Beer-Tasting Party

Host a pub-inspired beer-tasting party complete with cheese pairings, soft pretzels, burgers and, of course, a variety of craft beers.

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Photo By: Melanie Grizzel ©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Melanie Grizzel, Camille Styles ©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Melanie Grizzel, Camille Styles ©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Melanie Grizzel, Camille Styles ©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Melanie Grizzel, Camille Styles ©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Melanie Grizzel, Camille Styles ©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Melanie Grizzel, Camille Styles ©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Melanie Grizzel, Camille Styles ©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Melanie Grizzel, Camille Styles ©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Melanie Grizzel, Camille Styles ©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Melanie Grizzel, Camille Styles ©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Melanie Grizzel, Camille Styles ©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Party in Five

Summertime is all about easy, low-key entertaining. For your next get-together, trade in a more traditional wine tasting and invite over a few good friends for a casual beer-tasting party. Get started with these five essential ingredients: shot glasses filled with craft beer varieties, an assortment of cheeses, darts, chalk and notebooks.

Set the Scene

This beer-tasting table is inspired by a gastropub: no frills and all fun. A rustic wood table topped with a black chalk cloth runner lays the masculine foundation, while the food and drinks double as both refreshments and centerpieces.

In the Details

Instead of fancy florals, pop a few billy button flowers into bud vases and place them at the ends of the table. (Also known as billy balls, they're a type of bright yellow daisy.) The low-profile, single-stem flowers stay clear of clinking glasses while adding fun, festive color to the table. Purchase a simple dartboard and some darts to re-create a pub environment, and scatter darts on the table to round out the citrus color scheme.

Everything In Place

Write guests' names on the chalk cloth above each place setting, dictating seat assignments and enhancing your decor. White stoneware dinner plates set an easy, rustic vibe, while bright orange napkins provide a pop of color against the mostly dark table. Set a tumbler for water and a cluster of small shot glasses for tasting alongside the written names, and top the plates with hand-stamped Kraft paper journals for beer-tasting notes.

Say Cheese

A gourmet cheese plate is always a hit, and at this party, it provides delicious pairing opportunities with all the different beers. Scatter a variety of cheeses, nuts, fruits and crackers on a wood cutting board (no need to be too precise), and place one between every four guests so they double as edible centerpieces. (Longer crackers or cheese straws can be stashed upright in pint glasses.)

Grab a Jug

Growlers — half-gallon jugs used to transport craft beer — are increasingly sold at local beer shops, allowing customers to buy large quantities of beer from the tap. Their generous size and pretty aesthetic make them the perfect vessels for displaying and pouring mass amounts of craft beer, easily within guests' reach.

Take a Taste

Since this party is all about the beer, make sure to gather at least five or six craft varieties. Ask your local purveyor to recommend beers that represent the broad spectrum of lagers and ales. Set shot glasses at each place so guests can enjoy small tastes and then pour themselves second and third helpings of their favorites. If any of the beers have particular citrus notes, prepare orange or lemon wedges to perch on the glasses before tasting.

In a Knot

For many, a glass of beer is not the same without a warm, soft, salt-crusted pretzel dipped in a classic spicy mustard. Chuck's soft pretzels are just the salty treat to balance out all that bubbly beer. Prepare them before guests arrive, let them cool for an hour, then serve them as a mid-game snack.

Get the Recipe: Ballpark Pretzels

Beef Up the Table

After you've made a dent in the snacks, fire up the grill or grill pan to prepare easy bite-sized sliders like these miniature burgers. The hearty, beefy bites will keep guests sated while they continue to drink, and their compact size keeps things clean while guests juggle multiple glasses and tasting-note materials. (Clean-up is a cinch, too.)

Sketch Away

While this chalk cloth table runner is great for labeling places and setting the pub scene, it also doubles as a space where guests can identify beers, jot down quick notes or even just have some fun doodling (you know you want to!). Set out several containers of chalk on the table and let guests go to town.

Jot It Down

Help guests catalogue their thoughts and preferences by providing them with tasting notebooks and short golf pencils. (Gather extra pencils in shot glasses to keep them tidy and within each.) To make these, simply stamp Kraft cover notebooks with the word "notes" (any alphabet stamps will do). After the party is over, guests can take home their notebook as a fun (and useful!) favor.

Cheers to That

Cheers to a successful, laid-back party! For more details on creating this party, plus menu tips including how to prepare a cheese plate, click here.