Hosting a Craft Beer Tasting Event.

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Yesterday I hosted a Michigan IPA Tasting Event at our home. Six of us gathered around the table and shared beer, stories, and laughter. I had a lot of fun hosting, so if you’ve ever considered it, I say – do it! Here is a little advice to get you started:

Pick a Theme

Do you want to sample beers from one brewery? Do you want to sample the same style of beers from a variety of breweries? Do you want to share with people your favorite beer of each style? Once you decide the theme of your tasting, it will help determine what comes next.

Picking my theme was easy, because I had beer that I needed help getting rid of. Generally IPAs are meant to be enjoyed fresh, and my cellar was piling up with an abundance of Michigan IPAs that needed to be drank fast!

Pick Your Guests

First, you’ll need to determine how many guests you’d like to invite. Do you plan on having an intimate around-the-table tasting, or a larger mix n’ mingle party? It’s also a good idea to take into consideration the types of guests you want to have. If you’re planning on a more formal tasting event that thoroughly dissects the appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, etc. – make sure you are inviting experienced and knowledgeable beer drinkers. If your event is going to be more casual and will include people with a variety of beer experience, make sure you facilitate it accordingly. You don’t want to disappoint your fellow beer junkies, and you definitely don’t want to scare off or intimidate new craft beer drinkers.

For yesterday’s event I invited friends that appreciate craft beer, but all have different levels of knowledge on the beer spectrum. In this instance, the environment was a positive one which facilitated an open discussion of beer knowledge.

Pick Your Beer

Once you know your theme and how many guests you plan on having, it is time to pick your beer! It’s fun to serve rare or unique beer your guests have never had before, but it might also be good to serve familiar beer to act as the tasting ‘control group’ to the other beers. How many different beers do you plan on having? We had 12 different IPAs, divided into two rounds – but I think if I were having a more formal tasting event, I would limit myself to 6 in order to prevent palate fatigue and mental exhaustion. Now is also the time to determine how much of each beer you will need. Are you having enough people to warrant a pony keg, or do you just need a couple bottles from your local bottle shop? Remember, a tasting event is different from a drinking event – each guest only needs a couple of ounces of each beer. Also keep in mind that a couple of ounces can add up to a lot of ounces, depending on how many different beers you are serving.


  • Beer. Purchase your beer ahead of time, and make sure you store it in a cool, dry place. On the day of your event, make sure the beer is served at proper tasting temperature for the style. Beer that is too cold is hard for our taste buds to taste.
  • Tasting Cups. Remember, these only need to be a few ounces. I used clear plastic cups with a wide mouth, so guests could easily evaluate color and catch the aroma.
  • Tasting Mats. I made tasting mats for each round of tasting, with ordered, labeled spots for each beer. I also included other information about the beer, like the brewery name, ABV, and IBUs.
  • Beer Score Cards. While my event did not include formal judging, I wanted to provide my guests with a place to take notes about each beer if they were so inclined. I also printed off a page with some tasting “suggestions” and some simple beer vocabulary.
  • Snacks & Water. I intentionally picked snacks that act as palate neutralizers or that traditionally pair with beer. We had pretzels, popcorn, bread, and cheese. Make sure you also provide your guests with plenty of water. The idea behind the snacks and water are to help clear the taste buds between beer samples, and also to help prevent any major drunkenness caused by an empty stomach. Aside from the snacks, our group was small enough that we were also able to order carry-out once the event was underway.

Day Of

On the day of your event, set up as much in advance as possible. I set out each spot at the table with the tasting mats, beer score cards, pens, napkins, and suggestion sheets well before everyone arrived. I also threw some flowers in an old growler, which made a beautiful centerpiece. I put snacks out and poured waters 15 minutes prior to everyone’s arrival, and started playing music 5 minutes before showtime. In case of late arrivals, I advise you do not start pouring beers until everyone is there and ready to start. Talk to everyone, and make sure they are comfortable and enjoying themselves. Keep an eye out for overconsumption, and be aware that as the host you may have to provide a way home or a place to crash for the night if someone goes over the top. (Fortunately, I did not encounter anything remotely close to this last night.) Consider having a party favor you can send home with people at the end of the night – mine was simple, I sent my guests home with a variety 6-pack of the beers they ranked the highest.


Overall, my tasting party was a success and I am really glad that I did it. My guests were great, and brought some of their own delicious beverages to share – including a homebrewed Classic American Pilsner and some homemade wine. Thanks to everyone that came out! I look forwarding to hosting my next one.


Have you ever hosted a beer tasting event? What did you find that worked and didn’t work for you? If you were to host a beer tasting event, what would your theme be?


Beer Review: Imperial Biscotti Break

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Imperial Biscotti Break – an Imperial Stout
produced and bottled for Evil Twin Brewing by Westbrook Brewing Co. in Mt. Pleasant, SCIMG_2102

As I’m sure many of you know, yesterday was National Beer Day. My husband Luke and I are recovering after a bout of terrible illness, and we knew we had to do something good to celebrate. I decided it was time to crack open the Imperial Biscotti Break I had been cellaring – a very good decision!

Imperial Biscotti Break is an Imperial Stout. It poured a silky jet-black, with a brief caramel colored head about a finger high. The first notes to hit my nose were espresso and sweet chocolate, elevated with wafts of roasted malt. I also picked up on a subtle licorice scent. The first sip surprised me with its silky, creamy mouthfeel. Sweet milk chocolate and vanilla flavors lead the charge at the front of the palate, carried on a consistent backbone of darkly roasted espresso. There was a subtle coffee bitterness that lingered at the end, and this was also the only time I noticed the slight burn from the alcohol. While this beer initially seemed very sweet, I was pleased that the coffee balanced it out well. Imperial Biscotti Break clocks in at 11.5% ABV. For those of you who love a good stout, I highly recommend this beer! I know Evil Twin Brewing does some variations on this delicious brew, including one aged in Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrels that I would love to get my hands on.

IMG_2103For more beer reviews, check out the old Polka Dots & Pints site here.

Have you had Imperial Biscotti Break? What did you think of it? Is there a beer you would like to see me review? Let me know!

On Craft Beer Floats.

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Boozy ice cream treats have been a thing long before the recent fad of Not Your Father’s Root Beer floats (just ask the character Doc in John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row). Before we get into a big discussion about whether or not NYFRB is even a beer, let me say up front, that is not what this post is about. This post is simply about floats made with craft beer.

The story goes that the original ice cream float was invented by Robert McCay Green in 1874 when he made the serendipitous decision to use ice cream in his sodas when he ran out of ice.  Some of the most common varieties of ice cream floats are root beer floats, coke floats, and Boston Coolers; and in Australia and New Zealand ice cream floats are called “spiders”. Thanks to creative mixologists and at-home beer & ice cream lovers, beer floats have earned a spot in today’s culture.

As a lover of craft beer and a lover of ice cream, I’ve been mixing the two for quite a long time. The question I’ve always been faced with is: Is it in poor taste to mix an artfully-made, quality craft beer with ice cream? I have friends that strongly protest fruit garnish for beer and beer cocktails horrify them – so the idea of tainting their beer with ice cream is something they turn their nose up at. On the contrary, I also know brewers and other members of the industry that love these decadent treats, and even promote their beer to be used in this dessert. Personally? I don’t feel guilty indulging in the craft beer float, but I do keep the below guidelines in mind:

Guidelines for Making A Craft Beer Float:

  1. Respect the craft. Craft beer is an art form. Before diving into a beer float, drink the beer by itself the way it was created to be consumed. Explore the flavor and nuances of the beer, and respect that this beer is someone’s art.
  2. Complement the craft. If you drive a luxury car, you put premium gas in it. If you drink craft beer, don’t put cheap ice cream in it! Find a quality made, carefully crafted ice cream to go with that quality made, carefully crafted beer! I personally recommend Love’s grass-fed dairy ice cream or Graeter’s handcrafted French pot ice cream – but look around for other craft ice cream in your area. Additionally, make sure you are using beer styles and ice cream flavors that complement each other. My favorite combination tends to be vanilla ice cream with dark, malty beers (my personal favorites usually include notes of burnt caramel, toasted malt, espresso, and bourbon!)
  3. Pour with care. When the carbonated beer hits the ice cream, it’s a recipe for overflow. Pour slowly and carefully, and prepare to slurp up the excess! Enjoy!

How do you feel about the combination of craft beer and ice cream? Are you a fan of craft beer floats? What is your favorite beer/ice cream combo? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

MORE ON: Hops, Coffee, and Beer.

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In addition to my post from last week: Hops, Coffee, and Beer – Oh my!, here is a video by The Dump Buckets about the same launch event at Scarlet Lane Brewing Company celebrating the release of two delicious beverages: Tiberius Centurion IPA and Tiberius Dry-Hopped Sumatra.

And yes, I am one of the people being interviewed. Cheers!

Hops, Coffee, and Beer – Oh my!

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Yesterday my husband Luke and I attended a launch event at Scarlet Lane Brewing Company celebrating the release of two delicious beverages: Tiberius Centurion IPA and Tiberius Dry-Hopped Sumatra. Local craft beer AND local craft coffee? Yes, please.

While we both enjoy high-quality handcrafted beverages, we each have our niche. In our relationship, Luke is definitely more the coffee person. He has his own small-batch roaster, organizes cuppings, and is very specific about which of our multiple brew methods he chooses to use for each coffee. I, on the other hand, am the beer person. To discover this event that catered to both our likings was just plain exciting!

Tiberius Centurion IPA is a Double IPA by Scarlet Lane Brewing Company. It clocks in at 8% ABV and 100 IBU (hence the “centurion.”) As far as Double IPAs go this one is quite approachable, especially for IPA fans ready to take it up a notch. Despite the high bitterness, it maintains balance with a sweet malt backbone and fruity esters. The esters are especially apparent in the nose of the beer – a lot of banana notes sneak through the spicy hop bouquet. The ABV is high enough to give you a pleasant warm mouth feel, but the flavor is so well balanced you don’t get that heavy alcohol taste present in so many Doubles.  If you are looking for a Northwest dank style Double IPA in the heart of Indiana, I highly recommend checking Tiberius out.

Tiberius Dry-Hopped Sumatra is a hopped, medium roast coffee by Tinker Coffee Co. I’ve never heard of dry-hopping coffee before, but as a self-proclaimed hophead and coffee addict I was excited to give it a try. The hopping process they used involved resting the green (pre-roasted) coffee beans with whole hops for about 3 weeks prior to roasting, and then resting the roasted beans with hops 3-4 days more. The most unique part of the coffee was definitely the smell. The roasted beans and (more subtly) the brewed coffee gave off a heavy aroma of hops – very floral, earthy, and green. My palate was not tuned enough to pick up flavor complexities because I made the mistake of drinking the beer first, but I definitely picked up on some citrus towards the back of my mouth. The sample of the coffee I had seemed a little watery, but we bought a pound of it to play with at home. This was such a neat idea, and it was fun seeing the beer-coffee collaboration work the other way. If you love hops and coffee, make sure you check out this Sumatra!

Tiberius Centurion IPA and Tiberius Dry-Hopped Sumatra are both brought to you by the Horizon hop. I love seeing local, cross-industry collaborations, and had a great time at this event. It was a delightful way to spend a rainy Saturday! If you are interested in trying either beer or coffee, check out Scarlet Lane Brewing Company or Tinker Coffee Co. Additionally, I believe there is another release event celebrating both beverages January 15, hosted by The Sinking Ship.

Cheers to the Indianapolis coffee and beer scenes!


Have you had either/both Tiberius Centurion IPA and Tiberius Dry-Hopped Sumatra? Do you enjoy these kind of events? Share with me your thoughts in the comments below!