One of the most enjoyable parts of leading a brewery tour was bringing a group of people into one of our amazing Seattle Breweries, ordering a flight of beers, then tasting and comparing each beer. Part of the enjoyment was tasting and learning about new beers and beer styles. But perhaps the most enjoyable, for me, was the social interaction. watching people’s reactions to different beers. Hearing about what they liked and what they didn’t like, listening to them tell their stories about the beers they love and the ones they don’t care for. Sure, I can pour out four or six different beers for myself, but it is just not as much fun. Some people have suggested that I do a virtual brewery tour and send my virtual guests a package of beers to taste, but the logistics was just way too complicated. So, I’ve decided to give you the tools to conduct your own beer tastings.
In this era of social distancing you obviously cannot get together with a dozen of your friends and conduct a beer tasting, but you can organize your friends, agree on a tasting list, and meet online, taste the beers, take notes, score the beers and compare notes. I’ll provide the score sheets, guides and tasting sheets, that you can download, and you provide beers, friends and an online meeting.
Four steps to organizing your virtual beer tasting.
Choose your online platform
If you are working from home you probably have already been using some online tools to attend meetings. Here are a few popular options.
- Zoom is one of the more popular solutions, and a lot of people like the “Brady Bunch” arrangement for participants.
- FaceTime is an Apple product that can be used for group meetings.
- If you are using Google Chrome then you already have Google Hangouts. You can even use it on your phone.
- Skype is Microsoft’s long-time contender for online meetings.
This isn’t a techie blog, but these are pretty easy to set up. As Groucho Marx said, “A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.”
Agree on a start time
Well this goes without saying, but you would be surprised. Depending upon the number of beers, plan on at least one to two hours.
Choose your beers beforehand.
This may take some of the surprise out of the tasting, but it is more fun if everyone is trying the same beer. There will be more details about choosing a beer in the Virtual Lockdown Beer Tasting Kit, but here are some general guidelines.
- When possible, choose a beer from a local craft brewery. You loved to visit them before the pandemic, and many are struggling to stay afloat. If you cannot get beer directly from the brewery, try buying local brands from your grocery or liquor store.
- A growler would be great when you are sharing it with your buddies, but unless you have someone to share it with while on lockdown, it may be a little too much beer. Many craft breweries are bottling their more popular beers and you can pick them up right at the brewery. Or consider the half sized 32 oz howler or grunt, or the new 32 oz aluminum crowlers. Again, this is probably more beer than you need, but sacrifices must be made.
- Be sure that everyone has access to the same beers. So, if you are organizing a tasting with friends from across the country, you may need to choose beers with a national distribution. But if it is possible, try to choose a craft brewery rather than a big national brand. Imported beers may also be an option, as long as everyone can access a bottle.
Download our free Locked Down Beer Tasting Kit
You can print out what you need for the tasting. Make sure you send copies to your friends. You can download the kit here. Each kit contains:
- Your Virtual Lockdown Beer Tasting Guide. A step-by-step guide to setting up and organizing your virtual beer tasting, including suggested beer flights, serving suggestions and how to evaluate or judge your beers.
- Beer tasting score sheet. This sheet has space to grade and take notes for four beers. There is an area to record the name, IBU, ABV, and appearance of each beer. You can rate each beer on aroma, flavor, mouthfeel and your overall impressions, as well as an area to take notes. Print out as many as you need.
- Beer Mat. We can’t send fancy flight boards like the ones you see in most breweries through the internet, but you still need to line up the beers for comparison. Each beer mat has a spot for four beer glasses with a place to list its name.
- Common Beer Terminology Glossary. I hand out this list on each of my tours. The definitions come from the Brewers Association and Craft Beer.com.
- Beer and Food Pairings by Seattle Brewery Walking Tours. Another regular hand out from my tours. This is an easy reference guide for serving the right beer with your meal and serving the right food with your beer.
- Flavor Components in Beer. Another great reference from Craft Beer.com. This handy chart looks at common flavors people often taste in craft beers. It tells you what causes the flavor and in what style of beer it is acceptable.
- The Flavor Triangle from Craft Beer.com. We usually experience beer through Aroma, Taste and Mouthfeel. This easy to read chart gives you the basics.
- Beer Flavors Six Pack from Craft Beer.com. Most beer flavors fit into six descriptive categories. This handy reference guide from CraftBeer.com is easy to read and a great resource.
More Resources for your Virtual Beer Tasting
For more information about organizing your own virtual beer tasting, take a look at our blog on organizing your virtual beer tasting flights and our tips on serving beers for your tasting. Also take a look at our blog on judging and evaluating your beers. You can get all this information by downloading our Virtual Lockdown Beer Tasting Guide.
Share Your Tastings and Beer Lists
When you are all done let others know about your beer tasting and what you think of the beers. Post your tasting list, beer photos, the winners and other descriptive accounts to social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Be sure to tag the breweries and use #lockdownbeertasting and #virtualbeertasting. If you want to tag @seattlebrewerywalkingtours that would be groovy too.
Let me know how it went. I’m looking forward to hearing about your experience.
Feature photograph by David Horvitz