The holidays are upon us! The seasons change, and we spend the last remaining days of the year enjoying good company. The end of the year comes alive with festive holidays, old friends and new alike gather to ring in the New Year, and families are brought together to give thanks and celebrate life. Or maybe just to have a few beers, and have some fun.
This holiday season, you may find yourself brewing for one or more parties. Whether your “beer magic” is requested by a host or hostess, or you simply want to stun your friends by providing a keg or two of premium liquid cheer, it’s best to have a strategy for brewing for parties. Here are a few things to consider:
Brewing takes time. Brew days are sometimes hard to schedule, and small chunks of time used for brewing, transferring, cleaning, bottling and kegging add up quickly. Be mindful of how much time you have and what time you can use for brewing-related activities. It helps to have a brewing schedule, so that you can allow time for the beer to be ready in time for the event. Your mileage may vary, just be aware of how much time you need to make the magic happen. Also, if you normally brew all-grain, consider doing an extract beer with steeping grains. Some world-class beers can be made with a few bags of malt extract and a couple of pounds of grains, and can help save time.
When brainstorming ideas for this post, I was reminded of my college speech class, where we would think about who our audience was when writing a speech. While I daresay that nearly all of us would rather make beer for some friends than engage in public speaking, as a home brewer brewing for a party, you should also consider your “audience”. How many people are going to be there, and who exactly will be drinking your beer? The number of people at the party may impact how much beer you provide, and who is drinking it may influence what kind of beer you make. If you are going to the Hopheads Anonymous Boxing Day party, perhaps a dank IPA would be appropriate. If your buddy Jim wants you to bring a keg or two to his Halloween bash, maybe a Pumpkin Porter is in order. Or if you’re sharing Christmas Eve with the family, bring a well-balanced American wheat for your grandmother and a rich, spicy holiday ale for yourself!
Another thing to consider is the logistics of your brew. What equipment do you need to brew and deliver your beer? Make sure you have the equipment to accommodate all your beer. If you’re like me, you have a “pipeline” of carboys and kegs that are constantly being filled and emptied. When brewing for parties, having extra equipment on hand can be a lifesaver. Now might be a good time to invest in a new carboy, a few extra fermenting buckets, or an extra CO2 tank.
Remember the auxiliary items as well, like coolers, ice and picnic taps. No one wants to show up to the party with two kegs full of beer and no way to dispense it! Also, jostling kegs around right before you try to serve it creates a ton of foam. It might be worth it if the beer arrives early and it is kept cold to help with pouring.
Finally, no home brewer likes to see a bunch of 20 oz.red party cups sitting around the party, half full of precious homebrew. Think about serving beer in smaller cups to cut down on wasted beer. You might even have people write their name on their cup so they can reclaim their lost beverages and their beer. I always keep a few sharpies and a stockpile of 9 oz. cups on hand for this very reason.
Above all else, have fun! Have fun making beer, and have fun sharing it with the people who mean the most to you this holiday season. Cheers!