You know that beer you've been hiding in the fridge in the vegetable bin behind the acorn squash? The one you're saving for a really special occasion? You should consider hosting a bottle share for the occasion.
Bottle shares are like play dates for hopheads. Instead of bringing babies and sharing nap-time strategies, you bring beers and discuss drinking strategies, and maybe adult- nap strategies too. Each guest brings a bottle or two to share and everyone tries a little bit of everything.
There needs to be structure behind a successful beer share, though. Don't just throw a bunch of beer out on a table. Bottle shares are an opportunity for aficionados to try new or exclusive beers, and to compare and contrast in a safe space where everyone is just as snobby and obnoxious as the next.
Corey Pond at the Common Table says there are bottle shares all the time all around Dallas. "Literally, there's probably two or three a week, just that I know about," he says.
Now that it's clear the rest of us live boring lives, let's drill down on how to throw a proper beer share. Following are the finer points of baring your soul on a beer label in a small room with a group of people who are always trying to one-up each other. With the help from Pond and Jordan Moon, the co-founder of the Dallas Brew Scene, we've pulled together some tips.
1. "The first step is to get some beer. Ideally, it's beer that you can't purchase in Texas. This requires some work. Either you buy it on vacation or trade with friends you meet online. Beeradvocate.com is a site often used for this purpose, but there are others." -- Pond
2. "Buy a few bombers (22 oz or 25.4 oz) and invite some friends over. You'll need a rinse pitcher and dump bucket (but lots just drink the water from the beer glass as a way to stay hydrated) and you pass the bottle around." -- Pond
3. "I can say at least 50 to 75 percent of the top-tier beers I've had in my life, 'white whales,' were at bottle shares of some sort. It's usually just a group of friends who decided to crack open a few bottles that they are itching to taste, so it's relatively informal around town." -- Moon
4. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal described a beer share where each guest had a pre-assigned number that corresponded to rows of 1 or 2 ounce plastic cups filled with each beer. (This was for a vertical beer share, specifically.) Each vertical was announced and left out for a while so party goers could sip at leisure. Left-overs were put on a numbered paper plates. -- WSJ
5. "Aging a beer can also be interesting. So, say you have a limited release that you hold onto for a few years and take that to a bottle share. Some of the ones I've been to get ridiculous with the beers that are brought. There's kind of a friendly competition to see who can bring the most unusual, highly sought after beer." -- Pond
6. On party size, Pond suggests keeping it tight. "I think an ideal number of is six to eight folks. I've been to some with 20 to 30 people and it's weird because the bottles aren't big enough to share with that many people, so someone gets left out. And if you have a 12-ounce bottle (which is OK too) then it's really an issue." -- Pond
7. The WSJ article focused on theme-based bottle shares, like verticals or Belgian bottles, but Pond says that doesn't happen often here because it's too limiting, "Usually it's just a free for all. And you don't want to be too fancy. That might make people feel uncomfortable or intimidated, which is not at all what beer is about."