How to Host a Virtual Beer Tasting
Posted on January 20 2021
Lockdown has put a dampener on one of the best aspects of craft beer – exploring new tastes and styles in the company of a few mates in your local tap room. But while 2020 became one long brewery lockout thanks to lockdown and 2021 is off to a similar start, beer tasting sessions with friends, good food and a buzzing atmosphere are still possible – at least, virtually.
If you're missing the joy of in-real-life craft beer tasting, then fear not! Thanks to the rise of Zoom, craft beer online delivery bottleshops and the constraints of social distancing, the era of virtual craft beer tasting is here. Ok ... so it can't quite compete with the real deal, but with a smidge of planning, some excellent craft beer mixed cases and a dash of know-how, you can put on your own beer tasting session at home. We've put together this helpful guide to help you get the best from a virtual craft beer tasting with expert advice from our very own beer expert, Jared. So, what do you need to bring the craft brewery home and host your own beer tasting event?
Don't quite fancy the hassle? Join in a more organised tasting session (watch this space for details of Brew Republic's very own virtual beer tasting events coming soon) and you'll learn a thing or two about a beer that you didn't know.
Why virtual beer tasting?
Apart from the chance to enjoy some serious beers – from tart sours and hoppy IPAs to rich, delicious porters and stouts – beer tastings are downright fun. And it doesn't matter if you're doing it DIY, or simply joining in a professionally run event.
"Craft beer tastings – virtual or otherwise – are ideal for everyone," says Jared. "It can be people starting out with craft beers for the first time and really want to understand how to pair with food, for example. There's also the mid-level drinker who wants to understand more about hops and yeast and move towards real expertise. They want to slot together more of the puzzle pieces."
Whether you're hosting your own virtual craft beer tasting on Zoom, or joining in a more organised affair, a little knowledge before you start can pay dividends.
"One of the most important thing for newcomers is to learn about classic beer styles and a bit of history about beer before joining a virtual event," he says. "If you have a starting point, you know what to look for and can differentiate between different beers tastes. Then it becomes fun as you can start using your own terms to describe a taste – invent your own taste language – and start to better understand craft beer."
How to host your own virtual beer tasting
Step one – choose the beers
First, the prep. It's a good idea to theme your beer tasting session, such as exploring different styles of IPA or beers from one particular brewery.
"A theme is a good idea," advises Jared. "You could consider an IPA tasting, such as traditional English, hazy and American IPAs. Alternatively, you can choose specific beers – such as Utopian's The Lager – as a way to taste really good beers, and to see how great a pale lager can be."
Need some inspiration?
Try our Classic Styles Mixed Case of 12 beers which includes a free tasting glass, or make it a regular delivery with our craft beer subscription cases – 12 beers hand-picked by Jared from our brigade independent brewers. There's a range of styles to choose from, whether you're after hoppy IPAs, classic beers or want to discover something new.
If you fancy hanging your tasting around one particular style, either build your own selection by buying craft beer online from our bottleshop, or choose from one our specialist mixed beer cases such as the Utopian Lager Ultimate Mixed 12 Pack.
Step two – choose the virtual platform
Lockdown has seen an explosion of ways to connect and host events digitally, and the good news is there are lots of free solutions.
Zoom is the go-to, though the free version is limited to a 40-minute session if there are more than two people in the call. Microsoft Teams is a good free alternative, with videos calls able to last a full hour for up to 100 people.
Look for a platform that allows screen sharing, as both Zoom and Teams do. You can use it to put together a PowerPoint overview of the beers, or simply to run a pub quiz with a few picture rounds. You can also use a spreadsheet to capture tastes and impressions of different beers as they are tasted, sharing scores and impressions.
Step three – glassware
"It helps to have the right type of glass, but don't worry if you don't," says Jared. "If possible, avoid using a pint glass or v-shaped water glass. You can't swirl the beer, which is why craft beer tasting glasses taper in so they focus the aromas and build up a head." A Craft Master glass is included with your first Brew Republic craft beer subscription – cases of beer that are perfect for a beer tasting session.
Find out more about beer and glassware in our beer school article.
Whatever type of glass you use, (a wine glass is actually better for tasting than a pint glass in a pinch) it does need to be squeaky clean. Ideally, each tasting round should use a different glass but if that sounds like washing up purgatory, stop and thoroughly wash and clean glasses after three rounds before reusing.
"Clean glassware is essential," explains Jared. "Glassware can suffer from debris, grease and even residue from cleaning with petroleum-based soaps. Dirty glassware traps bubbles to its sides, preventing the full flavour experience."
Step four – snacks
The key to tasting craft beer is to recognise how well it goes with food, and how food can complement beer flavours. "Don't be too precious and have a few snacks – even put together a beer-tasting food menu."
Step five – tasting rounds
Now for the fun bit.
Aim for around five or six tasting sessions, with each round tasting 15cl of craft beer (yes, you can finish the can after the initial tasting!).
You can either order the rounds by alcohol volume, moving from lowest to highest abv during the tasting or opt for a flavour intensity sequence as advised by Jared.
"Whatever you choose, during the session work from lighter, lower alcohol content beers such as lager to heavier, sweeter beers such as porters. So, start with lager, then move onto a sour, then two different style IPAs, before finishing with a stout and porter."
While tasting should be fun, (you remembered to screen share the pub quiz, right?) it's also about hunting down the tasting notes, describing the aroma and appreciating the colour and mouthfeel.
Helpfully, we include tasting notes for the beers included in our subscription cases, making them an ideal starting point.
We recently hosted our own virtual beer tasting with one of our comrades and even surprised some of her neighbours... Take a watch and get inspired for your own virtual beer tasting!