Pretty much every season we do a beer tasting party with our friends. It’s a fun drinking activity that feels like you’re doing something more sophisticated than just chugging beers.
PICK A THEME. The most important part! Since we do them seasonally – that’s usually the theme for us. So summer beers – the quintessential summer flavors or labels. In Michigan, that would Oberon type stuff. My favorite is fall – we do pumpkin beers and carve pumpkins. We also do a Christmas beer tasting – this one is fun because there are a lot of holiday related beers with cool labels. You could do other themes like Michigan (or local) beers or the type of beer (IPAs, stouts, etc.)
DECIDE ON BEERS. I think it’s easier to provide all the beers for the party yourself vs. asking people to bring beer. This way there are no overlaps and you can make sure there’s a good variety. You can ask everyone to pitch in with money if you need to. You do end up getting accidentally drunk during these things to be careful of how many beers you select with how many people are attending.
MAKE A TASTING SHEET. I make one based on Color, Aroma, Taste, Body, Name and Label. We like to breakout Name and Label since it really skews the results. Each item is ranked 1-5. I put a key at the top of the card so people know what is good and bad about each category. Then at the bottom make a chart for them to add their scores. Obviously I make the chart match the theme – so black and orange for fall! Download my tasting sheet here and see an example below.
We like to do a blind tasting. One of us puts each beer in a paper bag and labels the bag with a letter. Then pours each person a little tasting cup of each. Give time for people to taste and discuss. It’s nice to have matching food to snack on in between. After all the beers are tasted – we announce the winners based on the first set of criteria. Then we reveal the names and labels of each. Everyone discusses/rates and we add up the new winners.