How NOT to Have a Beer Tasting Party

Written by Tom Becham for

On a recent Friday evening, I was at a friend’s house, guiding a group of guys through a beer tasting. I’d been invited by this friend as he is a beer-geek-in-the-making, and he’s been bitten by the bug of wanting to also convert his friends.

Many of the friends, (and there were about a dozen in attendance) while being inexperienced with craft beer, were scotch whiskey drinkers, and therefore I assumed they would have hardy palates and be used to complex flavors.

That assumption was just one of a number of things that I did very wrong on this maiden voyage.

Let’s start with our beer list. We tasted the following beers:

Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock
La Fin du Monde Tripel
Stone Old Guardian Barleywine
Unibroue Trois Pistoles
Chimay Grande Reserve
Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout
Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA

All great beers, right? But did you notice something? The ‘weakest’ of these beers (Salvator) clocks in at 7.7% ABV. And they go up to Old Guardian, which is a bruiser at 11.5%%.

The tasting was also set before a scheduled poker game amongst the guys (most of which I had to stay for, as I was in no shape to drive for awhile). And as some of the guys who were attending the tasting ran late, we went through the beer much more quickly than was wise.

All in all, not really a scenario you want for serious beer tasting events, especially with newbies.

Yet, something strange and worthwhile still happened. I could tell that I was getting through to at least two or three of the guys, who asked very relevant, insightful questions. And they also noticed the subtleties and distinctions between the beers, just as I wished.

It’s been said that the best way to convert someone to the love of craft beer is to serve them good beer. I think I may have managed to do that, despite an overall bungling of this event.

Tom Becham lives in California, he’s a homebrewer and reviews beer, brewpubs, breweries and beer events for

One Reply to “How NOT to Have a Beer Tasting Party”

  1. I made this mistake this summer. Homebrewers were supposed to come to one of three tastings I did in the Adirondacks: the first one. The day before I found out the president who had worked it out had resigned two weeks or so before. The new guy said, “First time I heard of it,.” So we got one member: about 5-6 people, but they wanted me to open all the high octane stuff. Do you think Ken is going to just dump his fav stuff after? Of course not! NOT the best end to the affair. However it was all good by the next week with a packed house.

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