stouts (don’t worry if you’re not familiar with this, I’ll help you out).
- Small 1-4oz samples poured of each beer for your guests.
- PLENTY OF WATER AND FOOD TO KEEP EVERYONE HAPPY.
- A comfortable spot for someone to nap, a DD or taxi service on hand.
Beyond the Beer: Glassware
The first thing you’ll need to think about is your glassware.
Use clear glasses, and try to keep ‘em on the smaller side. It’s crucial for your guests to experience the color of their beer as well as the taste. Since you'll be tasting several different beers, samples should only be about 1-4oz. If you want to get really fancy and “Martha-like”, order some customized taster glasses. They're typically around 5oz and the perfect size to share samples of suds. Plus, it's a nice memento for your guests. If you’re not looking to spend the extra cash, opt for pint glasses or whisky snifters.
(Photo by Chris Weiss)
I mean a bunch of water. A big pitcher of water. And keep refilling it. This solves two problems. 1) to freshen up your glass after you’ve finished your sample. 2) keep everyone hydrated. Both you and your guests will thank you in the morning. Encourage drinking water in-between each beer sample to dodge a potential hangover.
Beer & Food – A Perfect Pair
Along with water and beer obligations, food is a must.
I’ve seen as little as a bowl of pretzels and as much as a five course meal served by a private caterer. No matter what direction you go, be sure you have a hearty amount of snacks at hands reach. I strongly recommend pretzels; you can’t go wrong with grabbing a handful between sips. They’re not only cheap n’ delicious, they’re a great way to clear some bad tasting beers from your palate.
All About the Beer
Now that we’ve covered the logistics...let's talk beer.
(Photo by Chris Weiss)
Focus on beers that either you’ve never tasted or know others haven’t and are excited to share. Be diverse with your selection (see Style Guide below). IPA’s (or India Pale Ales) are all hip and cool, but use this opportunity to try a Sour or Belgium you’re not familiar with. Keep in mind, you may hate these beers and banish them from your memory. Try them once and embrace the opportunity to try something new!
If you’re new to the beer snobbery scene and don’t know where to start, stop in a local craft beer shop to get some knowledgeable advice. Believe me, beer lovers are always willing to talk about beer and give advice, sometimes to a fault. If you can't find a beer geek to chat with , here are some things to help you pick which beers to serve.
A Quick and Overly Simplified Style Guide
IPA or India Pale Ale – A range of light pale to dark or even brown in color. They usually carry a very hopped smell and taste with a sometimes fruity citric tone. Depending on the area and style, they can take a range from a very malty to crisp light and bitter.
American Wild Ale – These unique beers are fermented with “wild” yeast or bacteria. Their taste can greatly change depending on the yeast strain, mash and barrels they’re aged in. They often are considered sour in taste and can be described as funky.
Flanders Red Ale – These are various tones of red in color and carry a fruity, tart and almost sweet flavor. These are also considered a soured beer.
Russian Imperial Stout – They are very dark in color, almost jet black. Their flavor can vary based on their ageing process. It’s not uncommon to taste hints of chocolate and coffee. These beers are usually high in alcohol with very low carbonation.
Barleywine – They share many of the same characteristics of a stout, but typically lean on the sweeter or even fruity side. They also are very dark (this time brown) in appearance, little to no carbonation and carry a high alcohol percentage.
Quadrupel or “Quad” – Originated by Belgium Trappists, these beers are very dark in appearance but usually taste creamy and light. Despite the dark appearance, these beers are very rich, sweet with very low bitterness.
Farmhouse Saison – This beer style is typically drank and sold in the summer months, although its recent popularity creates a larger lasting demand. They range in styles but usually are very light in color and carry an earthy tone with a mild amount of tart.
Here’s a short list that are worth trying. Please keep in mind, beer is sometimes very regional with limited distribution. The below suggestions are what I know to be regularly found across the US; however, every area has their own locally made gems that you’ll need to ask a resident beer snob to navigate you through. So, please DO NOT limit yourself to the following short list.
- Stone’s Enjoy By IPA – American Double
- Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA – American IPA
- The Bruery’s Sour In The Rye – American Wild Ale
- Weyerbacher’s Riserva – American Wild Ale
- The Bruery’s Oude Tart – Flanders Red Ale
- The Lost Abbey’s Red Poppy Ale – Flanders Red Ale
- New Belgium’s Lips Of Faith “La Folie” – Flanders Oud Bruin
- Founders’ Breakfast Stout – Imperial Stout
- Oskar Blues’ Ten FIDY – Russian Imperial Stout
- North Coast’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout – Russian Imperial Stout
- Dogfish’s Olde School Barleywine – American Barleywine
- Ommegang’s Three Philosophers – Quadrupel
- Victory’s V-Twelve – Quadrupel
- Ommegang’s Hennepin – Farmhouse Saison
- Goose Island’s Sofie – Farmhouse Saison
- Your Local Brewery! Go and find some awesome local made beers.
To make it even easier to track down great beer, you can always search BeerMenus.com for local availibility.
Now You’re Ready to Drink
(Photo by Chris Weiss)
We’ve enlisted the help of John Federico of BeerMenus.com to guide you through the taste test. When it comes to beer temperature, John is quick to warn against drinking too cold of a sample.
“Make sure the beer is not too cold as that diminishes the flavor characteristics," he explains. "The optimal serving temperature for most beers is 45-55 degrees.” His non-scientific solution is to take each beer out of the fridge 15 minutes or so before tasting.
As you’re taking your first sip, John suggests focusing on 5 attributes of each beer:
Most importantly when tasting be mindful of your likes and dislikes. This will help you determine your beers of choice in the future. And with that, you have all the tools you need to host the perfect beer tasting. Whether you like it or not, you’re on your way to becoming a beer snob!
In the end, this is really an excuse to find yourself laughing and talking with good friends. So sit back, drink up and enjoy!
(Photo by Chris Weiss)