If you follow me on Instagram (nickels_and_noodles) you'll know that I am a big fan of tastings. Wine, spirits, beer, cheese, chocolate, it really doesn't matter I am always happy to sample! If I can turn it into a weekend away or a party even better! Recently I had the opportunity to go down to Detroit to do some beer and spirit tastings. I know that the city doesn't have the best reputation, but it is starting to change. Detroit now has a bustling microbrewery and craft beer scene which is worth checking out if you are a fan. Over the span of three days I visited three microbreweries and one craft distillery. I had a great time, and it got me thinking about hosting my own craft beer tasting party. Normally I hold some type of tasting event a couple times a year. Back in the spring I held a whiskey tasting with the help of the Johnnie Walker Mentorship Program, which was tons of fun. I wanted to share the secrets of hosting a successful tasting with you while I am starting to plan my next event.
The first thing that you need to figure out is what would you like to sample. Tastings don't necessarily have to be alcohol, although it is a popular choice. In the past I have been to chocolate, cheese, and coffee tastings. In terms of alcohol I have attended or held wine, beer, whiskey, vodka and tequila tastings.
Now that you have your theme it's time to consider who to invite. Tasting events work best in small numbers so it's best to keep your guest list between about 6 and 15 people. If you have a friend who is an "expert" it can be fun to ask them to be the educator for the evening.
It's best to have a base knowledge of your theme. Pick up a book or two from your local library or do some reading online. This way if your guests have questions you might be able to answer them, or at least point them in the right direction to find the answer themselves.
Personally I like to set boundaries for the evening in terms of the span of the theme. For example wine is a huge topic so you can get specific if you'd like; the evening can be a general wine tasting or it can be about one style, region or grape type. When doing this it's best to consider your guests. If they are pretty well read on the topic specific can be fun, however if they aren't then a very specific evening could be boring for them. When thinking about the scope of your party make sure to keep it reasonable. It's very easy to get carried away and want to taste dozens of things, but your pallet will burn out if you do this. In general I find 6-8 a good number of samples. If you are having a more general event you should have a variety of things to taste. Consider texture or body, intensity of flavor and sweetness when picking your samples.
Once you have everything planned start inviting your guests! Make sure to let them know that this will be a tasting. Ask them to bring something and don't be afraid to be specific, there is nothing wrong with asking for a goat cheese, or a Riesling. Once they know what type of event this is they will get into it. If you have more guests then needed samples you can ask the others to contribute crackers, bread or snacks. This is will help to keep the evening affordable for you.
On the day of the event make sure that you have crackers or bread and lots of water. Plain crackers or fresh bread helps to cleanse the palette. Nibbling way on these helps to prevent your tongue from getting overwhelmed during the evening. The water will help keep people hydrated as well was washing away any unpleasant flavors. Please also have food; even if you are doing a tasting that involves food like cheese or chocolate it is best to have other items on hand. If you are doing a tasting that involves alcohol you should have lots to snack on. During a tasting it is almost impossible to keep track of how much you have had to drink, so food is a must!
During the event I like to make sure that all the samples are labeled. This way it's easy to keep track of everything once it's set out.
Now just relax and have fun! Tasting parties are a great way to try new things and learn more about what you like and don't like.