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How to Buy Beer for a Crowd

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Use the 4:1 rule to add variety to your brew-shopping list

You’re not imagining it—you have more beers to choose from than ever before! There are also more breweries working today (hundreds of them in Ontario alone!), and styles that weren’t too familiar to Canadians in the past have gained ground with consumers. So how, in the face of all this delicious variety, do you narrow down to one (or a couple) of pleasing brews for a party? Easy.

Focus on the big picture

There’s a simple party-planning fact to keep in mind: Most people will enjoy whatever beer you serve them. (They’re your friends, after all; they’ll just be glad you invited them over!) Brew enthusiasts, however, like to try new things, so offering a few different styles allows them to enjoy the hunt for fresh tastes. Variety is the key to seeing smiles on all your guests’ faces.

Pick some familiar favourites

First off, every group is different, but there’s a good chance that most of your friends will be relatively easygoing about their beer choice. When you’re shopping for a party, it’s a good idea to provide these guests with familiar options.

Now, what do we mean by “familiar”? Studies show that most consumers tend to enjoy beer that’s pale in colour, with relatively low levels of bitterness. Many lagers and classic pale ales fit that profile. Plus, the crisp, refreshing flavours of lagers and pale ales makes them a great choice for summer. (Fun fact: We have hundreds of choices at The Beer Store that fit this profile.)

Laid-back guests will also be happy with two other ale styles: kolsches (sometimes called lagered ales) and cream ales. These brews are just as easy-drinking and thirst-quenching as lagers and pale ales, so they’re crowd-pleasers you can count on.

Get ready for adventure

Now let’s mix it up a little for the rest of the crowd. According to surveys and beer-rating websites, more-adventurous beer drinkers often say India pale ales, stouts and sour beers are among their favourites. Those are excellent summertime choices, and there are more interesting hot-weather styles to consider:

  1. Wheat beers, which often feature a fruity sweetness, can be especially tasty if you add a squeeze from a fresh lemon wedge or an orange slice;
  2. Radlers, which are a refreshing combination of lager and citrus juice; and
  3. Light beers, which are typically even easier-drinking than pale ales or lagers and super food-friendly.

OK, so here’s a little math to put it all together. Remember ratios? To make sure your beer lineup caters to all your guests’ tastes, try observing the 4:1 rule—for every four relatively familiar beers you buy, add a fifth one that’s a bit of a wild card. Or think of it this way: For a party, you can buy a 24-pack of a familiar brand, plus a six-pack of something new and unusual, and everyone’s tastes will be covered.

Once the party is under way, don’t be surprised if people switch their usual roles. Adventuresome guests may go with a tried-and-true brew, while others may branch out with a style they’ve never sampled before. As long as there are tasty choices, people will surprise you!

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