A couple of weeks ago I gave my first beer tasting. I had the opportunity to give the tasting on a private cruise for a local company. Overall the event went pretty well, and both the guests and I had a great time.
Doing custom tastings is something I’ve been considering doing for a while but I’ve never quite gotten all my ducks in a row to get it off the ground properly. Having had my first official experience doing this type of event I’m ready to keep going and provide this service to another group again very soon.
So what did I do?
The short answer: I came up with a series of beers and walked the group through tasting each one.
I chose a list of five Vancouver beers that were accessible and yet offered something unique. I wanted to bring a selection that could offer something to anyone who liked beer – even if they didn’t like four of the five that I brought, there should still be one they could relate to.
It was important to gauge the level of familiarity of the group with beer in general and local beer in particular. Since many of the attendees were from outside of Vancouver, I wanted to showcase some great beers from breweries in Vancouver proper.
Here is the list of beers I put together for the event. As you can see I went with a good range of styles and flavours, all of them quite accessible:
- R&B Brewing – Stolen Bike Lager
- Strange Fellows Brewing – Jongleur Wit
- Bomber Brewing – Parklife Passion Fruit Ale
- Main Street Brewing – Session IPA
- Dogwood Brewing – Organic Fest Ale
The other important part for me was to share a bit about the brewery with the group since that story is as important as the story around their beer. I prepared a short introduction to each brewery, their story and what makes them unique, and then launched into the beer. I wanted to engage the group with what they tasted and what they thought about what they were drinking. Rather than simply saying “this is what you taste” it was important for me to ask people what they experienced since every palate is different and we all experience beer in our own subjective ways. My goal after all was to turn more people onto local craft beer, not to tell people what to think!
How did it go?
I think the ultimate outcome was positive, although I can already identify some room for improvement. Overall I believe that most of the people who attended learned something new and many took away a new appreciation for local beers. A good many of the people found a new favourite beer, which was exactly the kind of thing I was going for.
I was surprised at what people liked and what they didn’t. Obviously I came with my own preconceived notions of which beers would be popular, and hence why I chose the lineup that I did. Even so, I found myself more than once being intrigued as to the reactions to the beers that I brought along. Parklife, for example, definitely split opinions, and surprisingly (to me) was the only one with specific negative reactions. Only one that was mentioned to me, but it was interesting nonetheless due largely to the popularity of this beer within craft beer circles. On the other hand, the Jongleur proved to be one of the more popular beers, second only to the Fest Ale from Dogwood, which was clearly the most popular and brought out the most glowing reactions from many in the crowd.
For future events I would ensure that the tasting and sharing aspect of the evening is well-communicated in advance. In this case both my participation and the tasting itself were a bit of a surprise to most of the people there, and it wasn’t clear what the expectations were – or even if there were any. Thankfully, most of the group were interested in trying something new and wanted to hear about the beers and the breweries. However, it was difficult to maintain the group’s attention due in no small part to the fact we were on a boat in the harbour, surrounded by Stanley Park and the Lion’s Gate Bridge!
I’m definitely pleased that I had the opportunity to put this tasting together and I look forward to putting on more in the future.
If you or someone you know is looking to put on an interesting event that showcases local beer, please feel free to get in touch and I’ll work with you to put together a memorable event.