Beer tasting etiquette

BEER: Make sure you serve chilled beers to optimise the tasting experience.

We’ve all heard of wine tasting evenings, but how about hosting a beer tasting party these holidays?

With this ‘how to guide’, we make things easier for you.

Denis da Silva, SAB Trade Brewer at Newlands Brewery in Cape Town, believes that beer is more versatile than wine because “beer is food”. Beer has many different characteristics thanks to its varied ingredients, with hundreds of malted barley varieties, yeast strains and hops.

“Beer is good, food is good, but nothing beats good food with good beer,” said da Silva.

So here’s how to get started:


The number of guests determines the quantities you need for catering – in this case, the number of beers you need to purchase (and food to accompany).

Da Silva suggests a six-pack of each beer for a party of 20 people. That works out to be three servings per 340ml bottle of beer.


Provide your guests with a variety of flavours. Da Silva suggests the following beers:

CRISP: All round lightness, less body with a sharp crispness and gentle lingering bitterness, like Castle LITE.

HOP: Hop bitterness like a Hansa Pilsner with its unique Saaz hop; or the Jacob’s Pale Ale from Newlands Spring Brewing Company with earthy and peppery notes.

MALT: Clean, somewhat dry; somewhat bitter; never sweet lager like Castle Lager or some roasted, caramel, toffee notes from Jacobs Pale Ale.

ROAST: Rich and smooth with roasted full mouth feel, like Castle Milk Stout or some chocolate and cocoa notes from Choc Stout.

FRUITY: Low bitterness with a distinctive fruity aroma and taste, like The Newlands Spring Co’s Passionate Blond with its distinctive passion fruit aroma, or Carver’s Weiss & Mountain Weiss with a zesty banana aroma with hints of clove and vanilla.

FLAVOURED: There’s a variety to select from: the Flying Fish range of low bitterness fruit flavoured beers (orange, lemon and apple), Castle LITE Lime or the most recently launched Liberado – a tequila flavoured beer with fresh lemon notes.


Make sure you serve chilled beers to optimise the tasting experience. Keep them in the fridge or an ice bucket until they are served.


In between beers, it’s recommended you cleanse your palate with water.


The best part of a beer tasting (besides the beer, of course) is you aren’t limited to serving your beers in standard beer glassware.

Mix things up with a variety of glassware styles per beer style – standard or classic, snifter or goblet, tulip, flute, pilsner or weizen or stange.

Glasses with a wide bowl and narrow mouth help ‘trap’ the beer’s aromas in the glass, making for a better tasting experience. But don’t worry if you don’t have a vast selection of glassware. All that matters is that it’s clean, with no soapy residues – as that will kill your foam.

It’s best to use smaller glassware in a beer tasting, as you will only be pouring the beer into a third of the glass. Remember it’s a taster only.


If you are only providing snacks, then make sure you have an assortment of low flavoured foods, so as to not compromise your palate – such as unsalted pretzels, or crackers and raw vegetables (carrot and celery sticks).


If you really want to wow your guests, host your beer tasting with a food pairing. Take your time serving each dish, because a beer and food pairing is best enjoyed slowly.


Depending on your resources and style, you can have fun setting up the décor for your beer tasting party.

You can label ice buckets with the various beers you’ll be tasting and have beer tasting key notes printed, explaining the beers you’ll be serving. You can even go as far as printing beer score sheets – allowing guests to score the beer tastes for themselves.


If you’re into party games, you could build a blind tasting into the evening’s proceedings. Away from eye-shot, pour a beer of your choice into a jug and then serve to guests – with the notion they need to guess what beer it is.

You can even have a prize for the correct guess – a six pack of their favourite beer, or dinner on you.


Because you want your guests to drink responsibly, ensure everyone has booked a driving service to get them safely home.

11. EDUTAINMENT (education + information)

Encourage discussions among your guests, so they’re having fun while learning about the tastes of beer.

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Shernovia Reddy

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