So many beers so little time … how do you taste them all? The answer is to create a beer club.

Michael Donaldson, Chair of Judges, New World Beer & Cider Awards

I started a neighbourhood tasting club by putting out a call to arms on a community Facebook page. I was deluged with responses – almost entirely from women on behalf of their husbands or partners!

People have come and gone but we’ve been going strong for about three years now and try to meet once a month to sample around six to eight beers. By my reckoning we’ve worked our way through more than 250 different beers.

There are plenty of ways to organise a club but keeping a limit on the numbers, the beers and the time frame, will help make it more enjoyable. You can probably start a club with three or four people … and I wouldn’t recommend any more than 12 to 15 unless you have a lot of space.

I work on pouring around 100ml serves per person and – because it’s not always an exact science – aim to supply around 100ml of each beer per person. If there were 10 people coming we’d have a litre of beer – 3 x 330ml, 2 x 500ml or 1 x 1 litre fill your own. You could equally have fewer beers and larger pours – whatever suits you or your budget. In our club, I purchase all the beer based on each person chipping in $15 each. I find this is enough for six to eight samples depending on price.

Working out what to drink and which order isn’t always easy, but a general rule of thumb is to start with lower alcohol beers and move through the range. Also factor in the hoppier beers – it’s better to have them later so they don’t overwhelm your palate.

That said, it’s also good to mix up styles – perhaps have a tart farmhouse ale, sour or wheat beer mid-flight to refresh the palate.

Other suggestions for making a great beer club:

  • Pick a theme: March-April is good to try fresh-hop beers; mid-winter for porters and stouts; celebrate all-things American on July 4; October is a time to try German beers.
  • Try a regional tasting or work through a brewery’s range.
  • Always have some water and food on hand – beer loves cheese (they were BFF's before wine tried to cut in). Experiment and try different flavours with different beer styles to find the perfect partner, like trying spicy food with sour beer.
  • Take the group trip to a favourite brewery or a beer festival.
  • Explore different styles outside your normal repertoire – you might be surprised to find you actually like sour beer!
  • Try to stick to a two-hour tasting window – it’s about enjoying the taste.
  • Document your beers by creating a Facebook page and sharing pics and tasting notes, or check-in on Untappd to keep track of what you’ve tried.
  • Ensure everyone has safe transport home at the end of the evening.
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