Hold an at-home beer tasting using these tips from the Brewers Association, a group of more than 1,000 brewery members and 19,000 homebrewers:
• Decide what kind of beer to sample. Taste different brands of the same beer style (all pale ales, for example), do a “vertical” tasting of different years of the same brand of beer (say, 2000-04 versions of Big Foot Barley Wine from Sierra Nevada), or taste seasonal/limited release beers.
• Use one pint glass of water, one open-mouth taster glass (for beers that are 7 percent or less alcohol by volume) and one snifter-style glass (for beers that are 8 percent or more alcohol by volume) per person.
• Do some homework on the beers, so you can give an overview of each brew as it’s served.
• Sample beers lighter in alcohol first, then beers with higher alcohol content.
• Taste and discuss one beer at a time.
• Rinse beer glasses with water between beers. Take a sip of seltzer water and a bite of unsalted cracker between each beer to cleanse the palate.
• Place hops and malt on the table during your tasting, so guests can taste the malt and smell the hops for a true sense of ingredients used in craft beer. Hops and malt are available at homebrew supply shops, like Brewers Connection in Tempe.
• Judge the beers like officials do in real competitions with a Beer Judge Certification Program Score Sheet, available at http://www.bjcp.org/docs/SCP_BeerScoreSheet.pdf
The Brewers Association offers more tips and free, printable tasting mats for each guest on its website, http://www.CraftBeer.com