With the festive season right around the corner, it's time to spend some quality time with those closest to you. Braais, movie nights and beer tasting parties. That's right, not wine tasting, beer tasting. If this is the first time you've heard about it, don't worry, by the end of this you'll know exactly what they're all about!
Denis da Silva, SAB Trade Brewer at Newlands Brewery in Cape Town believes that beer is more versatile than wine because "beer is food". Beer has many different characteristics thanks to its varied ingredients, with hundreds of malted barley varieties, yeast strains and hops.
Once you have the number of guests that you are catering for, you'll know the number of beers you need to purchase (and food to accompany).
TIP: Da Silva suggests a six-pack of each of the beer types below for a party of 20 people.
Provide your guests with a variety of flavours:
All round lightness, less body with a sharp crispness and
gentle lingering bitterness, like Castle Lite.
Hop bitterness like a Hansa Pilsner with its unique Saaz hop or the Jacob's Pale Ale
from Newlands Spring Brewing Company with earthy and peppery notes.
Clean, somewhat dry, somewhat bitter, never sweet lager like Castle Lager or some roasted, caramel, toffee notes from Jacobs Pale Ale.
Rich and smooth with roasted full mouthfeel, like Castle Milk Stout or some chocolate and coca notes from Choc Stout.
Low bitterness with a distinctive fruity aroma and taste, like The Newlands Spring Co - Passionate Blond with its distinctive passion fruit aroma or Carver's Weiss & Mountain Weiss with a zesty banana aroma with hints of clove and vanilla.
There is a variety to select from – the Flying Fish range of low bitterness fruit flavoured beers (orange, lemon and apple), Castle Lite Lime or the most recently-launched Liberado, a tequila flavoured beer with fresh lemon notes.
There is a reason it's called a cold one! Make sure you serve chilled beers to optimise the tasting experience. Remember that chilling them isn't instant. Be sure to put them in the fridge at least an hour before your guests arrive and put them in an ice bucket until they are served.
In between beers, it is recommended to cleanse your palate with water.
Mix things up with a variety of glassware styles per beer style – standard/classic, snifter/goblet, tulip, flute, pilsner/ weizen or stange.
Glasses with a wide bowl and narrow mouth help 'trap' the beer's aromas in the glass, making for a better tasting experience. But don't worry if you do not have a vast selection of glassware – all that matters is that it is clean with no soapy residues as this will kill your foam (to find out what else can kill your foam, click here)
It is best to use smaller glassware in a beer tasting as you will only be pouring the beer into a third of the glass. Remember it is a taster only.
It is important not to overwhelm the pallet of your guests during your beer tasting party. Have an assortment of low flavoured foods like unsalted pretzels or crackers and raw vegetables (carrot and celery sticks).
If you really want to wow your guests, host your beer tasting with a food pairing. See some suggestions below.
TIP: Take your time serving each dish because a beer and food pairing is best enjoyed slowly.
Have fun setting up the décor for your beer tasting party. Label ice buckets with the various beers you will be tasting and give your guests a quick history about the beers you will be serving. You can even go as far as printing beer score sheets and asking your guests to score the beer tastes for themselves.
If you are into party games, you could build a blind tasting into the evening's proceedings. Away from eyeshot, pour a beer of your choice into jug and then serve to guests with the notion they need to guess what beer it is.
You can even have a prize for the correct guess – a six pack of their favourite beer or dinner on you.
TIP: Because you want your guests to drink responsibly, ensure everyone has booked a driving service to get them safely home.
Encourage discussions among your guests so they are having fun while learning about the tastes of beer.
To help you create the perfect beer and food combinations, we've given you an easy to understand SAB beer paring chart below.
Braai meats (e.g. grilled sirloin) – it is a South African tradition to drink Castle Lager at our typical braais.
Mild curry – it acts as a "semi-fire blanket" against mild curries only.
LIGHT FLAVOURED FOODS / SEAFOOD
Lightly flaked herby white fish
Crisp green salads with cream dressing
Fried Camembert in phyllo pastry
LIGHT FLAVOURED FOODS
Light seafood – fish should not have overly fishy/sea taste
Crisp and crunchy green salads – includes pasta salads
BIG FOOD FLAVOURS
Strong curry – as well as the sambals of coconut, banana, tomato and onion
Pork and apple sauce
Pork belly with sweet/honey/fruit glaze
Yorkshire puddings – the sweet bread flavours
Sweet and sour chicken
OYSTERS and PUDDINGS
Big flavoured roasts with intense sauce
Any chocolate or toffee puddings
SALADS and RAISIN BREADS
Fresh green salads
Raisin breads, fruit loafs
It also worked really well prepared in sorbets as a palate cleanser between dishes.
DAIRY and SEAFOOD
Now you have everything you need to throw the perfect beer tasting party! So send out an SMS, email or smoke signal and get together with your friends to enjoy a night to remember. But remember to never drink and drive!