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How to: Host a blind beer tasting
November/December 2012

Who says your holiday party has to be all cocktails and canapés? Switch things up when you host a blind tasting that challenges your guests’ palates and gets them talking beer.

1. PICK A MENU

Select five beers within a single theme: all tawny (Belgians, dunkels, ambers and more), all hoppy (barleywines and IPAs), all from the same city (say, San Francisco beers), or a quintet of a single style; serve them in order from least to most aggressive in flavor and alcohol. We asked Michael Ferrari, a cicerone and manager of The Common Table in Dallas, for his best blind tasting flight. “There is so much variation among beers that look exactly the same, and having beers that are visually indistinguishable leaves all of the guesswork to the two most important senses in beer sampling: smell and taste,” he says. “The best mix is one that uses a few style archetypes with a couple of oddballs to keep things interesting. Something like the following:”

1. Sunner Kölsch

2. Avery Joe’s Pils

3. Victory Headwaters Pale

4. Weihenstephaner Kristal Weissbier

5. Stone Cali-Belgique

2. BROWN-BAG IT

Slip each bottle into a paper bag and secure the necks with twine or rubber bands. Don’t let guests sneak peeks of the caps! Pint-size brown paper bags, $8 for 500, webrestaurantstore.com

3. KEEP POURS ORGANIZED

Number each beer from 1 to 5. Use erasable chalkboard Contact paper to identify groups of taster-sized pours (above), or invest in Chalkboard China’s flutes and scrawl each number on the erasable chalkboard bases. $20 each, chalkboardchina.com

4. TAKE NOTES

Give guests a small notebook to record their impressions of each beer; artist Eileen Pandolfo’s pocket-sized Beer Book has space for recording notes and stats for 100 beers. Have tasters rate each beer from 1 to 10, then tally scores at the end of the night. $12, etsy.com/shop/lazaflair

5. CLEANSE THEIR PALATES

Spicy and sugary snacks can alter beer’s flavors; nibble on plain crackers instead. We love Urban Oven’s hearty, small-batch Classic White crackers; barely buttery with just a hint of salt, they’re substantial enough to fill you up between brews. $5.79 for 7.5 ounces, urbanoven.com

Published November/December 2012
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