Time to put a new spin on the classic pizza and beer pairing. We’ve partnered with Jackie Dodd, founder of The Beeroness, to see her tips for how to throw a beer tasting party perfect for summer weekends.
I’ll admit it.
It’s probably because I dedicated my life to craft beer that I firmly believe that throwing a beer tasting party is the best way to host a summer gathering. But then again, it’s beer and grilled food, and there are no losers in that game. Craft beer, with its enormous database of flavors, really can reach more people than any other alcoholic beverage. Don’t think you like beer? Have you tried a Berliner Weisse? A saison? A Belgian dubbel? Pick the right selection of beer styles, and you may just introduce some of your guests to their new favorite beverage—and they will have you to thank.
Selecting the Beer
Craft beer tends to run along a hops-to-malt spectrum. The flavor of hops is bitter, but it also has beautiful flavors of grass, herbs and citrus. Malt is the opposite—it has sweet and warm flavors with notes of bread and fruit. The sweetness of the malt balances the bitterness of hops. Some beers fall firmly in the melt-your-face-off, hops-to-the-wall end of the spectrum, while others are sweet and malty with hops that are hardly even detectable by the most advanced palate. Others land right in the middle, with neither the hops nor the malt taking center stage. When planning a fun beer taste testing party, try to grab beers along all stages of the spectrum, giving your guests the opportunity to try each type and decide what they like.
Types of Beer
A great lineup at a tasting party will include a range of craft beer with various flavor profiles. Like this: a wet hopped IPA, a double IPA, a balanced pale ale, a cream ale, a saison, a wheat beer, an American brown ale, a porter and a Belgian dubbel. Not sure what any of that means? Not a problem—just bring that list to a bottle shop or large distributor of beers (avoid grocery stores, they have a limited selection) and have them help pick out the right bottle selection.
Along with that standard line up, add a few fun beer flavors in the mix. Try a sour beer, a fruit beer (like one brewed with peaches—perfect for summer), a spicy beer, a smoked beer and a craft cider. While some people don’t have palates made for traditional beer, these late additions might just be right up their alley.
Choosing the Correct Glassware
Glassware is important. You’ve gone to all the trouble of sourcing some fantastic craft beer, and the last thing you want to do is compromise those flavors with plastic tumblers or red plastic cups. A specific glass really can affect the taste. If you don’t believe that, just sample the same beer in three different glasses, and you will be a believer. These Crate and Barrel half pint glasses are my favorites for a bottle share or craft beer tasting party. The perfect size for a bit more than a sample, these glasses give your guests the ability to try several beers throughout the night (just make sure to rinse the glasses between beers). If you have no other glassware for a full pint other than the standard shaker pints that you brought home from spring break, invest in a multipurpose glass that can serve several different styles, such as the Portland Glass.
Your Beer Tasting Party Menu
Certainly not least is the food. Since you’ll be challenging all your guests palates with a bevy of beverages, you’ll want to serve food that’s familiar. Pizza and beer are a natural pairing, but with the amazing selection of beer, you have to go beyond the standard. My favorite way to make homemade pizza is on the grill. The results are far better than a traditional home kitchen oven and it’s quick and easy. Grill the dough just enough to firm it up, top it and put it back on the grill until the cheese is melted. It’s familiar, but with a unique edge that your guests will dig, and it’s the perfect food to serve with a shopping cart full of beers.
Grilled Pizza with Mango, Prosciutto and Stout Balsamic Glaze Recipe
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) rapid rise yeast
- 1 cup wheat beer
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (plus additional for rise and grill)
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 cup stout beer
- 1/3 cup prepared pesto sauce
- 1 mango, peeled and diced
- 4 strips prosciutto, chopped
- 1 ounce goat cheese
Add the flour, salt, sugar and yeast to a stand mixer, mix until combined.
Heat the beer until it reaches between 120 and 125 degrees on a cooking thermometer.
Add the beer and olive oil to the stand mixer, and mix on medium speed until dough gathers around the blade and is no longer sticky (about six minutes).
Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil. Add the dough, cover and allow to rise in a warm room until doubled in size, about one hour. (You can make the dough up to three days in advance. Just store it in the fridge, punching it down every 12 hours and allowing to come to room temperature before using).
While the dough rises, make the glaze. Add the balsamic vinegar, honey and stout to a pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a syrup (about 10 minutes). Set aside.
Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for about three minutes. Form into a large circle.
Preheat the grill to medium high.
Place the dough on the grill (a pizza peel coated in flour or cornmeal will help) until grill marks start to appear. Flip the dough and very lightly grill on the underside, just until the dough holds shape. Remove from the grill, place on a work surface with the lightly grilled side down. Top with pesto, mangoes and goat cheese. Return to the grill, close the lid, cooking until the dough is cooked through (about five minutes). Remove from the grill and top with prosciutto. Just prior to serving, drizzle with balsamic glaze.
Looking for more fun party ideas? Check out the Crate and Barrel Pinterest page for other entertaining inspiration.