Let’s host a fall beer tasting party! Earlier this week, I share with you ratings for 10 pumpkin beers + a free download of a pumpkin beer tasting card. When I decided I also wanted to share tips on how to host a beer tasting party on a budget, I knew exactly who to email for help: party hostess extraordinaire Chrystina Noel.
Chrystina blogs about hosting parties, among other things, and I’m always so impressed with what she puts together! And this post is a prime example – when I asked her about writing up her best tips for hosting a beer tasting party, I thought she might do a top 10 list and call it a day.
Nope. Chrystina decided it was the perfect excuse to host a full on party!
So if you’re excited to host your own autumn beer tasting (I’m contemplating an Oktoberfest post myself), and you’re trying to do so on a budget…today’s post is for you!
How to host a fall beer tasting party on a budget >>>
How to host a cheap beer tasting party
Hi everyone! I’m super excited to be sharing on Spooky Little Halloween about how to host a cheap (but fun!) beer tasting. Last year I hosted my very own pumpkin beer tasting (just like Miranda!), so I had a little bit of experience under my belt when I went into planning this year’s beer tasting. I knew that I wanted to host something low key, and I didn’t want to break the bank.
So today I’m going to share with you my five steps for planning your own beer tasting. Feel free to execute them in whatever order you see fit.
1. Choose the beer
Here are a few ways you can go about choosing the beer for the party you’re going to host:
- Choose all of the same type of beer (lager, pilsner, belgian, etc) to see which brewery people like best.
- Choose all of the same brewery of beer so that you can introduce people to one of your favorites or try something new!
- Have everybody bring their favorite beer so people can try each others’ favorites.
- Have everybody bring a 22 oz. beer to try because usually you don’t order these because then you can only have one for the evening (if that) – or maybe that’s just me.
I chose to highlight one of my favorite breweries that I discovered while traveling to Colorado for work, New Belgium Brewing Company. Lucky for me, I was able to find a variety of options of theirs at the first beer store I went to: Fat Tire, Citradelic, Ranger IPA, Rampant IPA and Heavy Melon. The only thing I wish I could have gotten my hands on was one of their sour beers.
How much beer should you buy? In order to taste we poured beer from the bottle into smaller glasses to try. Ten people were able to split two regular-sized bottles. You have to remember that not everybody is going to like every beer. Anything that you buy on top of this is for general consumption after the tasting.
How can you keep the cost down? I spent $80 on 48 bottles of beer. That’s not completely breaking the bank, but what could have reduced the cost is asking everybody to bring a specific type of beer or choosing something more local.
2. Choose the menu
You can break the menu down into three categories:
- Something sweet
- Something savory (to absorb the beer)
Alright, let’s start with what I learned last year: my 2015 beer tasting had a wide assortment of cheese and accouterments. And it was great. (If you want a list of what cheese and accouterments to buy, check out last year’s post.) But not extra applicable when trying to plan a reasonably priced beer tasting.
Lessons learned include:
- Buying expensive cheese to go with your beer is nice, but it kind of takes away from the beer. And it costs a lot. (Which is fine, but host a cheese tasting then, not a beer tasting.) And besides, I actually like the cheese that comes with the pretzels to dunk in a lot anyway. #cheesewhizforever
- There’s no point in buying a whole pretzel tray, there’s literally no way people are going to finish it. 1.5 pretzels per person MAX.
- Only buy snacks people actually eat. Crackers and mini toasts are overrated.
For my something sweet I went with cupcakes. I’ve been looking for an excuse to make cupcakes with beer in them and figured this was the perfect occasion. I decided on these Blue Moon (or Corona if you choose) cupcakes via Erica’s Sweet Tooth. They were pretty good! Although I think I over-mixed them because they were extra dense (which the comments specifically say they shouldn’t be).
For my something savory I decided on buffalo chicken grilled cheese sandwiches, Nikki’s recipe from Chef-in-Training. I made them on the griddle so I could make more than one at a time. And they were delicious. One of the reasons I chose this is because you can make it in a crock pot. Prepare it in the morning, and forget about it until the evening. It’s perfect.
And of course, being from Philadelphia, my snack of choice is pretzels. Thank you Philly Pretzel Factory for always coming through. I bought 15 pretzels for 10 people. I could have even bought 10. Then I bought chips and salsa and carrots with ranch dressing because people like to feel healthy sometimes. (We actually finished all the carrots by the end of the night.) And that’s it!
3. Figure out the logistics
Great. So you’re hosting a beer tasting. You’ve got beer. You’ve got a menu. How the heck do you plan on orchestrating this? Yet again, you’ve got a few options:
Glass vs. Plastic: You could buy those adorable wooden planks that have holes drilled into them for glass beer tasting cups to sit in and give each invitee a seat at the table. The cheapest option I found was to buy them on Amazon. $35 dollars for 12 little glasses. Plus $14 per paddle. I checked the thrift stores with no avail. Or you could buy 4-10 oz. plastic cups (the cute ones, not the red ones) and do it with those.
One at a Time vs. All at the Same Time: You could serve all the beers at the same time and let people work their way through them as they see fit or you could serve the beers one at a time and have people talk about what they taste as a group.
Sit vs. Stand: You could setup everybody to have a specific table setting or you could all stand around the main serving table. When you can only fit six people at your table and you invited 10, you’re probably all going to stand around the serving table.
Whichever way you choose to go, let everybody know how the night is going to go when they arrive to eliminate all uncertainty. Guests always feel more comfortable when they know what’s in store for the evening.
Here’s how it went for me:
Everyone arrived. We all stood around my kitchen. Everyone introduced themselves to each other. Then I said, “alright, here’s the plan. We’ll spend the first 20 minutes being classy and doing an actual beer tasting. We’ve got five beers to choose from, all from New Belgium Brewing. Before we try each beer we’ll read the description of it out loud. Then after that, we’ll all drink beer, eat buffalo chicken grilled cheeses, and we can play board games the rest of the night.”
We decided together the order we wanted to have the beers (it’s not necessarily from light to dark, but rather from lightest to heaviest). Then we passed a plastic cup to each person, cracked open two of the same kind of beer, read the description out loud and all had a few ounces of the first beer. To my astonishment, we actually discussed the beers. I think once I laid out how everything was going to go, people felt committed to the cause.
Also, I originally thought I was going to need each person to have a plastic cup for each beer, but if you go one at a time you can just keep using the same cup.
4. Add the details
Guess what? You’ve already got the basics. You’re actually done planning now. But if you want to get a little fancy, here are some things you can do to add a little something to the evening:
- Make tasting cards for each guest to write their thoughts about each beer (like Miranda’s done for you)
- Make place mats to place all of your beer cups on with descriptions
- Make a beer menu for the night
- Roll out paper on a serving table and write beer descriptions directly on the table
- Give out beer-themed favors to your guests
- Post descriptions about the beer on the serving table so people know what they’re drinking (I went with this option and just cut out part of each of the box)
5. Setup for the party
Make sure you get the beer into the refrigerator with plenty of time for it to get cold.
Then before the party starts, lay everything out:
- Make sure you’ve got a pitcher of water nearby
- Set a location to put the empty bottles
- Put out a bowl to collect the bottle caps.(Just in case somebody needs them for a project. One of my guests is using them to embellish a coffee table.)
- Put all of the serving plates out so you remember to put all the food out
And that’s it. Five steps to hosting your very own beer party, with lots of options for you to choose from. I’d love to hear if you have any additional suggestions – or something to try next time!
Chrystina is a blogger living in Philadelphia, PA. She blogs about how to host parties, handmade greeting cards, and how to stay in touch with people you love. If you’re looking for party theme inspiration, check out her free Theme Party Ideas e-book and follow her on Instagram and Twitter (@ChrystinaNoel).