Yesterday I had three girlfriends over for a bit of a beer tasting.

The Attendees:
Sophie – not a beer drinker, but interested in new tastes
Rebecca – generally a spirits girl, but has recently started dating a craft-beer lover
Morgan – has some knowledge of craft beer, thanks to a Dad who frequents Galbraiths

The Beers (served in this order):
Emerson’s Bookbinder
Croucher Pilsner
Epic Pale Ale
Renaissance APA
Tuatara Hefe
8Wired Hop-wired IPA
Epic Armageddon
Townshend No. 9
Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black
Timmermans Lambic Geuze

The Verdict:
(NB – the opinions are more a reflection of style than the brewery.)
All of the girls loved the Bookbinder and voted it their favourite. They loved is so much I wish I hadn’t served it and I certainly wish I hadn’t served it first because it set a very high benchmark. Every beer that came after it was compared to it and you can’t blame them really, it’s an awesome beer. The second place favourite was a surprise –  Tuatara Hefe, a wheat beer. Rebecca said she loved the fruity, honey notes, while all three liked the smokey nature (ensuring a smoked beer is a must-have for the next tasting). The most debated beer was the Croucher Pilsner – Morgan’s recently been trying a lot of pilsners and adored it, while Sophie labelled it her least favourite on the charge of being to strong. The Epic Pale Ale was also debated, as Rebecca loved its full mouth ‘starchy’ feel, while Morgan found it uninteresting.
I don’t really want to name a least favourite, but nobody was keen on the Renaissance APA – we even didn’t finish the bottle. Rebecca summed it up as ‘awesome at first, but towards the end was just underwhelmed’. Renaissance did however, win the vote for the prettiest bottle. Now all you lads can laugh and say ‘typical girls, always into looks’, but I can name several guys who weren’t keen on drinking Green Man, simply because the labels are, well, off-putting. A good, recognisable label is important to people who are new to craft beer and need something to differentiate between dozens of choices at the supermarket.
I’d bought the lambic on a whim and to show how what a wide range of taste beer can have. I would recommend this for other tastings, both for that reason and for pure entertainment factor. We all smelled our samples at the same time, tried to name the flavours – ketchup, vegemite, yeast, vinegar – then took turns to drink so we could watch facial expressions. Rebecca’s face was confused, then pleased; Morgan’s thoughtful, then very happy; and Sophie’s was…just perplexed. I really wished I’d had a camera. They all decided they rather liked it and would be best serviced with hot, salty chips.

What I Do Different Next Time:
This was the first time I’d organised a tasting of any sort and it was nice to do it for friends, where I could make mistakes (which of course I did).
– Be more organised – due to an eventful week, I woke up on Saturday with the prospect of researching and selecting beers (1). Next time (and there will be one, as several girls missed out and the guys are now keen), I will be much more organised and thoughtful.
– Different glasses – my flatmate has these wonderful stemless tulip glasses, which are create for aroma, but they’re huge – they can hold a 500ml bottle of beer. It was hard to gauge how much I was giving each girl.
– Have it at night, rather than in the afternoon, making it an event in itself, rather than the pre-Saturday night event.

Things that Worked:
– Food – I’d debated having food, wondering if it would take away from the beer. But  it worked as a nice break between beers and showed how well beers can go with food. it also prevented drunkenness – we all like getting a little drunk, but unfortunately it can mess with your taste buds. At the end, we were a bit buzzed, but still fairly sensible.
– Being fairly relaxed and not overwhelming the girls with information – let the beer speak for itself.

Did It Make A Difference?
I think so. Sophie, probably won’t change much – she loves her wine and cocktails, for taste, not for image. Rebecca, dating a beer geek, was already on a slippery slope. I think in future, they’ll definitely be having beer on their dinner table. And Morgan – well, Morgan and I continued on with the beers for the rest of the night – nuff said!

(1) Big thanks to Greig and his email of advice!