Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 14
Hosting a beer tasting
Dec. 7, 2000
Hosting a tasting provides both an opportunity to learn more about beer and a
chance to try a wide range of beers you might not otherwise. Here are 10 tips
to get you started:
- Taste with a purpose. A theme provides structure and a way for tasters to
think about what they are sampling. This time of year the obvious theme is
winter and holiday beers, but you may want to be more specific. Try beers
that include spices together, or beers from the same region.
- Taste with a purpose: Part II. Once you have selected the beers, think
about what order to serve them in. It is best to start with the least intense
flavors and work your way up. A simple light to dark or even least hoppy to
hoppiest won't show off the beers as well. Depending upon the lineup you may
want to organize beers in flights, trying three similar beers together,
discussing them and then taking a break before the next round.
- Get everybody on the same page. Talk about the approach to tasting before
starting -- from eyeing the beer to swallowing. Make sure group members feel
free to describe aromas and flavors in creative terms without fear of being
- Control the environment. You'll want a naturally and well lit room so you
can see the beers' colors. Avoid noisy distractions, such as television or
music. Cigarette smoke, cooking smells or perfumes will all interfere with
your ability to taste.
- Take a break. Have water and bread or neutral tasting crackers available to
cleanse palates between beers. Avoid anything with distinctive flavors. Save
the cheeses that go with with beer and the chocolates until later or make the
second half of the session a food-and-beer tasting.
- Keep the samples small. Two to four ounces is plenty to get a feel for a
beer. As the tasting goes on, the cumulative effects of alcohol should not be
- Let the beer be the star. Use the same size glassware for each round of
tasting, but make sure the beer is served at the proper temperature and
poured with a decent head. One way to ensure the latter is to mix a few
bottles in a pitcher first.
- Limit the numbers of samples. Not only is there the alcohol consumption
issue, but also taste bud fatigue and your ability to remember specific
tastes from each of the beers. Five or six of particularly alcoholic or hoppy
beers may be enough to confuse the palate. The most beers you should consider
- Provide pads for notes. Also, consider scoresheets. Some tasters may want
to take home their notes, others may simply find the value of the additional
structure. Actually assigning scores adds even more structure and helps
guests refine their tasting skills.
- Talk about what you taste. The best tastings are both social and
Brewed by Greene King in England
Michael Jackson's tasting notes:
This ale has the richness of a fruit cake, and develops suggestions of straw
and iron while aging in the ceiling-high tuns, typically for between one and
three years.... Oaky, winey, chocolatey, sweet-and-sour, with notes of
GEARY'S SPECIAL HAMPSHIRE ALE
Brewed by D.L. Geary Brewing Co.in Portland, Maine
A contributor to the Real Beer discussion boards writes:
It's a an IPA, roughly. Strong, but not alcoholic palette considering, very
hoppy, drying hint of orange in the finish. One of my all-time favorite
beers. Has the best ad slogan, too, "Only Available While The Weather Sucks."