First-Class Flight Plan for a Beer Tasting

What Kinds of Beer?

You’ll need at least five beer types for a generous beer flight. Include a range from light to dark, and taste them in that order. There are dozens of beer types – but here’s a common range, with a 2016 Washington Beer Award winner listed for each.

  • Lagers & Pilsners – crisp, refreshing, light and hoppy.
    WBA winner: Three Magnets Brewing Company’s Scherler Gold.
  • Blonde Ales – hoppy, fruity or spicy notes, darker than lagers.
    WBA winner: Hellbent Brewing Company’s Goldfinch.
  • Dark Ales – a balance of hoppy and malty, with nutty flavors.
    WBA winner: Walking Man Brewing’s Barefoot Brown Ale.
  • Porters – roasted barley or wheat origins, with malty chocolate or caramel notes.
    WBA winner: Kulshan Brewing Company’s Transporter.
  • Stouts – sturdy, sometimes bitter brews of black un-malted barley, with hints of molasses or coffee.
    WBA winner: Flying Lion Brewing’s Rye Stout.

There’s not a lot of difference between stouts and porters (if you ask some people!), but that’s where the tasting fun comes in, especially if you do a blind tasting.

How Much Do You Need?

  • For 20 people, get two six-packs of each beer. That covers the tasting part – be sure and have extras (and larger glasses) so someone who has found their favorite can enjoy a whole glass.
  • Up to four ounces is considered a proper taste as part of a flight - you’ll pour at least three tastes from each bottle (or you can fill a large shot glass for each taste).
  • The beer should not be ice-cold. Take lagers, pilsners and ales out of the cooler at least 15 minutes before tasting begins, and make it at least 30 minutes for stouts and porters.

Other Essentials: Glasses, Placemats and/or Scorecards

  • Beer is best sampled in glassware, plastic can alter the taste. Rent enough small beer glasses for all the tasting at the party, or use your own collection of small glasses – just have guests rinse their glass with water before they try another.
  • Have a paper placemat for each guest, with a circle drawn for each beer in the tasting. (Use the bottom of a beer glass to help draw.) Label each circle with a beer in the tasting. Supply pencils and guests can take note on their placemats.
  • Proper scorecards take it all a step farther and add structure. Write a few notes on each beer (the label usually tells you what you need to know). Add sections for guests to complete for each beer on appearance (color, head), aroma (tell guests to swirl beer and sniff twice), and taste (smooth, bitter, malty, hoppy, flavor notes.) Unlike wine, beer needs to be swallowed to fully reach all the taste buds attuned to its flavors.

And Of Course, Food

  • All of that beer tasting requires discussion, and serious discussion requires food! Trays of sausage, cheeses, crackers, fruit, nuts and popcorn are welcome.
  • Don’t miss the chance to make pretzel necklaces – the popular bling at beer festivals On a separate table, supply string, scissors and a big bowl of pretzels. Invite your guests to thread pretzels on a string and wear their necklaces proudly. Between each beer, they can nibble on a handy pretzel to clear the palate.

Games Add to the Fun

  • Switch to a blind beer tasting to up the ante for beer connoisseurs. Hide the labels and give each beer a number. See who can identify the most correctly.
  • For family fun, set the kids up with their own table of different root beers to taste.

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