We’ve all heard of wine tasting evenings, but how about hosting a beer tasting party? With this ‘how to guide’, it’s easy….
Denis da Silva, SAB Trade Brewer at Newlands Brewery in Cape Town, believes that beer is more versatile than wine because it has many different characteristics thanks to its varied ingredients, with hundreds of malted barley varieties, yeast strains, and hops.
“Beer is good, food is good, but nothing beats good food with good beer,” says da Silva.
So here’s how to get started:
1. Confirm number of guests for catering
The number of guests determines the quantities you need for catering. Da Silva suggests a six-pack of each beer for a party of 20 people, which works out to be three servings per 340ml bottle of beer.
2. The beer
Provide your guests with a variety of flavours. Da Silva suggests the following beers:
- Crisp: All round lightness, less body with a sharp crispness and a gentle lingering bitterness, like Castle LITE.
- Hop: Hop bitterness like a Hansa Pilsner with its unique Saaz hop, or the Jacob’s Pale Ale from Newlands Spring Brewing Company with earthy and peppery notes.
- Malt: Clean, somewhat dry, somewhat bitter, never sweet lager like Castle Lager or some roasted caramel toffee notes from Jacobs Pale Ale.
Roast: Rich and smooth with a roasted flavour, like Castle Milk Stout or some chocolate and cocoa notes from Choc Stout.
- Fruity: Low bitterness with a distinctive fruity aroma and taste, like The Newlands Spring Co – Passionate Blond with its distinctive passion fruit aroma, or Carver’s Weiss & Mountain Weiss with a zesty banana aroma with hints of clove and vanilla.
- Flavoured: There is a variety to select from – the Flying Fish range of low bitterness fruit flavoured beers (orange, lemon and apple), Castle LITE Lime, or the most recently-launched Liberado – a tequila flavoured beer with fresh lemon notes.
3. Served chilled
Make sure you serve chilled beers to optimise the tasting experience. Keep them in the fridge or an ice bucket until they are served.
It is recommended to cleanse your palate with water in between beers.
Mix things up with a variety of glassware styles per beer style – standard/classic, snifter/goblet, tulip, flute, pilsner/ weizen, or stange.
Glasses with a wide bowl and narrow mouth help trap the beer’s aromas in the glass, which makes for a better tasting experience. Make sure your glassware is clean without soap residue, as this kills the beer foam.
It is best to use smaller glassware in a beer tasting as you will only be pouring the beer into a third of the glass.
If you are only providing snacks, then make sure you have an assortment of low flavoured foods as to not compromise your palate, such as unsalted pretzels or crackers, and raw vegetables (carrot and celery sticks).
7. Plated courses
If you really want to wow your guests, host your beer tasting with a food pairing. See some suggestions below.
Depending on your resources and style, you can have fun setting up the décor for your beer tasting party.
You can label ice buckets with the various beers you will taste and have beer tasting key notes printed, explaining the beers you will be serving. You can also print beer score sheets – allowing guests to score the beer tastes for themselves.
9. Blind taster
If you are into party games, you could build a blind tasting into the evening’s proceedings. Pour a beer of your choice into jug and then serve to guests with the notion they need to guess what beer it is.
10. Designated drivers
Because you want your guests to drink responsibly, ensure everyone has booked a driving service to get them safely home.
11. Edutainment (education + information)
Encourage discussions among your guests so they are having fun while learning about the tastes of beer.
Beer & Food Pairing Notes:
With so many complex flavours and extreme differences found in beer, you will notice that it pairs much better with food than many wines do.
The two keys to pairing beer with food are either accentuating a food flavour or balancing it.
It can be difficult to find the perfect match, but perfection should not be the goal here, creativity and enabling others to open their minds by tantalising their taste buds is your benchmark.
Castle Lager: Best paired with: Meat
- Braai meats (e.g. grilled sirloin) – it is a South African tradition to drink Castle Lager at our typical braais.
- Mild curry – it acts as a “semi-fire blanket” against mild curries only.
Hansa Pilsener: Best paired with: Light flavoured foods / seafood
- Lightly flaked herby white fish
- Crisp green salads with cream dressing
- Fried Camembert in phyllo pastry
Castle Lite: Best paired with: Light flavoured foods
- Light seafood – fish should not have overly fishy/sea taste
- Crisp and crunchy green salads – includes pasta salads
Carling Black Label: Best paired with: Big food flavours
- Strong curry – as well as the sambals of coconut, banana, tomato and onion
- Pork and apple sauce
- Pork belly with sweet/honey/fruit glaze
- Caramelised onions
- Yorkshire puddings – the sweet bread flavours
- Sweet and sour chicken
Castle Milk Stout: Best paired with: Oysters and puddings
- Fresh oysters
- Rich stews
- Big flavoured roasts with intense sauce
- Any chocolate or toffee puddings
Flying Fish: Best paired with: Salads and raisin breads
- Fresh green salads
- Raisin breads, fruit loafs
- It also works really well in sorbets as a palate cleanser.
Newland’s Spring Passionate Blond: Best paired with: Dairy and seafood
- Cheese platters
Newland’s Spring Jacob’s Pale Ale: Best paired with: Complicated flavours
- Wild mushrooms
- Cured ham