How to host a backyard craft beer tasting

30 September, 2014

Fall temperatures and craft beer have something in common: They are both at their prime at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That being said, there may be no time of year more perfect for a backyard craft beer tasting than right now. An event of this caliber may seem daunting, but never fear – if you’ve got an outdoor dining set and a few outdoor sofas, you’re already halfway there. 

What you’ll need
In order to host an awesome craft beer tasting, we recommend buying a few key items in addition to the brews. Tasting mats are a popular starting point with craft beer connoisseurs, but regular placemats will do the trick as well. From there, set up your patio dining table with beer score sheets and pencils. While score sheets can be as simple as plain notepads, you can also find an array of unique beer cards online and in the liquor department of upscale grocery stores.

Besides the beer itself, perhaps the most vital component of a successful craft beer tasting is the tasting ware. Your personal glassware selection will depend entirely upon the size of the samples you’d like to administer throughout the evening. A larger selection dictates small, open-mouthed tasting glasses, while snifters will allow for more liberal four-ounce pours. Make sure the number of glasses you have per person matches the number of beers you’ve selected for the event, as it is unlikely anyone will be washing them in between beers.

Both water and seltzer water are important to promote palate-cleansing and prevent inebriation, and both can be served in simple glass pints. A smorgasbord of hors d’oeuvres is a must as well, but we’ll get to that soon. Last but certainly not least, you’ll need a great selection of craft beer. 

Selecting your beer
To simplify the beer-selecting process, you can choose theme, such as a brewery, type of beer, holiday or country. Fall is a great time to focus on pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers, but you can never go wrong with a taste of Belgium.

Beer samples should generally move from weakest to strongest. Weaker beers are those with lower alcohol content and a less bitter flavor, but take heed – they may not necessarily be lighter in color. By writing down a few key facts about each of the beers you’ve selected and annotating them on the guests’ scorecards, you’ll help facilitate great conversation when it comes time to taste the drinks. Lastly, the quantity of beer required leads to the question of how many beers to get drunk. Generally, this depends on how many guests will attend the party.

Setting up
Contrary to popular belief, most beers don’t belong in a cooler, as very cold temperatures can obscure the drinks’ flavor. Most craft brews are optimal at 45 to 55 degrees, the likely temperature of your backyard during fall. Placing a decorative bucket on an outdoor coffee table will usually do the trick.

You can get crafty with clear mason jars filled with hops and malts to create a brewery ambiance. Make pitches of water more theme appropriate, by setting them out in empty growlers. You might also consider matching an appetizer with a particular beer when selecting your menu items. While there are no hard and fast rules to beer and food pairings, more hoppy beers like IPAs cut through fatty foods and sweeter malts will balance spicy foods.

The tasting
When it comes time to taste your beers, anything goes. Take time to discuss what you like most about each beer with your guests, fill up on great food and enjoy the fall weather. With a collection of great beer, friends and outdoor furniture, you can’t go wrong!