Can I Bring Beer to a Dinner Party?

Once upon a time in popular culture, it was only OK to bring beer to cookouts, frat parties and Nascar rallies. But thanks to the pioneering efforts of beer nerds the world over, that’s no longer the case. Those who appreciate the carbonated goodness of a well-crafted brew know that beer is just as full of flavor and possibility as its snobbier cousin; which makes it more than worthy of a place beside a plate at any dinner party ‘” even one with cloth napkins.

But you can’t show up with just any old beer. To save yourself some embarrassment, skip the cheap stuff. Coors, Miller and Budweiser (really anything in a red white and blue can) are watered down, flavorless and the reason why most people think they don’t like beer. Showing up at the door with any of these offenders is tantamount to bringing a box of wine: it says “I don’t care about you, your dinner party or what I put in my mouth.”

So what do you bring? The general guideline is to bring two six packs per bottle of wine. But if you really want to impress the crowd and win some converts to team beer, I recommend bringing one six pack of a crowd pleaser and one or two bottles with a little “wow” factor. They’ll let everyone know that you know your beer, and convince even the cloth napkin crowd that good brews have something great to offer.

Bring at Least One Bottle of Premium Beer

For something that will impress both the elitists and oenophiles, head to a big chain liquor store in a nice neighborhood. First, look for big bottles: anything corked and caged or in a 750ml glass or ceramic bottle. What you find in the big bottles will vary from place to place (to know what you’re getting, do a little Googling before you buy). But most off the big boys are pricey, specialty brews that look posh and interesting enough to impress the cloth napkin crowd.

But to impress the beer nerds in the bunch, I recommend going with something with bigger flavor. Scan the aisles for a dark beer. Dark beers are heavy enough to support a lot of taste. And the good stouts and doppelbocks are known for their sophisticated and nuanced flavor profiles. These are beers that you drink like wine: measure the head, appreciate the nose, savor the notes and discuss the experience.

For a really complex flavor profile, go for a Russian Imperial stout. You won’t find a beer that has more going on. The good ones feature chocolate, coffee, licorice, anise, fruit notes, toasted malt and so much else. Or, for something a little more simple but still interesting, try a crowd pleaser like a chocolate stout. They’re delicious, great for after dinner and everyone loves the guy who brings chocolate beer.

If you don’t like dark, try the other end of the spectrum. India Pale Ales (IPA) are light beers known for their crisp flavor and big, bitter hoppy bite. I like bringing along an IPA because along with their big, spicy flavor, they come with psychedelic packaging and awesome names: Hoptical Illusion, Dead Elephant Ale, Dogfish Head, Flying Dog (Ralph Steadman does the artwork for the packaging) and Hop Stoopid are some of the best. *

Bring a Six Pack that Everyone Will Like

Once you’ve chosen a special brew, look around for a six pack or two of a crowd pleaser. The best crowd pleasers, in my opinion, are session beers. Session beers are beers that you can keep knocking back. They’re light and crisp with mild but full-bodied flavor that appeals to nearly everyone.

Session beers don’t have to be expensive or hard to find to be delicious. Negra Modelo, Heineken, Pilsner Urquell and Sierra Nevada are easy to find in most areas, taste good and are suitable for a casual dinner party.

If you want to opt for something a little more interesting, go for an Asian beer like Tsing Tao, Sapporo, Asahi, Tiger or Singha. They’re delicious and they go great with spicy food. Or, try going local. Most metropoles have at least one or two micro or craft brewers that make beer good enough to mass market. Ask Google or your local bar tender to find some of the brews from your area.

Follow these guidelines, and you’re sure to make a good impression. But remember that they’re just guidelines. If you don’t find any of these brews at your local liquor store, just browse the aisles and look for interesting packaging. Taste a few or read some reviews and choose your own brew to bring to the party.

* Some of the IPAs can get pretty bitter. But unless you know people with a serious thing for bite, stay away from challenging names like Arrogant Bastard or Stone Ruination .