One of the biggest money-sucks of parties is booze. I can run to the store for a few cocktail fixin’s and walk out $50 later, easily. And while it’s perfectly acceptable to ask your guests to BYOB, it goes over better if you make an event of it. Why not potluck your favorite drinks? Host a fun, relaxed little shindig that makes sharing the point. Everyone you invite to a home beer tasting party shares in the cost of the most expensive part, and more importantly, shares in the community of new and different flavors. You’re giving ownership of the festivities to your friends in their choices, and it becomes a special chance to try new things. Plus, the really picky friends are guaranteed to at least like one of their options.
THROW A HOME BEER TASTING PARTY FOR UNDER $60…
THE DRINKS – Have friends bring a six-pack or a few tallboys of their favorite beer or ale to share. My favorites are Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, Greenflash Le Freak, and Carlsberg. Also pictured here are Lagunitas Little Sumpin, Fox Barrel Cider, and Mama’s Little Yella Pils. (about $10-15 for a six-pack)
THE FOOD – I love super sharp cheddar with beer, and these mini mac & cheeses, made in cupcake tins, are real crowd-pleasers. The recipe is totally adaptable if you want to be creative (I once used gruyere), and really easy to whip up beforehand and pop in the oven for 10 minutes as people are arriving. You probably have some of the ingredients on hand already, too. Serve with some peppered salami for flavor balance. (about $15 for mac ingredients and salami)
THE SERVING STUFF – You probably already have a bunch of little glasses (think juice size) that would be perfect for 2-oz tasting pours. If not, it’s hard to beat this cute set of six ($5). It’s also probably a good idea to have a community water bottle for palate cleansing between brew sips ($4). For decor, maybe make these awesome DIY “cheers” coasters. The downloadable designs are free from Design Love Fest (about $20 for remaining supplies).
THE ENTERTAINMENT – Play a fun but low-key spotify mix like this one. All of Breanna Rose’s playlists are pretty awesome, if you need inspiration. You could also put on a great popcorn movie or show you already have for responsibly referee-ed drinking games. I’m thinking Walking Dead, which is on Netflix Streaming, would be really fun to watch with a group. (FREE)
DO IT WITH WINE
Don’t like beer? Upgrade your movie selection to something a little classier, stock up on cheap wine glasses, and have a little vino party instead.
THE WINE – As I said last time, wine does not have to be expensive. There are so many totally drinkable and enjoyable wines out there. I’m a big fan of $4 Green Fin at Trader Joe’s. Look, even Oprah has some budget suggestions for you.
THE ETIQUETTE – Since wine inherently feels a little more fancy than beer, the tasting “rules” are fun to learn (and teach). Read Joanna’s Goddard’s lovely wine etiquette post or check out Food & Wine‘s wine tasting how-to. You could assign friends a category of wine to bring, depending on the type of tasting, or just see what shows up and try everything.
THE FOOD – If you want to do a real Proper with a capital P wine tasting, plain bread and coffee grounds (for smelling to clear the palate) are the only food you’d want around. But because I’m always down for yummy and interesting food, I’d want to try an Italian-style crostini and Elephantine’s rosemary crackers as hors d’oeuvres. Both look so impressive, but really easy to make. (Estimated $20 in ingredients)
+ Check out beer and wine festivals and tastings in your area. A lot of breweries and wineries even do inexpensive tours that include a few pours.
+ Always drink responsibly! ;)
What’s your favorite way to be social on the cheap?
Lauren Johnson is a filmmaker/producer living in West Hollywood who enjoys a great foreign thriller, leisure beers, and non-primary colors. Lauren also writes the blog LOCONCEPTS.