Hosting a beer tasting gives you a chance to share with your friends the vastness and complexity of a craft that has been around since before the pyramids were erected. The craft of brewing offers a plethora of styles that range from sweet and fruity lambics to punchy chipotle chile beers. People have been adding an array of ingredients to their brew for just as long as they’ve been brewing it, so an evening with ales can be quite unique. The planning and preparation is easy and very rewarding. These basic guidelines will get you primed for a brew focused setting full of learning and merriment.
Determine the basics. The first thing you need to do is decide on an approach. Do you want to highlight a specific style? Maybe a brewery? Possibly a region or country? The list is endless, but you can’t cover everything in one sitting. Based on your personal preference and keeping in mind the needs of your attendees (if they don’t have a big history with craft beer, don’t scare them away with hop monsters that’ll take the chrome off a tailpipe), select something specific to focus on and find out what’s out there. Look for a specialty store such as whole foods or world market for a reliable selection, although you may have better options within your community. Check out the guys at www.beertravelers.com for a craft brewery store closest to you. You cold also try and order online, if your state alows. Try places such as www.liquidsolutions.biz or www.arcticliquor.com to get you started just the same.
Pick a menu. Food pairings add a compelling touch to your craft selections. Prepare food that has similar qualities to your beers, but will also stay out of the way. Don’t forget it’s about the beer before the food. An amber ale’s toasty malts would match well with a smoked beef brisket. Or the intense fruit, sourness and carbonation of a Belgian lambic would be cut well with a creamy gelato. Also remember to have a slew of palate cleansers such as bread or crackers.
Time to serve. Make sure to store your beer between 45 and 50 degrees to prevent freezing the subtleties out of the beer. Also try and do some research on the proper glassware; bringing out the goblets for your Belgian Tripels will keep optimum head retention and are a fitting receptacle for such a brute ale. The ideal pour can also have an affect on the flavor as well as appearance; be sure to look into pouring techniques for the style you will be serving. Any books by the late Michael Jackson will get you there, or have Todd Alstrom tell you at http://beeradvocate.com/beer/101/pour.php
Talk it out: Finally and most importantly, don’t be shy. Start a discussion and be sure to remind your guests that everyone can taste something different. What did you like? What did you dislike? Tasting is a personal experience, whether it be beer or wine. Try to understand the characteristics that you enjoy to guide you on your exploration of the other beers out there.