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Craft beer has enjoyed a massive popularity surge in recent years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Now, there are nearly 9,000 craft breweries across the country, including 220 regional craft breweries that produce various styles of beer. As breweries multiply, sales shrink for each of the four most popular beers: Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light and Budweiser. Today, you can taste thousand — if not millions — of delicious small-batch brews instead. With so many to try and so little time, it’s best to plan a craft beer night. You and your buds can check a few more flavors off your beer bucket list without having to travel the country in search of breweries.
Here are a few tips to help you plan the best craft beer night ever.
1. Know Your Audience
Craft beer means different things to different people, which is why it’s important to know your audience before sending out invites. You want everyone to feel comfortable and confident enough to mingle with each other, and it helps if they all have the same general level of beer tasting knowledge.
This isn’t the time to mix the beer aficionados with novices tasters, but it is a good time to implement the BYOB approach. Ask your guests to bring a six-pack from their favorite local brewery. That way everyone gets to be an expert on their beer of choice and try varieties that might be unavailable back home.
2. Choose a Theme
Go the extra mile and add another layer of fun to your craft beer night by choosing a theme. For instance, you could hang string lights, build a fire in the hearth and set up camping chairs to make it feel like you’re on a backpacking trip. Alternatively, you could put up some neon signs and transform a piece of furniture into a home bar to create a pub-like atmosphere.
If you go with a more specific theme like a Hawaiian luau, include details about the dress code in your invite. That way guests can come dressed to match the theme and create a more immersive tasting experience for everyone.
3. Pair Brews and Bites
Of course, delicious drinks will be the main event at your craft beer night, but people need food, too! It’s the responsible thing to do when you have friends tasting beer together for hours. Plus, serving tasty snacks or appetizers will help them cleanse their palate, discover new pairings and sober up before heading home.
Serve light lagers and wheat beers with spicy food like wings. Dark lagers taste best with pizza, burgers or heavy stews while brown ales pair well with everything from sausage to sushi. Encourage guests to try unique pairings like wheat beer and lobster rolls or amber ale and smoked salmon, too.
4. Make Cocktails, Too
If you really want to impress your guests, think outside the box and try making a few beer cocktails. Keep a few basic ingredients on hand so you can mix up some delicious drinks, whatever you and your friends bring to the party.
The simplest beer cocktails are often the tastiest. For instance, the classic Michelada only contains a five basic ingredients. However, you can easily experiment with syrups, infusions, garnishes and more. Rely on tried and true recipes to serve up consistent, delightful drinks all night long.
5. Open That Bottle
February 26 is Open That Bottle Night, a holiday dedicated to popping those fancy bottles you’ve been saving so you can finally taste what’s inside. While it was first created with wine in mind, you can certainly celebrate with beer, instead.
Invite your guests to bring a special pack of craft beer if they want, too. That way you can soak in the good vibes — and flavors — together. Otherwise, plan to break out one of your own to kick off the evening. Then, you can enjoy more recent varieties the rest of the evening.
Creating a Sense of Discovery
The whole point of a craft beer night is to taste some great brews and learn something new. As the host, it’s your job to share both with your guests. Inspire a sense of awe and wonder for the world of beer. There’s so much yet to discover, and your craft beer night is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you plan well, the evening will inspire all of you to keep tasting, even if that means adding a few more beers to your must-try bucket list.