Beer tasting at home – host your own craft beer festival
Posted on May 20 2020
The great British beer festival. A bastion of brilliant brews, crowd-pleasing live music and the sizzling sights and smells of BBQ food. Craft beer festivals are the perfect way to sample beer from the thousands of independent craft breweries in the UK – everything from traditional British ales to modern IPAs along with new varieties of stout, porter and sours.
But the impact of coronavirus has meant that many beer festivals have been forced to postpone until later in the year – or even until 2021. From the Oxford Beer Week’s Big Oxford Beer Bash moving to 2021 and Beertown Malton delaying until November, to the Bristol Craft Beer Festival now being hosted in September, Summer Beer Thing provisionally postponed until the end of August 2020 and Hop City in Leeds being postponed until further notice, getting your craft beer festival fix may prove challenging.
It’s not just British craft beer festivals, either. From Bavaria’s famed Oktoberfest – a beer magnet for over six million annual visitors – to Spain’s Barcelona Beer Festival with its dizzying array of 450 local and international beers, 2020 is the year official beer festivals have run dry.
Beer tasting at home – planning your own Oktoberfest
Have no fear, fans of artisanal lager – there’s still good reason to cheer for beer by holding your very own craft beer tasting at home! While you may be unable to recreate the traditional tapping of a beer barrel in Oktoberfest’s Schottenhamel tent or the incredible atmosphere and casual vibe of the London Craft Beer Festival, with a bit of planning you can host a beer tasting at home. And in these coronavirus lockdown times, you can even go virtual and invite your mates while adhering to social distancing...
We’ve created an expert guide to hosting your own beer tasting at home, so you can recreate the atmosphere and food, and – most importantly – enjoy sampling a variety of cracking craft brews curated by the team at Brew Republic. It might not be Oktoberfest, but it could come close!
How to create a beer festival at home
Mix some imagination, the wonders of modern technology, and a box or two of hand-picked craft beers, and you have your very own festival. It doesn’t matter whether you have a garden to deck out with bunting, a cosy balcony or you simply get creative indoors, a DIY beer festival is a great way to sample new craft brews and break up the monotony of lockdown.
All you need is a bit of planning, a great selection of craft beers, and mood-setting extras such as festival food, games, music and decoration.
Here’s what you need:
- Craft beer – goes without saying, but variety is the key to at-home festival success.
- Food and snacks – opt for perfect pairings to accentuate the taste of craft beers, from pale ales to sours and stouts.
- Festival extras – glasses for tasting, tasting notes and sampler boards.
- Atmosphere makers – think inflatable chairs from Amazon, bunting leftover from the 75th VE Day celebrations, blankets and games such as giant Jenga.
Choosing the best craft beer
When you get down to it, beer festivals are all about trying new beers. Stock your fridge with a varied selection of small-batch beers, all teeming with character so you can explore the craft world with some top-notch brews. If you take out a monthly beer subscription, you’re ahead of the game when it comes to laying the groundwork for the perfect at-home beer festival.
Choose boxes such as our Classics box with its timeless beers from Anspach & Hobday, Moor and Wiper & True including pale ales, stouts, bitters and more – it’s the perfect starting point. Fancy something a little more adventurous for your homegrown festival? The Discovery box is brimming with 12 modern craft brews, with the likes of Tiny Rebel and Brew by Numbers piling in.
If you’re looking to extend the range, consider topping up with these fine brews from our craft beer bottleshop. For variety, consider an IPA such as a Partizan IPA with its ripe orange and citrus peel taste or the heady biscuit and caramel malts and Citra, Centennial and Columbus hops of a Love Lane Pale Ale. Still stuck? Siren’s Broken Dream ticks the stout box, or choose an Anspach & Hobday The Sour Dry Hop or a Hawkshead - Chuckleberry Sour for a sour kick or Hobson’s Old Henry for the perfect amber.
Fancy a crisp, unfiltered, straight-to-the-point lager? Brew By Numbers' Styrian Cardinal lager is a clean, uncomplicated yeast strain with a touch of dry hop of Styrian Cardinal.
Don't forget to check our craft beer offers to snap up a beer bargain!
Craft beer tasting at home
Tasting is the beating heart of a beer festival.
Write your own tasting cards for each brew, or use the ones included in the Brew Republic beer box, and set out tasting tumblers. You don’t need special ones – pint glasses and stems are fine – and ensure everyone only pours out three fingers of beer when tasting. Remember this is quality, not quantity. Sampling boards are a good idea, dividing up beers into types such as stouts or IPAs.
Tasting without friends can be challenging, so use software such as Zoom or Houseparty to host a virtual beer festival. Ensure everyone has ordered the same beers, and encourage everyone to interact and socialise as they sample different brews. Questions such as which tasted best, differences in taste, how well they work with snacks and food work well. Ask everyone to keep notes to compare after the tasting sessions.
Beer tasting at home food
We reckon you’ve got two choices here. Either go full-on Oktoberfest and laden your kitchen table with Bavarian cuisine or bring out the best in British beer festival food with a nod to ideal craft beer food pairing.
Think pretzels, sauerkraut and bratwurst, and you can’t go too far wrong. If you’re recreating a Bavarian spread, good food options include:
- Brez’n – large, doughy pretzels that are perfect to start with. Too difficult? Swap them out for hard stick pretzels for that sharp, salty hit.
- Bratwurst – giant German sausage that has been steamed, then fried and served as meaty chunks. Top with curry ketchup for spicy currywurst.
- Roast pork and potatoes – An Oktoberfest staple, serve as a steaming serving of pork with boiled, sliced potatoes.
- Apple strudel – serve sans custard to enjoy the spiced apple, cinnamon and mouthwatering filo pastry.
British beer festival food
Opt for great British classics including fish and chips, BBQ meats and plenty of cheeses. The real secret is to pair food with craft beers during tasting – or afterwards – so you get the perfect balance of food and brew.
If you're planning on some serious cooking, then battered fish or roast chicken are recommended – or just dive in with a fish finger sandwiches (it's lockdown, no-one's judging) which pair well with British pale ales. As it's almost summer, fire up the BBQ and toss on burgers, sausages or steaks, serving as-is or shredded and sliced into meaty sandwiches. Try some tart sour beers with rich grilled or smoked meats as they cut through the fat and refresh the palate. Ambers and porters rule the day with BBQ sizzlers and don't forget the cheese – blue cheese is a must – when tasting an IPA or stout.
If you don't fancy the faff of cooked food – or this is a lockdown virtual beer tasting – then stick to simple snacks. Crisps, flavoured nuts, chunks of cheese, toasted and sliced pita bread with creamy hummus and a few olives are perfect fayre.
Wander any craft beer festival, and you’ll be immersed in the sounds of brilliant new bands creating the perfect aural backdrop. Don’t overlook the music at home. If you’ve understanding neighbours and the weather's decent, lug your speakers outside to the back garden. Alternatively, consider outdoor Bluetooth speakers (ideally waterproof!), such as Sony’s SRS-XB12 wireless, water and mudproof speaker, which has a 16-hour battery life and is a steal at less than £40.
Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon Music Unlimited are chock-full of summer festival playlists to save you compiling your own. Free phone apps such as djay let you spin your own decks and create your own beats. Of course, there’s always the Oktoberfest Oompah Band.
With beer, food and music sorted, you’re just a few steps away from opening the doors on your own beer festival at home.
To ensure the right vibe, decorating your festival space is essential, even during lockdown. You can drape bunting or go big on outdoor fairy lights. If you’re opting for an Oktoberfest theme, remember that napkins, flags and tablecloths should be Bavarian blue and white.
If the budget allows, rustle up some outdoor games such as giant Jenga, outdoor skittles and festival games such as toss the beanbag. For the musically minded (and talented), this is the perfect time for public guitar playing or a few ditties on a harmonica. For seating, either requisition kitchen chairs or go full-on festival with inflatable chairs and bean bags.
Fire up the BBQ if the weather is fine, turn up the volume, call up your mates on Houseparty and get ready for your very own DIY beer festival and beer tasting at home.