Before you begin your tasting, you’ll have to choose the beers. Will you be exploring a particular type of beer, such as Belgians or IPAs, or will you have examples of several different varieties? In a tasting with a variety of styles, not only are people exposed to different beers, it is usually easier to pick out the wide range of flavors when each beer has its own distinct personality. A good sampling of beer would include around six to ten varieties with a serving of about 3 to 4 ounces per person. This is enough for the brews to make a strong impression.
Do a bit of research on the beers you’ll be serving. This adds to the tasting experience while also helping the guests know what to look for. Familiarize yourself with some beer vocabulary to help encourage discussion, but let your guests form their own opinions!A tasting is not a test, and you don’t want to lead people by the nose—or the tongue. You may want to supply each guest with a pen and paper, or perhaps a beer menu that lists the beers being served with space for note-taking. This gives everyone a way to remember which beers or styles they enjoyed and may want to explore more of.
Next, consider how you will serve the beer.The glasses should be clear, so the color and clarity of the beer can be evaluated. Most beers benefit from being served in glasses that suit their style, but having enough specialty glasses on hand can be difficult. Wine glasses are a good compromise, because their wide mouth allows the beer’s aroma to assert itself.
Also, try to serve the beer at the correct temperature, usually around 50 degrees. This will help to bring out the flavors and aroma. Generally, the lighter the beer the lower its serving temperature. Set your bigger beers out in advance to allow them to warm up a bit before the event.
The order of the tasting is very important. Beer should be tasted from the lightest flavor, body and alcohol content to the highest—not just based on color from light to dark. A highly hopped beer early on can ruin the palate for less aggressive brews. Having some water and some crackers or bread will help keep the palate clean as well as slow down inebriation. Do not serve overly flavorful foods though, such as chocolate or cheese. The idea of a tasting is to experience the beer itself rather than how it is affected by a pairing with food. That’s for another party!
Now it’s time to drink! Give every beer the attention it deserves.Evaluate the color, appreciate the nose and take the time to savor each flavor. The taste of a beer will often evolve in the mouth—introducing itself in one way and leaving on a different note. Let the beer’s finish linger, and notice how its flavors are balanced by the bitterness of the hops and the sweetness of the malts.
Besides the fun of hosting a beer event, you may also find that you and your friends discover a whole new range of beery goodness. And that’s an experience worth celebrating! Prost!
For more on tastings check this out from CraftBeer.com: