Sunday, August 28, 2011

Foodbuzz 24x24: Summer's End Beer Tasting Party

Every month, Foodbuzz selects 24 featured publishers to host parties all around the globe that all happen on the same day. I would like to thank Foodbuzz for including me in this month's 24x24.

Hot dogs, hamburgers, and a nice cold brew. It's the quintessential summer party fare.

But a hot dog topped with ketchup and mustard can get old after oooh, the second go around, so why not switch things up a bit and make it interesting? And while we're at it, why don't we go outside the box on the beer, too?

It'll be the perfect way to wrap up the summer. Trust me.

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you may remember Adam and I co-hosted a beer tasting back in the fall. It was a small get together of 8-10 people, but we had an absolute blast and decided we wanted to do it again, this time with a much larger crowd.

The concept is simple. A 6-pack gets your guest and significant other in the door.

To ensure variety, we created 4 beer categories, then assigned each person (or couple) to bring beer from one of those categories. We encouraged them to bring 2 types beer within that category they hadn't tried before or was at least not your run-of-the-mill beer. (So 3 bottles of each kind.)

This technique worked well for our large crowd of almost 2 dozen, although with a smaller group you may want to opt for more types of beer per person/couple (such as 2 bottles of 3 kinds of beer) or fewer categories.

Now, this may seem somewhat silly and trivial, but I think tasting cups are crucial for a tasting party. First and foremost, tasting cups ensure that no one gets stuck with an entire bottle of a beer they really don't like. Secondly, they also cut down on the quantity on beverages consumed by guests as well. This helps to prevent someone drinking too much and getting behind the wheel, or keeping someone back from trying all the beers they want because they know they have to drive later.* These cups don't have to be anything fancy. Simple 3 ounce plastic bathroom cups work just fine (and they look like disposable shot glasses, bonus!), and they're fairly cheap.

Now it's not a party unless there's some kind of food involved. Although straight forward hot dogs would be by far the easiest thing to serve, I apparently have some kind of "must-be-over-the-top" bug and went with the hot dog bar.

Over the past year, I've made a few different kinds of what I call "fancy-pants" hot dogs, and have been really surprised at how tasty each was, especially since I'm not a big hot dog person. I decided to feature each of these hot dogs plus a new one.

Of course, conspicuously absent on the table were your classic standbys -- no ketchup or yellow mustard. And what would you know, people didn't seem to miss them at all. :)

Since you really probably shouldn't stuff yourself full of just hot dogs, we also had two side accompaniments:
Pesto Pretzel Roll-Ups
Grilled Corn on the Cob with:
Smoked Paprika Butter
Jalapeno Butter
Herbed Butter
Plain Butter
along with two "palate cleansers" for people to munch on between beer tastings (Homemade Buttered Popcorn and Seasoned Oyster Crackers).

We also had Brownie Burger Cupcakes and a fruit platter set up for those who wanted a little something sweet to finish out the night.

While it may not be at the top of the list, it's also kind of nice to have options other than beer readily available for people to drink (especially if you have guests who don't drink beer). We had wine, water, and Blueberry Lemonade Soda set up by the desserts for those who didn't wish to partake in the beer tasting.

One of my favorite parts of party planning are the tiny little details that often get overlooked but can make a big impact on the overall feel of the party. Right now is the perfect time to stock up on barbecue-type decor as a ton of it has been put on clearance. (Although another great place for cheap serving platters, bowls, and such is the Dollar Tree.)

I thought these baskets were absolutely perfect for the theme of the party, though they did pose a bit of an issue for what could be served -- finger foods only.
Baskets: Wegman's ($2.49/6 on clearance!)
Waxed Paper: Michael's

Labels for identifying the various condiments

Notepads for guests to jot down their favorite and least favorite beers
Vistaprint (you can usually search for a coupon code to get these on sale)

Despite a few hiccups in timing the food, everything else went fairly smooth. Our guests were very excited to try new beers, and I'm pretty sure a few of them walked away with some new favorites and a couple they now know to stay away from. I think a couple people turned the corner on their take on hot dogs as well -- going from a "meh" attitude to "oh, these can be good!". And that, my friends, is what I call a success.

*Regardless of how you serve your guests alcohol, please make sure that no one who has had too much to drink drives home. Have a designated driver or a cab company phone number handy.

(Oh, and I have to give a shout out to our friends Corey & Stacey who majorly stepped in and helped us out -- we couldn't have finished everything without you guys!)


  1. OMG I love this!!! Your decorations and the way you did all of this was great. Sadly I can not eat the combo of hot dogs and beer together- I get sick every time. It sucks!! This sounds so fun though!

  2. I wish I was at this awesome party! love all the decorations and framed menu cards you made!

  3. What a fabulous idea!!! I'm so doing this with my friends sometime!! Might be perfect doing football season, you did such a great job! :)

  4. what a wonderful idea! I'm going to steal this for my next get-together!

  5. Such a great idea! And congrats on getting the 24x24. Well deserved.

  6. Omg! Next time you have one of these I want to come! This looks like so much fun and such a great idea!

  7. Thank you for the comment on my blog, I am just starting, but it was great to have some positive feedback.

    Love the idea of a beer party, and your decor was incredible.

  8. that is the coolest party this 24x24! :) love the idea and your spread is really cool. congrats on a job well done!

  9. Wow! How cool?! You guys must have had a great time!

  10. Love this idea! Probably my favorite foodbuzz 24x24 yet! Or maybe I just love hot dogs and beer ;) Also, its great that you included where you got things. I was eyeing up that paper, and poof the answer was right there. And seriously - thats a boat load of beer! Love it!

  11. Great idea! Sounds like a good reason to get a group together!



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