[Q] Best way to host a social tasting party?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by zerosiah, Dec 19, 2013.

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  1. zerosiah

    zerosiah Initiate (0) Nov 19, 2009 Ohio

    Over the years I have made an appoint to host social tasting parties at my house.

    Is there a general consensus on the best order of drinks and beer? For example begin with pale ales and finish darker? If spirits will be served should they come later? If a beer is considerably better than an other should is be served after?

  2. Hop-Droppen-Roll

    Hop-Droppen-Roll Initiate (0) Nov 5, 2013 Minnesota

    Allz I know is consuming beer and spirits in the same night usually results in regret :flushed:
  3. AxesandAnchors

    AxesandAnchors Initiate (0) Nov 21, 2012 Oregon

    Maybe I will be alone in this, but it seems to me that if you are inviting people over for the intent of tasting multiple beers adding liquor to the mix is a bad idea. I've never walked away from a tasting thinking, "Man I wish I was a little more drunk right now"...it's never the intent, but always seems to happen.

    I think using the, "start light end dark", is a decent rule of thumb but is not an end all be all. I like to put things in order of both ABV content and flavor profile. The general idea is that you don't want to wreck your pallet for the next beer. Start with more delicate and nuanced beers and then work your way into the more pronounced and richer flavor profiles. Just my two cents...obviously to each his(her) own.
    Wardo, Leebo, JrGtr and 1 other person like this.
  4. Retsinis

    Retsinis Meyvn (1,012) Sep 25, 2009 Arizona

    I'm lucky enough to be a part of a larger tasting group, and several of us host. Everyone is very generous with their time, bottles, food, etc.

    Recently we've started to put in "breaks" where nothing new is opened, and we encourage people to eat, drink water, walk around bit, etc. It doesn't take a lot at these things to over do it, since so many bring bottles to share, and everyone wants to get to what they brought, and try a few of things others did as well.

    We've also limited others to only bring 1 or two bottles to share, or the host just provides everything so that less is more, and palate fatigue doesn't set in. (I've seen people bring a case of beer to share. Which is very generous, but if 12 people do that, it's a recipe for a drunk fest, rather then a tasting, imho)

    Other then that, small pours, 1 or 2 ounces at a time, and we often go from say Barley wine, to a lambic, to a barrel aged stout, to a DIPA, and back again. Trying to not try two of the same style of beer one after the other, unless your comparing vintages. Seems to reset our palates a bit, since it's such a drastic change in direction.
    Giovannilucano and cavedave like this.
  5. pcctex

    pcctex Initiate (50) Jan 26, 2012 Texas

    Just a few notes on items that have made my beer tastings successful. At least they've been successful from my point of view....
    We start about 8pm. Tell everyone to eat supper beforehand; then furnish light snacks, chips, nuts, etc.
    Usually 12 to 15 people....craft beer and astronomy club friends.
    Bought 20 identical small snifter glasses from World Market...easier to encourage "tasting" pours. When only one bomber of a certain beer available; need to make sure everyone gets a sip.
    We sit at tables placed end to end...keeps everyone in the conversations.
    Pitchers of water and "washout tubs" on tables to rinse glasses between beers.
    Last Friday night ended up cracking 18 bombers.....what a great evening!

    4DAloveofSTOUT likes this.
  6. amp138

    amp138 Initiate (0) Dec 21, 2011 Rhode Island

    I just hosted my first one a few weeks back. We had about 17 bombers between 10 people. It was a little much.

    My advice:

    - Space out the bottles being popped. I went to fast. Got drunk very quick.

    - Supply a case or two of water. Encourage drinking water in between beers and to stay hydrated.

    - I supplied snacks but you may want to see if anyone wants to put in for some pizza or something too, just so the booze can get soaked up.
  7. Eroc13

    Eroc13 Initiate (0) Oct 26, 2013 Pennsylvania

    Start it off with tastings of 1 or 2 ounces of different styles going from simple profiles to more complex while mixing some styles in between to make sure your not overkilling a style. You don't want to start off with a hop bomb and then try a kolsch. I suggest having water to go along with the beer between samples, also some pretzels or crackers. If you don't have multiple tastings and you want a spirit, nothing wrong with ending it with a good scotch or whatever. After the tasting, if people want to continue drinking to have a little fun, so be it. Have fun!
  8. AxesandAnchors

    AxesandAnchors Initiate (0) Nov 21, 2012 Oregon

    This is a very good point, I've been to too many tastings where at least half the bottles were opened right away. It creates a frenzy with everyone clambering to get a taste of the beers they really want to try. In the end you drink too fast and don't fully appreciate the beer you're drinking at the moment. I also think it inhibits good conversation.
  9. FourBetter

    FourBetter Initiate (0) Nov 12, 2010 Minnesota

    It may sound contradictory, but I find dark to light works better from a palate perspective. Hops mess with your taste buds so I don't like to start of with beers that are too hoppy. It will impact how that barrell aged stout or flanders red tastes afterward.
    PapaGoose03 likes this.
  10. Daverabin

    Daverabin Initiate (0) Nov 10, 2013 California

    Make a list of beers on Microsoft Word and add the foods that go with your beers. So when people come make foods and serve with the beers.
  11. prior2two

    prior2two Disciple (393) Oct 18, 2013 Illinois

    I enjoy the free for all mentality. Open up 2 or 3 bottles. Everyone mingles, and pours at their own pace, and when a bottle gets cashed, a new one is opened, host's choice. Sure, some bottles linger, some go super quick, but it makes for a more relaxed atmosphere. Also, if there is something you don't like, or don't want to try, you're not left standing around waiting for the next bottle to open.
  12. SirElton

    SirElton Initiate (180) Feb 24, 2011 California

    I think it depends on how "beer-geek" your audience is. For the less informed I've had success with doing tastings where you pick one or two styles and then compare those to each other. Usually 5 beers of a style, some crackers/cheese/food to help clear the palate. Also I've had fun doing Christmas and seasonal beer themed tastings. I usually organize everything myself and split the bill amongst the attendees (usually $10 or so unless there's something crazy in there). I provide some form of description and a way for people to take notes. Usually when people leave, they can then have a new favorite beer to buy and then share their knowledge with their friends.

    For more "mature" drinkers, the tastings usually come down to one of us getting ahold of something special, and then wanting to share it. Then it's usually a "everyone bring a bottle" type of affair where we can compare this new wonder to things we like already.
  13. lilsmizzul1225

    lilsmizzul1225 Devotee (439) Dec 27, 2012 Indiana

    My uncle is opening up a microbrewery in Colorado (Living the Dream Brewing Co. (AKA LTD) - in case anyone was wondering), anyway, I've been with him when he has been trying to gain investors and he has them taste all of his beers in a specific order. It is basically from palest to strongest (with it commonly going from mildest to most bitter).
  14. kmello69

    kmello69 Zealot (529) Nov 27, 2011 Texas

    I belong to a small tasting group that meets once a month, always at the same guys house. In general we talk about what we're opening beforehand, so we all know whats coming.

    That being said, I dont think we've ever really planned out what to open and when. If there are new, rarer things to be opened, I like to open them early/mid tasting, so I'm not drunk when I try them, but other than that, we decide as a group what to open next. Once or twice spirits have come out during the tasting, with terrible results, so maybe don't go in that direction.

    As an example, we had a tasting last night. Started with Cran-brr-ita (seriously, and its better than you'd think), then opened a Utopias next. A few more things came out, then we opened all of the new BCBS variants (including Proprietors). Then a bunch of other stuff (I could look it up, but wont right now) covering the whole range from pale ale to barleywine. Overall, about 12-14 bottles for 5 people over a 6 hour period.

    Good luck, and have fun!
  15. zerosiah

    zerosiah Initiate (0) Nov 19, 2009 Ohio

    I really like all of the suggestions put forth! Thank you for all of the input!
  16. JrGtr

    JrGtr Devotee (435) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    THere's no one way to taste - it's what seems best for the beers involved.
    Genereally I would go with lightest flavor to heaviest - For instance, saisons and Tripels would go after many brown ales and even some porters, just from the flavor profiles.
    Make sure that there is plenty of water and eats available - it still doesn;'t really affect the blood alcohol levels, but it does help.
    I would avoid adding spirits along with beers, unless you only have a few beers, or alternatively one really special spirit to end the night.
    I have been to parties when we kill a whole long row of soldiers, with no real order, just whatever looked interesting next, and more formal tastings where we go light-dark pretty solidly.
  17. offthelevel_bytheplumb

    offthelevel_bytheplumb Devotee (410) Aug 19, 2013 Illinois

    I personally think that order is overrated. The real important thing to make sure of to me is to drink water and to take your time with everything. Take your time when you are drinking your sample, contemplate it if you will. Then, it is important to have a small glass of water and drink that slowly to clean out your palate nicely. I've become a supporter of crackers as well, I think saltines help the water clean your palate really well.

    I've never had spirits involved with a tasting. I don't think it would be a bad idea to include one or two whiskeys or whatever you wish to include.
  18. TequilaSauer

    TequilaSauer Initiate (0) Dec 31, 2006 Florida

    This is a good way to go. Just to add to this a little. Usually, for our tastings, people will bring a bottle or two but the host will have a decent foundation to start from. We pool the bottles together and decide the lineup from there. If your bottle(s) isn't opened, you can take it home with you. There's always WAY too much beer to go around and nobody ever really cares what is opened. The last tasting we did, both of my rare bombers were opened, but the one before that, none of mine were opened and I took them home. The main idea is "just don't be that guy that never brings anything" and other than that, everyone is always super generous and brings more than needed. It's about sharing good beers and having fun with friends.

    To add one more thing, we usually will have a light session beer that are casual drinkers just to kind of unwind after a heavy hitter like a bourbon stout or barleywine. And we also do the breaks for food. Pulled pork, chips and hummus, etc.

    Tastings are a beautiful thing.
    Retsinis likes this.
  19. zerosiah

    zerosiah Initiate (0) Nov 19, 2009 Ohio

    Here's a photo of a few of our highlights of the evening! Not in any particular order. We tried a few more that aren't worth mentioning.

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