Beer and Cheese Tasting Party

Beer and Cheese Tasting Party

“{Please Note- This is a sponsored post for which I received compensation. I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Millennial Central for Budweiser. I received product samples to facilitate my review and promotional items to thank me for participating.”}

The holidays are for lots of things- eating, drinking, presents, family, friends, cookies, holiday movies, Christmas carols....the list goes on and on. With so much to do and so little time, it can get really hard to entertain, yet gathering and celebrating with friends and family is one of the most fun and important parts of this festive season. So what's a girl to do?? The other night, while sipping on one of the beers from my Project 12 pack, I realized hosting a beer and cheese tasting party was just the answer I needed for my "too-busy-to-host-a-holiday-gathering" dilemma. It requires little prep work, it can easily be made holiday appropriate with a few simple decorations, it's suitable for 4 or 40 people, and let's be honest, who doesn't love beer and cheese?!

 Here are a few tips for hosting your own beer and cheese tasting party-

Drinks // You don't need a rocket scientist to tell you that you're obviously going to need some beer, since it is a beer tasting after all. I recommend having a different variety per every 3 people.

For our tasting party we chose the Budweiser Project 12 brews. Not only are the beers unique and special, I also have a special place in my heart for Budweiser (I know that sounds weird....just go with it). I'll never forget when I went on my first Budweiser factory tour with my parents. Of course, at the time I was too young to be interested in anything other than the Clydesdale horses and the snack mix they had in the tasting room. Years later, I attended college a mere 4 hours from the Budweiser headquarters in St. Louis, which meant I had lots of St. Louis friends, which meant lots of road trips to STL, which equalled lots a few Budweiser brewery tours. After college, I moved only few miles away from their brewery in Merrimack, NH. So now that we've cleared up why I hold a special place in my heart for a beer, let's talk a little more about the beers we chose for our tasting party.

The Project 12 pack includes three beers each named for the zip code in which they were brewed- Beechwood Bock, a crisp, clean amber brewed in Columbus, OH aka 43229, the North Pacific Lager, which has a bold, hoppy flavor and is brewed in Fairfield, CA aka 94534, and, my favorite, the sweeter Vanilla Bourbon Cask, brewed in Williamsburg, VA aka 23185. FYI, the Project 12 packs are a limited edition available only through the end of the year.

Along with your beers, don't forget to have water handy (so people can cleanse their palettes) and a variety of juices or soda for those who might be underage.

Eats // I recommend having 5-8 different kinds of cheese, including a soft cheese, a hard cheese, something mild, and a couple speciality flavors. I am a huge fan of the cheese at Trader Joe's not only because of their selection but also because of their price point. Since cheese is the substance of the meal I recommend having 3-4 pounds of cheese for every 8 people.

You'll also want to provide a variety of items for your guest to pair the cheese with. Some items to think about including- French bread, crackers, nuts, olives, marinated mushrooms and artichoke hearts, cured meats, dried fruits (such as apricots & cranberries) and fresh fruits (such as apple, pear, persimmon and grapes). I also like to include one or two other appetizers to create some variety, whether it's a dip or something like the butternut squash sticks seen in the pictures (recipe below).

Details // The beauty of a beer and cheese tasting party is that you don't need a lot besides the beer and cheese to complete the party (hence, why it's so ideal for this busy time of year). Set up your table with a few festive decorations (i.e. a variety of candles, a bouquet of flowers, etc), but keep things minimal to ensure the focus is on the beer, cheese, and conversations. Beer labels may be easy to read but I still recommend making a sign for each beer. You don't have to put the name of the beer on the sign, you could instead put a detail (sweet, stout, etc), what cheeses it pairs well with, or a fun detail about the beer (I put the zip code that each Project 12 beer was brewed in). To make the glasses a bit more personal, tie each with twine and attach a name tag at the end. You could also use a piece of washi tape or chalkboard stickers to label the glasses with each guest's name.

It is not necessary, but consider providing a place for your guest to write notes down, whether it's a small pad of paper (like this) or, if you will be having assigned seating, consider using a paper place mat for each guest to make notes on what beers and cheeses they did and didn't like. Thanks to the notes I took from our little gathering I was able to remember that I liked the Beechwood Bock with the full-bodied espresso lavender rubbed cheese, that the Vanilla Bourbon Cask paired well with sweeter cheeses (like the chocolate cheddar) and that the North Pacific Lager tasted best with buttery or aged cheeses.

Tunes // Since this is a holiday themed party, the obvious choice for music is Christmas tunes. My advice is to keep things classic and keep the volume low enough so as not to take away from conversation.

Favors // Giving to others is one of the best parts of the season, so having a small gift/favor for each guest to take home is a nice finishing touch to your party. It doesn't have to be anything fancy or expensive, but, keeping with the theme of the party, something such as a personalized beer mug, a 6-pack of the variety of beers you served, or a set of coasters would all be fun for your guests to receive.

Cheers to a successful party! As promised, here's the recipe for the squash sticks-

Butternut Squash Sticks with Herb Cream Dipping Sauce

1 medium butternut squash 1 tablespoon of olive oil 1 cup herb bread crumbs 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 2 tablespoons dried sage Cooking Spray 1/4 cup of mayonnaise 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the skin off the squash using a knife or vegetable peeler. Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds, then cut the squash into 1/4-inch matchsticks.

In a large bowl combine the squash sticks with the olive oil. Next, add the bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and half the sage. Toss til the squash sticks are evenly coated.

Arrange the squash in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 25-35 minutes (depending on your oven), until the squash turns golden brown and crispy.

While the squash is baking, combine the mayonnaise, yogurt, and remaining sage with a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Serve on the side of the warm butternut squash sticks.

Recipe slightly adapted from Budweiser