While it’s an essential sidekick for any party, beer is no longer one-size-fits-all. The rise of the craft beer movement, the sheer volume of new breweries, and the ever-growing range of beer styles means you can offer guests a beer to suit their individual tastes and complement what’s on the table.
From porters to pilsners, lagers to lambics and Irish stout to IPA beer, there’s a whole new world of beer styles, flavours, ABV strengths and food and beer matches to explore. With these three tips, you can make beer the star of the show for every guest at your next party.
The cardinal rule when friends are coming over is to stock at least several different types of beer. As an added bonus, presenting guests choices also avoids palate fatigue. “A number of different beer styles will really see you through from beginning to end, and match well to the food that you serve,” says Glen Bagnara of Hemingway’s Wine Room and Bar Bianco in Melbourne. “For summertime entertaining, I’d start with a saison. It’s low in alcohol, light in body, and fruity.”
Glen also recommends a pilsner like Pilsner Urquell, which tends to be light, crisp, bitter and clean. Round out the offering with something like a sour, a style of beer made by intentionally allowing wild yeast strains or bacteria into the brew to create an intentionally acidic, tart taste. A seafood platter with charry king prawns is elevated to perfection with a mild, easy-drinking golden ale, while all things spicy match with the bold hoppy flavours of an IPA beer.
The buzzword of the moment, a “session” beer has a lower alcohol content (typically under 5% ABV) that will see you through an afternoon or evening’s socialising with little collateral damage. Easier to drink than some of the high alcohol craft beers, they also showcase a brewer’s skill with a balance of hops and malt, a crisp and clean finish, and a crowd-pleasing drinkability.
The sober-curious movement and an increase in health consciousness mean lower-alcohol and zero-alcohol beer styles continue to trend upwards. Assume some of your guests will appreciate an ultra-low alcohol beer, or even one of the new no alcohol versions now on the market, but fear not: thanks to rapid advances in know-how and technology, this “premium lite” category is no longer a laughing matter. “The major producers have all jumped on board and these days, it’s like drinking full-strength beer, with some really interesting flavours,” Glen says. Beer isn’t just beer anymore, and happily, its admirable diversity means that there’s bound to be a choice for your guests’ divergent preferences.
With so many Australian beer brands options at your disposal, it’s easy to ensure that no two producers are the same. The dry and refreshingly sour raspberry Berliner Weisse from Sydney’s Wayward brewers is a delicious way to sample the best of New South Wales, while Queensland shows off its tropical credentials with Ballistic Beer Co’s Hawaiian Haze Pale Ale — all juicy, hop driven flavour well suited to the warm climate. As for Victoria, the award-winning Jetty Road IPA beer will whisk you straight to its Mornington Peninsula home base with its punchy US hops giving heady notes of tropical fruits, melon and guava.