There is perhaps no better example of the “paradox of choice” than the modern beer world. We’ve got the standards like pilsners, IPAs, stouts, reds, and pales, but thanks to the craft beer movement’s constant innovation, we now have almost infinite styles to try. Sours are in a league all their own, and there’s also beer with cocoa crispies in it, rare imports you could never get your North American hands on 10 years ago, and, of course, the succulent fresh hop beers every fall. It’s a blessing and a curse... and downright expensive to experience them all -- just ask either of our Certified Cicerones®!
Thankfully beer was made to be enjoyed over conversation and good times, so there’s no need to drain your wallet. Host a bottle share instead!
A well-organized bottle share is the perfect way to share the wealth and the cost of the best beers with your best friends. New to the game or looking for a fresh holiday tradition? Let’s explore how to make your next bottle share a rousing and delicious success.
How Does a Bottle Share Work?
The premise of a bottle share is pretty mind-blowing: Get some people together, and everyone brings at least one beer to share with the group.
Now, is your brain still intact? We know it’s a pretty complicated concept, so maybe take a deep breath before reading on.
In all seriousness, it really can be that simple. Pick a day, time, + location, invite your friends, and ask everyone to bring one beer that everyone can try a sample of. That’s all there is to it.
That said, there’s some basic bottle share etiquette you and guests should follow to ensure that everyone has a good time.
- Feel free to open any beer you provided or brought to the bottle share at any time, and be sure to offer samples to everyone else when you do.
- Any beer you didn’t provide or bring, don’t open. Wait for the person who did bring it to open the bottle, can, or container first.
- Read the room and remember that the goal is for everyone to try as many beers as possible.
If you’re thinking that last rule is kind of a cop-out, let us elaborate.
- If a beer is sitting out and is open, sample away! However…
- Remember that you’re at someone’s home, not a beer fest, and pour accordingly. Lots of rare and specialty beers come in small containers, so be sure you only pour enough to get a taste and then spread the love.
- If you’ve gotten more samples than other guests, try grabbing a water and slowing down for a few. Or maybe dust off those server skills and offer up pours to others before you indulge again.
- Sip respectfully. Bottle shares are a place for simple pleasures, but remember that your friends may have spent a lot of time, money, or both to procure that Cantillon that you just chugged and immediately moved on from with no more than a loud belch. Take the time to actually appreciate each beer for its unique flavor, merits, and story. That’s the best way to make sure you aren’t conveniently left off the next invite!
Pro Tip: To not waste cups or mistake yours for someone else’s, bring your own drinkware like DrinkTanks’ Craft Pint Cup. An added bonus, these cups are passivated and have superior temperature retention to keep each pour at its precise serving temperature between samples.
Host a Bottle Share Like a Brewer
If you’re hosting a bottle share, you’ll inevitably have to communicate with guests beforehand about the day, time, location, and what beers they plan to bring. If you’re making it a regular thing, it’s fun to give each bottle share a theme. This can help bring in more interesting comparisons, stories, and history. Some of our favorite themes are:
- Country of Style Origin -- Think English beers, Belgian beers, etc.
- US State of Origin
- Fresh Hop Beers
- Adjunct Beers -- This is when you can finally convince your friends to try that beer with glitter in it.
- Local Favorites -- This is great around the holidays if you have family and friends traveling from all over the country or the world!
- Favorite “Shitty” Beer -- We all have our go tos from PBR to Rainier to Hamm’s. They deserve a little love, too!
- Imports Only
- Rare Beer Verticals -- This is a fun mission you and your craft beer crew can work on for a few years and then enjoy together to compare rare beer vintages together.
- Growler Fills Only -- This is a fun way to fill a few growlers up at your crew’s favorite local breweries and growler stations. This works best when you have more hours available to sip some full or half-pints instead of just samples.
Aside from the beer, you’ve gotta feed the masses, so snacks are a must. Yes, a frozen pizza or two counts, but remember you’re sampling all sorts of beers and want to be able to appreciate the unique flavors. Try a cheese + charcuterie board with a variety of crackers for cleansing the palate. Even tortilla chips work in a pinch, and you can throw out some salsa or queso to put some weight behind them.
If you really want to take it to the next level, we recommend getting the full list of beers from your guests in advance and pairing your snacks that complement each beer and trying them together. You can even ask each person to bring a food that pairs with their beer.
We’re a 30+ crowd over here, so we also have to advise plenty of water on hand, too. Bottle shares often mean experimenting and going outside your beer comfort zone, including your friend’s latest homebrew from his crazy personal keg or even a beer that’s over 15%. Drinking plenty of water will keep everyone level-headed enough to appreciate all the nuances -- good or bad -- and still wake up without a headache. And if the night gets away from your guests, encourage them to take that free water bottle in the Uber that gets them home safely.
How to Be a Good Bottle Share Guest
First things first, don’t show up empty-handed. Sometimes a host or some other guests have so many beers they want to share that you’ll be off the hook. But if you’re asked to bring something, be sure you do. It’s actually a good rule of thumb to bring more than one bottle, especially if there are lots of other guests coming, and definitely make sure it’s fresh.
And perhaps more important than bringing a beer, do your part to make the event a good time. So if you’re a beer aficionado, share your knowledge with others but don’t be snooty or judgy about it. And if you’re more of a beer newbie, ask questions and be adventurous with what you’re willing to try. There’s never a better time to learn, discover, and have fun doing it than when you’re amongst friends. You’re there to enjoy some time and some good beer together.
Oh, and stay hydrated, my friend. The quickest way to ruin a good time is to be that guy.