What’s the Best Crowd-Pleaser Beer to Bring to a Cookout? We Asked 6 Pro Brewers.
You won't let down the guests if you show up with a case of these
With COVID-19 restrictions being loosened or lifted entirely across the country this summer, you’re likely going to find yourself doing something you haven’t been able to in roughly 15 months: attending a party. After so much time in isolation, there’s a good chance you’ll be a little out of practice. You might be a little rusty when it comes to making small-talk — or any kind of talk, for that matter — but you can mitigate some of that awkwardness by showing up with booze to share.
Deciding what kind of beer to bring to a party, though, can be a surprisingly difficult task. The goal is to pick a brew that appeals to a wide variety of people. But how do you do that when you’re attending an event where some people are hopheads who love a strong IPA, others prefer dark stouts and some even typically eschew craft beer altogether in favor of a watered-down macrobrew?
To get some answers ahead of this Fourth of July weekend, we asked some of our favorite beer professionals what their go-to “crowd-pleaser” beer to bring to a social gathering is. The results were just as varied as the tastes being catered to; some opted for low-ABV pilsners or a kölsch, while others swore by boozy and hazy IPAs. But despite their differences, they’re all guaranteed to appeal to a large number of people at your next get-together, so check out their recommendations below before you do your shopping for the holiday weekend.
Matt Brynildson, brewmaster at Firestone Walker Beer
There Does Not Exist Mittpils
Russian River Brewing Pliny the Elder
Style: Double IPA
Russian River Brewing STS Pils
“If I need to grab some beer other than my own for a gathering, I’ll grab some local fresh craft like There Does Not Exist’s Mittpils made by my good friend Max Montgomery in San Luis Obispo. It’s always fun to bring something new that you know will be crushed. If I’m out of town, tried and true — always fresh Russian River STS Pils or Pliny the Elder from legend Vinnie Cilurzo will definitely bring some smiles to any party. Now that Vinnie and Natalie built a bigger brewery, we can readily find Russian River beers up and down the California coast.”
Joel Kosic, lead innovation brewer at Redhook Brewing
Reuben’s Brews PNW Crush
Style: Hazy IPA
“My go-to lately has been grabbing cans of anything in Reuben’s Crush Series. Reuben’s Brews are here in Ballard, and their latest is PNW Crush, a hazy IPA made with all Pacific Northwest ingredients. Reminds me of our Washington Native Series at Brewlab (shameless Brewlab plug). In general, I’m less concerned about pleasing a crowd and more excited to share whatever beer I’ve been into lately. If at least one person responds positively to whatever I’ve brought and I get to have a conversation with them about it, that’s a win in my book.”
Kevin McGee, CEO of Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Fort Point KSA
“As I’ve progressively re-entered the phenomenon of attending parties and BBQs (without Zoom), I discovered that over quarantine I developed social awkwardness into a superpower. My plan to combat this ‘gift’ has been to make sure that when I have the opportunity to bring beer (which is really often given my job). I bring something that will include and be appreciated by everyone that might be wherever I’m going. Fort Point’s KSA has been a sure-thing beer choice. It’s light but flavorful, very accessible to casual beer drinkers and is both a beer style that’s appreciated by enthusiasts and from a brewery that has serious credibility with the beer nerds. Kölsch-style ales are extremely hard to make — there’s very little to hide behind if you’re not precise in your brewing — and Fort Point’s brewers nail this beer and produce it in sufficient quantities that you can readily find it on shelves. Absolutely no way to go wrong bringing the KSA.”
Stephen Hale, founding brewer at Schlafly Beer
“Sampler packs! What a way to please everyone, or at least make sure a few of them are pleased. Some call them variety packs or other names, but the key is there’s pretty much something for everyone in these popular several-beers-for-everyone 12-packs (that’s a pretty standard size), so you’ll be the hit of the party if you show up with one of these. There are so many choices these days — both bottles and cans, as well as general-party-packs and curated styles, like all-IPAs, stouts or even seasonally themed selections. The choices aren’t quite endless, but it’s a great way to bring more than one style of beer as well as try a few you haven’t had before.
In the really warm weather many of us experience, you can’t beat cans of a lighter lager — for the park, pool or patio, but whatever it is you choose, classics like Anchor or Alaskan — or something newer brewed near your neighborhood; make sure there’s something in it for you to enjoy. So much beer, so many choices!”
Jason Santamaria, co-founder at Second Self Beer Co.
Style: Belgian-style wheat beer
“Whenever I go to a party and am unsure of the crowd, I pick up some Allagash White. It’s one of my all time favorite beers that inspired me to get into the business. I always try to bring something that the crowd may not pick on their own but one that everyone will enjoy. Now that it is in cans, it is truly perfect for any indoor or outdoor occasion.”
Eric Warner, head brewmaster at Karbach Brewing Co.
Wicked Weed Splash Pack
ABV: 4.5% (Watermelon Dragonfruit Burst) and 5.2% (Fresh Pressed)
Style: Session sour and fruited wheat beer
“The best crowd-pleasing beer for me right now is Wicked Weed’s new Splash Pack, made up of two beers: Watermelon Dragon Fruit Burst and Fresh Pressed. Fresh Pressed is an impressively fresh fruit beer, brewed with mango, pineapple and guava, while the Watermelon Dragon’s vibrant colors, fresh fruits and mild tartness make for a vivid beer experience. If I’m headed to a gathering, Splash Pack is the ultimate refreshing option for grilling in the backyard or just hanging out by the pool with your friends.”
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