I got invited to a tasting session!? What should I do??

So you have some friends who are beer nerds (like your beloved author) and you are somewhat interested in checking out some craft beers because that is all they talk about. You don’t want to feel left out and told them you would be interested in coming to their next event. Next weekend they went ahead and invited you to a “beer share” or a tasting event. You are a little worried and wish you would not have told them you are interested in learning/tasting more. You are finding yourself thinking about it at work, wondering what will happen. Thoughts and questions are running through your mind: “what if I do not know what to do?”, “will they laugh at me?”, “I don’t want to make a fool of myself”, “Do I get the host a gift?”.

Don’t sweat! This post is for you my friend!

Typically a beer share or a tasting party involves a number of different beers, either from one style or many styles depending upon how organized it is. Many times there is a
“theme” of a share/tasting party. I will break them into a few different categories, that way when you hear the ‘lingo” you will know what is being talked about as well.

An important point of reference. Beer shares are not “drinking parties” where a bunch of friends/people show up to drink and get drunk. Most of them tend to be very responsible affairs where fellow beer nerds like to taste and discuss the beer. People do not come to these events with the expressed interest of drinking for the sake of drinking. There is usually some sort of organization to such things.

The Vertical

A vertical tasting is the same kind of beer from multiple years. Usually this is accomplished with one or more individuals who cellar their beer (store it for aging). For instance Someone may have a really good Russian Imperial stout from ’13, ’14, ’15, ’16, & ’17 to compare against each other. Having been a part of these, the fresh beer does not always win. Something important to have at this type of share is a palate cleanser such as soda crackers and water. The taste difference between years can be distinct or it can be subtle. Resetting your palate helps make that difference easier to notice. Most often your host will have this all arranged in advance so you won’t have to worry about bringing anything, especially your first one. However, asking or offering to bring something is also the nice thing to do.

The Style Share

The style share most often refers to multiple beers from different brewers but all of the same style. For instance Barrel Aged Stouts, Barleywines, or Imperial IPAs would all be styles in a share. Here again, a palate cleanser is helpful. It also works well to have one beer of a different style available in the middle just to reset your palate some.

The Get Together

A simpler term may just be a small responsible party among beer friends. These are simplest and most diverse. They are also a lot of fun since most people are bringing a beer they want to try or simply show off from their collection or cellar. Don’t be surprised to try a lot of different styles. Luckily in my extended family we do these most anytime we get together now and has started to become a sort of a tradition. Great people and great beer go well together. Thanks awesome family!

The “Blind” Share

These types of shares are usually for the nerdiest of us. We want to know who the undisputed champ is within a style of beers or within a vertical. We also don’t want any biases creeping in and want to rate beers strictly upon taste. If you are new to the beer game, hold off on one of these until you can develop your palate a bit. These types of shares can be done with one style of beer, “Oktoberfest” for example, or within a vertical. Personally I like these because the beer has to stand up on it’s own, based upon flavor & taste, with no bias at play.

So, now you have the basics and should be able to just show up and enjoy some great beers. Hopefully this was helpful for you so you can stop sweating through your shirts as you anticipate the upcoming event! All in all, relax and enjoy the samples of the great beers you get to taste.

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