Ask everyone to bring a six pack or two. To keep the mix interesting, assign different beer types to different people: Someone should bring an IPA, another a lager or stout. Keep it broad, and select a few that fall within different corners of the beer triangle [link to video], local brewers from different geographic locations—Belgian beers, Colorado microbrews, etc.
- Consider setting up multiple ice buckets so that you can group the beers by type. All the ales in one bucket, all the lagers in another. This can help people feel easier about trying a new bottle if it's close to one they already are familiar with.
- Not all beers are to be served ice cold. Check out "Basics of Brewing" for which style beers are better at cellar temp. vs. chilled on ice.
- Extra credit: Stock up on the glassware designed for each beer style. They really do taste better served in the right glass.
Conduct a Blind Beer Tasting. Choose seven different types of beer and set up tasting glasses. Give everyone a worksheet and have them write down their guesses on what type or predominate flavors they taste. If tasting different beer styles (pale ale, porter, pilsner, etc.) have them simply identify the style. If you're hosting beer connoisseurs, choose a round within the same style (all IPAs) and see who can identify the most labels correctly.
Spotlight a Collection. From your local beer store, choose a few bottles of unique brews (the store clerks can help direct you), such as barley wine, trappist ales, sour beers, or cider. Write up descriptions for each one and place these beers on a special table with small sipping glasses so that people can sample them and take home a cheat sheet for future purchases.
- If you're going to sample multiple types of beer, start on the light end with pilsners and blonde ales, move up in intensity with some hoppier beers, then go to the darker porters and stouts. Check out our "Beer Me" chart (link) to help decide which beer is right for you.
- Keep plenty of water on hand as a palate cleanser and hydrator.
- Food can affect your impression of a brew, so stick to simple crackers or pretzels during the official tasting portion of the event. Afterward, invite guests to enjoy the party fare with their favorite newly discovered beer.