The bottle share. A gathering of folks who enjoy trying new beers and more importantly, enjoying them in the company of friends, new and old. It has the potential to be a fantastic evening – a chance to experiment with and experience beers and styles you wouldn’t normally try. It’s one of my favorite exbeeriences out there, but it also has some potential pitfalls or issues. Below is a list of what to know, what to do, and what to avoid. We even have some bonus tips for the host(s).
What to Know
- How much beer do I bring?
In general, you want to bring enough for everyone to have a taste, certainly not enough for everyone to have a full pour. This event isn’t about drinking tons of beer and getting hammered – it’s about trying many different styles and beers. Rule of thumb – find out the expected number of guests and try to have enough for everyone to have 2-3 ounces.
- What beer should I bring?
First, find out from the host if there is a theme. In my experience, there almost always will not be a theme. In that case, your host should set the expectations on the level of beer to bring. Some shares are for whales – those eternally sought-after and extremely rare & expensive beers. You can’t roll into a whale share with your year-round flagship from the brewery down the street. Sure, you can still stay and play, but most people will be thinking, “Thanks for the Sierra Nevada … now enjoy some of the Pliny the Younger I brought.” I recommend bringing something fun and different – don’t just grab a sixer of the first thing you see on the shelf. Maybe this is an opportunity to get a growler from the local brewery – a seasonal or a first-time release that most people probably haven’t had yet. You don’t have to sell a major organ to attend, but no one wants your fridge turds* either.
* Fridge turd. The ‘just okay’ beer that’s been sitting in the back of your fridge for who-knows-how-long.
- Should I eat before I go?
Basically, yes. You’re going to taste a wide variety of beers. Doing so on an empty stomach could cause … problems. It’s a good idea to have a nice meal before you go (unless your host explicitly tells you that dinner will be provided.) On the other hand, you don’t want to power through the meat sweats at the all-you-can-eat and waddle in either. You’ll probably have some thick and heavy stuff coming your way during the share – you will not enjoy it if you’re stuffed to the rafters when you arrive.
What to Do
- Bring enough beer for everyone to enjoy. If you only have one bottle of that crazy-amazing beer you want to share and there will be 10 people attending, leave it at home. There is no way to really share such a small amount with that number of people. If you can’t bring enough for everyone to have a good taste, leave it at home and enjoy it at another time.
- Try. Be open-minded. Maybe you’re not into Double IPAs, but the person who brought this one probably spent time (and certainly money) to bring this particular beer. Give it a real and honest, open-minded try. It’s only a few ounces anyway, right?
- Know your limitations. We’re big boys and big girls now. We know when we’ve had enough. There is nothing wrong with taking a break or just tapping out for good. No harm in that at all. That leads into …
- Water. Water is your friend here. You don’t need to saddle up with the garden hose, but an ounce or three between each beer will go a long way. And it’ll help cleanse the palate for the next beer, too.
- Ask if someone wants your pour. If you don’t like a beer, that’s absolutely fine. But don’t pour it down the drain or force it into your own stomach. Maybe someone loved it and would like an additional sip. Offer it up if it’s not for you.
What NOT to Do
- Do not show up late and try to catch up.
- Drive. C’mon people. In the age of Uber/Lyft, there is absolutely NO reason to get behind the wheel. None. Zero. Zip. Nada.
- Show up with extra friends. The host is planning this thing, and people are planning how much beer to bring. “Cousin Eddie made a surprise visit to the house, so I thought I’d let him tag along.” No. If you have someone you’d like to bring, ask the host first.
- Open someone else’s beer. Unless they ask you to, wait for them to open what they brought. It’s just good etiquette.
- Bash someone else’s beer. Again – they put thought into this and are excited to share it. If it’s not for you, that’s fine. If they ask you your opinions on it, it’s fine to say that it wasn’t for you. But don’t be an ass about it.
- Get offended if someone else doesn’t like your favorite beer. Just like the previous line, we all have different tastes and preferences. That’s the best part about these shares!
- Crack open another bomber when the evening is done. We all know when it’s closing time. People are calling their rides and you pop open a Russian Imperial Stout. Just … no. It’s okay to leave it as a gift for the host or put it back in your cooler for another day.
Notes for the Host(s)
- Give some guidance on the evening in advance of the share.
- Is there a theme? All Belgians, all IPAs, etc. Most shares do not have a theme.
- Give an idea of the rarity-level of the beers being brought. (In other words, if you know you have several people bringing whales, it’s best to set that expectation before people arrive.)
- Will you provide any food or snacks? More on this below.
- Set very clear times. It’s up to the guests to get there on time, as noted above. However, it’s best to let people know in advance that this will not turn into a crazy all-nighter with people crashing on your couch.
- Snacks. At the very least, have some pretzels, peanuts, crackers, etc on hand. You can order pizza too, but you have to have something for people to nosh on.
- Doesn’t hurt to have a cooler and ice on hand.
- Provide water. Again, this isn’t a scene from Animal House. Alternating between beer and water is essential to maintaining sanity … and not feeling zombie-like the next day.
- Provide plastic cups or glassware. I can go either way on this one. Yes, plastic is easy and cheap, but not always ideal for serving beer. Glass is certainly better, but unless you want to roll out 100 glasses, people will continually be rinsing their glasses out or pouring an IPA on the remnants of an amber. To me, a boatload of plastic cups is the best way to go. If you do go with plastic, make sure they’re clear – you want people to see the color of the beer.
- Consider a dry-erase board. You can list the beers you have in order, so people don’t have to spend all night searching through Untappd.
- Consider the sequence … the order you have certain styles. You’re not going to start with a barleywine and then follow it up with a pilsner and then a Double IPA. General rule of 👍🏼, lighter –> darker/ heavier.
- The Kill-Shot. It’s the giant reveal at the end of the night. You line up all the cans-bottles-growlers that you had for the night and take one big final photo of the vanquished. Some would say it’s the most important part of the share!
What tips would you offer?