How to host a bottleshare

Siobhan's ultimate guide on how to host a delicious beery bottleshare

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Trying new beers is fun - trying them with friends is even better. Having a group of mates round to try a bunch of different beers, chat about them, snack, and catch up is one of my favourite ways to pass an evening, and something I really missed during the long, lonely months of lockdown. So, here’s my ultimate guide on how to host a delicious beery bottleshare.

Step one: Choose a beer theme

Is this going to be a ‘Beer Styles 101’ kind of evening? Or will it be a specific style like fruity beers or lambics, or a ‘craft beer delights pot-luck’ tasting, or a ‘let’s crack open some of the rare and wonderful things from the back of the cupboard’ night?

Choosing a theme will make it easier to decide if you want every guest to bring a bottle, or if you’d rather take a set amount of money from everyone in advance and go on a shopping spree. 

Step two: Choose your guests

Depending on what theme you’ve chosen, you might want a specific set of guests. If you’re cracking some rare 14% impy stouts, you might want to invite your more nerdy beer pals. But if it’s going to serve more as an intro to beer, maybe invite some of your more beer-curious friends and family members who would enjoy learning more. Anywhere between 4-10 guests usually works, as it keeps it intimate but sociable. 

Step three: Set up your space 

Limit any sensory distractions like TV, loud music, strong-smelling food or candles, and anything else that might interfere with your guests’ perceptions of the beers. 

Lastly, don’t forget about snacks. A French baguette or a plain cracker is the palate-cleanser of choice among beer judges, but depending on what kind of evening you’re planning, a nice spread of different foods can actually enhance your beer tasting - especially if you pair the food with the drinks. A selection of cheeses, oatcakes and crackers, charcuterie, crisps, plain salted pretzels, and nice chocolates are some of my favourite foods to have available, but your local deli or cheesemonger will be able to offer recommendations if you’re stumped.

Oh, and make sure your beer is chilled and ready a good few hours in advance. Obviously.

Step four: Decide on a running order for the evening 

Light-to-dark is the most obvious running order, but there’s more to the decision than that. There’s also the style, ABV, and the bitterness and intensity factors to take into account - have a good think about what beers you have, and order them accordingly. 

Also, is the beer going to be tasted blind (always a fun challenge!), or will everyone be encouraged to nerd out over it and learn as they drink? Will you be setting out all the beers in one go, with a ‘tasting station’ for each beer, or will you bring them out one by one? 

Another important thing to decide on is if you are going to MC the whole event, providing tasting notes and guidance, and timing the proceedings, or if it’s going to be more of a free-for-all where you all take turns giving your impressions. 

Step five: Lay out your tools 

Decide what glasses you’re going to use. You can pick up a case of small 1/3 beer tasting glasses for a reasonable price online, but in all honesty, wine glasses work perfectly fine if you’re on a budget. 

Make sure there’s plenty of cold water available in jugs - to help cleanse your palate and to keep your pals hydrated, but also to rinse your glass between beers. Consider providing a ‘dregs’ bucket for this too. 

Consider supplying a tasting/score sheet if you’re intending on having a more educational bottle share - these can be a lot of fun to fill out. If using, make sure you print out lots of copies, and have pencils on hand for your guests. 

Step six: Get drinking! 

You’ve earned this. 

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