How to host a St. Patrick’s Day beer tasting

St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal here in Kansas City. OK, not just big. Giant-parade, take-the-day-off, not-if-but-how-much-will-you-celebrate big. Hallmark Content Strategist Trish B. lives near the downtown parade route, which has her thinking about inviting friends over for a St. Patrick’s Day beer tasting.

Craft beer is fun, y’all.

I don’t just mean drinking it. I mean getting together with friends, sampling different kinds, geeking out about limited edition releases, and trying new breweries and brew pubs. Beer fans, it turns out, are friendly, passionate, entertaining people.

So I’m not about to pass up St. Patrick’s Day as an excuse for a party-slash-beer-tasting. Not only does Ireland have a history of brewing great beer, but it’s also super-easy to find traditional red ales and dry stouts by both Irish and U.S. brewers.

My favorite party idea comes from my all-woman craft beer club: Someone picks a theme, everyone finds a buddy, and each pair brings a beer and a snack. Teaming up to research styles and flavor profiles, then brainstorming complementary recipes, turns out to be a great way to learn about beer and get to know each other better.

Want to host one yourself? Here’s how to put on a St. Patrick’s Day beer tasting with minimal effort. (Hint: It doesn’t even have to be on St. Patrick’s Day.)

CHOOSE YOUR THEME

Whether you decide to provide everything yourself or do a “bottle share” (beer geek speak for “potluck”), a theme provides some direction—very helpful when you show up at a liquor store and they ask what you’re looking for.

A St. Patrick’s Day beer tasting presents a couple of obvious choices:

  • Beers from Ireland: For a little range, try a Harp Lager, a Smithwick’s Irish Ale, a Guinness Draught (a stout) and a Guinness Extra Stout (for comparison). Or throw in an O’Hara Irish Wheat, Murphy’s Irish Red or a Murphy’s Irish Stout.
  • Beers made in the traditional Irish styles, dry stouts and red ales: The best way to do this is with a little online or IRL research. When you find some names you’re curious about, Seek A Brew lets you see if they’re available in your area.

You can even broaden the theme to “spring beers” or “beer with the color green on the label.” Remember: Craft beer drinking should be fun, not intimidating.

DECIDE HOW MUCH YOU NEED

Standard tasting size ranges from two to four ounces per beer per person; planning on the equivalent of two beers (24 oz.) per person is a good place to start. Then factor in the number of beers you’re going to sample, how long folks will hang out, and what time you have to wake up the next morning.

So it might look like this: Eight pairs of guests—that’s 16 people trying eight beers, so let’s do about three ounces per beer. Each pair would bring two standard 12 oz. bottles or cans, or one 750 ml bottle.

Whenever you’re hosting a bottle share, it’s helpful to let everyone know how many people are coming and who’s bringing what so you don’t get duplicates. (Thank you, online invites.)

SET UP YOUR BEER TASTING

I’ll admit to a pretty severe glassware addiction. So if I’m just having a few people over for drinks, getting out the fancy beer glasses is part of the fun. (I love these.)

But for a tasting, all you need is small glasses that will hold your two-to-four-ounce pours; don’t worry too much about getting the style exactly right. Here’s what I usually put out:

  • Juice, wine, pint or fancy tasting glasses (one per person or one per person per beer—your choice)
  • Water glasses (stay hydrated)
  • Large ice bucket or cooler (to keep bottles of beer nearby)
  • A couple of pitchers of water (for rinsing glasses if you’re just using one each)
  • Another pitcher or bucket (for dumping, in the rare event that happens)
  • Pretzels, bread or crackers (for palate cleansing)
  • Something to take notes on and with (download our free printable tasting mat here)

Serve and taste and talk

OK, then. Let the St. Patrick’s Day beer tasting begin.

Two important questions to get out of the way:

  • Should I chill the glasses? Nope. The condensation can dilute the beer, and most craft brews shouldn’t be served ice cold.
  • Should we drink the beers in order from lightest to darkest? Sometimes. The real answer is, “Go in order from weakest to strongest in terms of aroma, bitterness and sometimes alcohol (check alcohol by volume, or ABV, on the bottle).”

If you’ve got a beer geek on hand, put her in charge of deciding the order. If you’re doing this for the first time, no big deal: there’s plenty of help online.

Now, the easy part: Talk about the beer and food pairing. Drink the beer and eat the food. Talk about the beer and food some more. Repeat.

(And be sure to take notes on a tasting mat like ours, which is available for free download, so you remember what you like.)

Will you try your own St. Patrick’s Day beer tasting? Tell us in the comments—or share your pics and tag us on Instagram @think.make.share.

Photographer: Ty Hester

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