Bottle Share nights are a great way to share your love of beer with others, helping to open your mind to the various opinions and different flavour profiles that others experience. They’re also really great fun – you get to enjoy tasty beers with good people – what’s not to like about that?
At Beer Cartel we’ve attended our fair share of bottle share nights (we like to do these quarterly with our team). Every time they’ve been awesome. Taking these experiences into consideration we've created a list of tips and tricks on how to have the perfect beer bottle share night.
Bottle Share Night 1.0: What is a Bottle Share Night?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to host a bottle share, we thought we’d give you a brief overview of what a bottle share involves.
A bottle share is where a group of people each bring a bottle (or bottles) to share with the others that come to the night. The event could be held at someone’s house, or at a venue such as a restaurant or bar where you can bring your own beer. It could be planned, or spontaneous, but the end result is the same; it's about sharing good beer with good people.
4 Great Reasons To Host or Attend A Bottle Share Evening
1. It's an excuse to try larger, more expensive beers. Bottle shares often feature 500ml to 750ml bottles that may not otherwise be bought for personal consumption. The concept is that with these more expensive bottles, fewer people will have tried them, so it means each person is bringing something new and (hopefully) interesting to the table.
While it is common to bring larger format bottles it definitely doesn’t mean smaller bottles or cans can't be included. Smaller bottles and cans however, are cheaper and normally easier to get. As a result they are less commonly featured, as the chances are higher that people will have tried the beer previously.
2. You get to try beers you may not otherwise have access to. This could be a beer that someone has brought back from overseas, or a beer that was only available on tap at the brewery.
3. You get to try styles that are not normally on people’s regular ‘buy list’. Not everyone is a big Saison fan for instance. But when you’re buying a 750ml bottle and sharing it between 5 others it means that your actual commitment to drinking the beer is reduced – you’ve got just 150mls to try. And if you like it, awesome! If you don’t, then it’s not like you had to get through the whole 750ml bottle on your own.
4. It's a great chance to catch-up with other like minded people, share a love of beer and enjoy good company.
20 Steps to the Perfect Bottle Share Night
The tips below will make it a breeze to organise your next bottle share night:
1. Invite people to come. Whether this is beer devotees or beginners, invite a group of people you think would make the night fun and memorable. You could invite people you know well, or even suggest it in a Facebook group such as Craft Beer Crew and see who is interested.
2. Pick a time and date. Make sure you allow at least a week to give people sufficient time to source beers to bring. The longer you have, the more awesome the beers people are likely to get hold of. Make sure you get the night put in everyone’s diary. A great idea is to set it up as a Facebook event and invite everyone to the page. That way everyone can stay up to date and share what beers they will bring.
3. Pick a venue. This may be someone's house, or a BYO venue such as a restaurant or bar that allows you to bring your own beer. If you do hold it at a BYO venue make sure you call beforehand and double check that you can bring beer as some restaurants only allow BYO on wine.
4. Set a price range or price minimum to each spend on beer. This helps ensure that everyone is contributing equally to the bottle share. If people spend over the minimum that’s fine, more great beer for everyone!
5. Determine the “volume per person” for the night. Depending on how many beers you’ll be tasting, a serving size of roughly 150ml per person, per beer is usually a perfect amount. This means you don’t get too little of the beers you love, and don’t have too much of the beers you hate. Once you’ve worked out how much you’re having per beer then you can work out how many bottles each person needs to bring. A standard approach is to simply take a 650ml/750ml bottle each, but this may be too small if you are doing the bottle share with a large group of people.
6. If bringing smaller format beers, bring limited releases. A good approach if bringing smaller bottles or cans is to bring limited release beers as it is less likely people will have tried them. If you’re not worried that someone has had the beer before then that’s fine, but if the aim of the bottle share is to try and experience new beers, then the rarer the beer is the better.
7. Communicate what beers are being brought by everyone. Variety is the spice of life - it allows you to try a range of styles and means that you’re not going to get overwhelmed drinking just one style of beer (although this may be an approach you’re going for e.g. Imperial Stout night). It's normally a good idea to have a range of different styles and alcohol levels. Then share with each other what you’re bringing in your Facebook event – this way it avoids any double-ups!
8. Organise food. No bottle share night is complete without food to help keep the energy levels up and provide sustenance. Work out who is going to bring food - is it going to be made by the people whose house the event is being held at? Or will each person bring a dish? Or is there going to be takeaway delivered? If you are looking for an easy, stress-free option then go takeaway – it means the host can enjoy themselves and not worry about feeding everyone. Pizza is always an great go to meal for food, whether it's home-made or delivered.
9. Provide snacks. As well as organising a meal, make sure you’ve got snacks to have between beers. These provide something nice to nibble on and help to cleanse the palate for the next beer. Snacks that are neutral in flavour such as crackers and pretzels are great if you want to really taste the different flavours of the beers you’re trying.
10. Work out glassware for the night. Make sure you have sufficient glassware that is going to be suitable for everyone to enjoy the tasting. If you are just going to have one glass per person the Libbey Tear Drop is a great all round glass, or if you want to go all out, you could buy Spiegelau’s Beer Glass Tasting Kit . If you are going to stick with one glass per person make sure you have water available to rinse out the glass and some type of spittoon to put the beer dregs in. If you are running short of glasses suggest that everyone brings their own. Also factor in the need to have a water glass for each person.
11. Keep everyone hydrated. As you are going to be trying a wide range of beers that will vary from low to high alcohol it is important to keep people hydrated with water. This will help everyone to enjoy the next beer they try and limit the chance of a thumping headache the next day.
12. Organise taxis/transport. When you host a bottle share, particularly with high alcohol beers you need to make an assumption people will be unable to legally drive at the end of the night. Make sure everyone has a plan in mind of how they are going to get home, whether it be by public transport, Uber, a sober driver, or even staying overnight. As the host you need to take responsibility so that no one does anything silly.
13. Encourage everyone to be open minded. There will be some flavours and styles that people don’t like and that is fine, but the more open everyone is to trying and being challenged by styles, the more they will enjoy the night.
14. Work out the serving order of the beers. Typically for any tasting you want to move from weaker to stronger flavours, starting off with Lagers/Pilsners, moving onto Pale Ales, IPAs and finishing on Imperial Stouts and Barley Wines. While this approach will help reduce the chance of your palate being overwhelmed by the previous beer, another tactic can be to throw a sour beer such as a Geuze or Lambic into the mix. Because of their sour, acidic nature these beers are great at helping to "reset" your palate.
Once you have determined the beer order, the next step is to work out when you should be pulling them out of the fridge. For instance with an Imperial Stout you’ll want it to be closer to room temperature to fully enjoy all its’ flavours, so it would be wise to pull this out of the fridge at least 30 mins before opening.
15. Keep a record of what you’ve had. It’s always worthwhile keeping track of what you’ve tried during the night as it helps you to remember what you like and dislike, and the flavours within each. This may involve taking notes, or photos, or using a mobile phone app like Untappd. Work out how you’ll approach this as this can be the least sociable part of the night. It may be simply be scribbling down a couple of quick notes and then expanding on these the next day.
16. Provide entertainment. While the night is about tasting beer, it’s worthwhile creating some atmosphere. Background music usually helps liven things up. You may even want to organise some kind of game such as Cards Against Humanity, just so the conversation isn't totally beer focused.
17. Have fun! While the evening is about learning more about beer it should still be relaxed. Don't get too caught up in trying to analyse everything - people will get different flavours and aromas from the beers you're tasting and that is perfectly cool. The night is more about exploration and discovery rather than analysis.
Bottle Share Etiquette – The Do’s & Don’ts
So now that you know the steps to creating an awesome bottle share event, there are a few etiquette do’s and don’ts to make sure your bottle share manners are at their best.
Do take awesome beer – this isn’t about getting rid of that out of date 6 pack, it is about trying amazing, thought provoking beers. Ensure your beers make the grade.
Do take enough beer – everyone has a role in ensuring they bring a sufficient amount of beer. Ideally this is sorted in the planning stage. If not, have a think about how many people are going to be there so that you’ve got enough bottles to cover it.
Do obey the house rules – be polite and if social media is banned for the evening, just leave off checking your beer on Untappd until the next day (it’s still ok).
Do embrace the newbies - while you may be a bottle share veteran, others will not be. It's your role to welcome them and help make their bottle share experience a great one.
Do contribute - get involved with the discussion and share your thoughts. It will make the night more fun and encourage conversation within the group.
Don’t open someone else’s beer – the host or person who bought the beer often gets this privilege. If it’s ok with them then go ahead, but be polite and check first.
Don’t be late – there’s some major downsides to being late. Firstly you’ll miss out on tasting some awesome beer and secondly your lateness may negatively affect the order that the beers are tasted in - especially if your beer was going to be a starting beer. A smart person turns up on time to get the whole bottle share experience.
Don’t be a jerk – don’t be harsh on other people’s beers, and, when talking about the faults of any beer try and be tactful. In a similar vein, don’t over praise your own beers. Yes, you may have brought the beer of the night, but don’t make a song and dance about it.
Don't get inebriated - you are likely to end up enjoying some big beers, but you don't want to be "that guy" that everyone talks about the next day and ends up blacklisted from future bottle shares. It's not a race so pace yourself.
Don't bring a friend without notice - bottle shares are often planned knowing that a certain amount of people will be attending. If everyone brings a plus one then it can suddenly send all that planning out of kilter. It may be ok, but check first.
As a final thought on bottle share nights, if you really want to mix things up, try the beers as a blind tasting without disclosing what everyone bought until the end. This will really make you evaluate the beer simply on the colour, taste and aromatics, without other influencing factors such as knowing who the brewery is that made it, or the name of the beer. You can do the blind tasting in one of two ways; completely blind without any information at all; or, knowing only the style that the beer is meant to be, as this can help frame the flavours you should expect to get.
Get Out There and Make it Happen!
So there you go – you’re now fully equipped to host the perfect bottle share night. Your next step is easy; grab some friends, organise a time, date and location, and get ready for a great night!