Bull E. Vard posted an unfortunate video of a retarded woman from Minnesota (by the sound of it) “tasting” Boulevard beers. Once you get past the irritating voice and disgusting belching, you realize right away that this whore has no idea what the %#*! she is talking about.
I have some experience with beer tasting parties, so I thought I’d share some insights into how to REALLY do a beer tasting event. This is the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) version. You can and should add food, cheese, dessert, etc to your parties, but that tends to take a little more planning and I am no expert, by any stretch, when it comes to food and beer pairings.
The good news, because there are so many ways to do these sorts of events, you have an excuse to do several in different ways. The simplest is just to have everyone bring a six-pack of whatever they want and drink some beer. This works pretty good, but you should have some general rules when it comes to tasting multiple beers in a short period of time…
Because of the strong flavors often found in beers, and the very real scourge of “palate fatigue” (especially with hops), the basic guideline for beer tasting is to drink lighter, weaker, less hoppy beers first and then transition to stronger, darker, hoppier beers later in the tasting. So, an example of a reasonable progression may be Schlafly Pilsner (pilsner), Goose Island 312 (American wheat), Magic Hat #9 (apricot pale ale), Singlewide IPA (India Pale Ale), Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (imperial bourbon barrel aged stout). You’d probably want to have some food on hand for cleaning your palate, too. Bread, crackers, light chesses, etc all make for good palate cleansers.
Another type of tasting event is to drink beer in “flights.” Flights take all sorts of forms. You certainly can set it up so everyone brings one particular style of beer, for example, an IPA flight (tricky because of palate fatigue) or an imperial stout flight (also fatiguing). What’s nice about this type of event is you get a chance to experience how different beers in the same style are. This can be a very rewarding way to drink some beer, particularly if you’re relatively new to experiencing the flavors of good craft beers.
A common type of flight in wine circles is a flight of drinks all from the same region. This doesn’t make much sense in a beer party since the “terroir” of beer is much different from wine.
Another cool, but rare, type of flight is the “vertical” flight. This flight consists of a single beer that was brewed and bottled in different years. For example, it isn’t uncommon to find people selling vertical flights of Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Barleywine because they release it annually and it is high in alcohol and ages well. By drinking the beers oldest to newest, you can experience how the flavors change and (usually) mellow over time. Especially with Bigfoot, the huge hoppiness that dominates it when fresh diminishes greatly over about six months and disappears almost entirely after a year. This only works for beers that cellar well, which tend to be the high alcohol beers.
By far, the most important thing to keep in mind when doing a beer-tasting event is to have fun. Getting a bunch of people together to drink good beer shouldn’t be stressful, so enjoy yourself above all else! When you do get to food and beer pairing, keep in mind that, in general, most beers pair pretty good with most foods, even cheeses and desserts. You certainly can get really scientific about it, but you can also just buy a bunch of good cheese and a bunch of good beer, for example, and have a blast. Not every pairing will knock your socks off, but very few will be disgusting. If it’s bad, you just won’t enhance either the beer or the cheese, but that’s hardly a disaster.