Party in Five: Beer Tasting

In the summertime, entertaining needs to be easy — so you have more time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the warm-weather eats. We set out to create fun, complete party experiences using only five essential ingredients, from tasty food and drinks to decor and games. Party on!

The increasingly hotter temps and slower pace of summer here in Austin has encouraged me to take an even more laid-back approach to entertaining than usual. So when Cooking Channel asked me to come up with fun summer parties that could be executed using only five essential "ingredients," I jumped at the chance to tackle this challenge. The first subject of my party-throwing prowess? A beer-tasting party: summer's toned-down version of a more traditional wine tasting event.

On a recent weeknight, I invited friends over to put this party to the test. To prepare for guests and to give my home a more masculine, beer-imbibing vibe, I took cues from a no-frills gastropub my friends I like to frequent. I covered my wooden table in a chalkboard-painted oilcloth (you can find one easily by Googling "chalk cloth") — perfect for labeling guests' seats and later on, doodling — and added touches of color with yellow flowers and orange napkins.

To throw this beer-tasting party, you need five essential ingredients:

  • Shot glasses filled with craft beer
  • Tasting notebooks for capturing thoughts and flavor preferences
  • Cheese for delicious pairings
  • Chalkboard cloth and chalk for a festive table
  • Darts for a fun activity and re-creating that beer pub vibe

Click here to see the party in action and find out how to recreate this beer tasting in its entirety, and read more about the menu below.

How to host a summer beer tasting party with sliders, pretzels, and cheese plates, by Camille Styles for Cooking Channel

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

Melanie Grizzel, Camille Styles, 2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The Menu

The drinks are obviously the stars of this show. Purchase at least five or six craft beer varieties from a local purveyor, making sure to acquire beers with different flavor profiles. Plan on one bottle of each beer you buy per person, which will allow guests to pour seconds (or thirds, or fourths...) of their favorite picks. (Have lots of water on hand, too, so everyone stays hydrated.)

Soft, hot pretzels and sliders will keep guests sated (an important factor when drinking this much beer!), but to start things off, set out some beautiful cheese plates on wooden cutting boards that will double as centerpieces. Partygoers will take and compare notes on which cheeses they like with which beers — a great conversation starter.

Here are a few rules of thumb for putting together the cheese plate:

  • Plan to serve one to two ounces of each cheese per person.
  • Let the cheese sit at room temp for an hour before serving, which will enhance their flavors.
  • Include a mix of fresh, aged, soft and hard cheeses.
  • Arrange — and sample — the cheeses starting with the freshest and lightest, ending with the ripest and most intense.
  • Try adding any of the following to dress up the plate and add a variety of flavors that will complement the cheese: pears, dried cherries, figs, walnuts, marcona almonds, crackers and soft baguettes.

Get the recipes for this party and more party tips here.

Camille Styles is the founder and editor of lifestyle blog, where she shares creative entertaining ideas for parties and everyday life. She also owns Camille Styles Events, a design and planning firm that transforms ordinary events into extraordinary experiences.

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