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How to: Host a blind beer tasting

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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.


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


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,


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,


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,


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,


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One Comment

  • Shannon says:

    Love this! But I have a few questions…

    1. How do you keep the beer cold when you have put a brown paper bag around the beers?
    2. Everyone scores but….how does one WIN? – is it just for ‘tasting’?/fun?

    I really appreciate your answers as they will assist in planning of my husbands birthday party…


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