5 Steps to THE GREAT PUMPKIN BEER Tasting Party

With Halloween being on a Monday this year, I couldn’t help but think of a way to enjoy the season with a good group of my friends without the mayhem of a full blown Halloween costume party. While I always love a good party, I wanted to find a way to gather friends but take the stress of party planning down a notch. Good news is that I found just the thing and I’m here for you! Think of it this way – everyone is talking about PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) season, but I say move over PSL – there’s Pumpkin Beer to enjoy! I know you’ve seen the amazing selection of bottles with orange and fall-hued labels calling from the shelves at BevMo and Costco – Pumpkin beers are out in force! To host this fun night in, all you need is a variety of seasonal brews, some festive snacks and good company! So grab your favorite beer drinking friends and some Pumpkin brews and host a fun tasting party with these easy tips. Here is how to throw a bewitching beer bash.

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STEP ONE :: Set the Scene
Have some fun and enjoy a little seasonal DIY’ing to set the scene for your party. A beer-tasting table should be minimal frills and all fun, so think of this like a visit to a local pub with a bit of personal flair. A rustic wood table topped with a simple burlap runner lays the foundation, while the pumpkin beer bottles and food double as both refreshments and centerpieces. Add a few mini pumpkins, some fall-inspired picks and you’re good to go.

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STEP TWO :: Everything (and everyone) in place
Give everyone a reason to join the table by adding your guests’ names above each place setting. This personalized touch can help you mix up the crowd by dictating seat assignments while also providing a nice take-away gift at the end of the evening. Set casual quilted mason jars at each place setting to keep the vibe easy going. You can use either the 8 oz. size or the 4 oz. sized jars for this event. With the holidays coming up we’ll be providing lots of ways to reuse either size for homemade holiday gifts so pick a size you’re comfortable using and it will work great.

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STEP THREE :: Tap into fall-inspired brews

gidgetpumpkinbeergroup3gidgetpumpkinbeergroup2Since this party is all about the beer, make sure to have some fun and gather at least six or up to eight pumpkin beer varieties. I found that to ensure your guests have fun experimenting with different styles of pumpkin beers I wanted to represent the broad spectrum of lagers, ales, ciders and stouts. The world of beer is booming and most large scale beer companies and micro brewers alike are brewing seasonal beer, you don’t have to understand the difference between a bock and a pale ale in order to throw a great pumpkin beer party. I asked the staff at BevMo and our local Whole Foods Market to give me a variety of beers and they came through with flying colors! Even our local Costco supplied 3 of the amazing beers shown here. What you’re looking for are beers that range in color and variety so have some fun with the selection process and your guests will follow. One essential rule of thumb: beer should be served cold, so keep them in the fridge until ready for tasting.

STEP FOUR :: Get ready to load your plate after some tasting!
Now that your beer menu is ready to go, you need to focus on some simple appetizers to serve to keep your guests from getting too hungry (or a little too tipsy!) during your event. Standard issue snack for beer tasting would of course be pretzels for starters. You can buy pretzel sticks, pretzel twists and even pretzel buns if you want to get fancy. Keep in mind that mustard will impact the flavor of the beer, so keep it simple with your pretzel of choice to keep your guest’s palate clear.

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STEP FIVE ::  Pumpkin beer party time – document the fun!
Now that the party is set and the fun is ready to begin, it’s important to help guests document their thoughts and preferences by providing them with a place to write their tasting notes. I just loved these paper place settings which allow guest to pick the top 4 beers they want to try and write in the name for themselves. I found mine here: http://www.hesterandcook.com/products/KP225 . I worked with TheGoodStuff to create this awesome beer tasting template which is available for download HERE, or simply provide guests with a cute mini notebook for them to use to write down thoughts on each beer. After the party is over, guests can take home their notebook as a fun (and useful!) favor along with their nameplate.

To get the party and the conversation moving, encourage your guests to sample multiple types of beer, starting on the lighter end with pilsners or blonde ales, move up in intensity with some heavier beer with the darker porters and stouts. This can be a fun experience for you and your guests but it’s always helpful for you as a host to encourage a discussion with your guests after tasting each beer to help them reflect on how the beer feels while drinking it and what flavors are pronounced. 

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To help them along, here are some easy suggestions you can provide to direct the conversation and help your guests have a little direction for the tasting:

  1. Look at the beer and describe its color, head (the foam at the top), and consistency. Make a note of this on your placemat or notepad.
  2. Swirl your beer in the glass – this isn’t just for wine tasting! Ask them to pay attention to the aromas that drift from the glass.
  3. Smell the beer. Have them take a couple of quick sniffs with mouth closed, then open. Reflect on the beer’s aroma – make sure they write this down!
  4. Slowly taste each beer by taking a sip and letting the beer sit in their mouth. Note the beer’s body and overall taste, and breathe out during the tasting process. Try sipping the beer again after it’s warmed up a little to note any taste or aroma differences.

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Now that you have a party plan on how to gather friends and partake in the amazing seasonal beers for fall, we hope that you’ll follow our lead and raise a glass to the season! I had a blast tasting all of these beers and encourage you to gather up your friends to do the same.

GIDGET’S PUMPKIN MARTINI

We’ve accepted the fact that fall is here and are ready to cozy up with warm sweaters and festive cocktails. But we aren’t suggesting you only sip Irish coffees for the next three months. This season brings a new roster of autumn-appropriate cocktails for your sipping pleasure.

This drink’s wonder-ingredient is Spicy Pumpkin Infused Vodka which takes a bit of time but is well worth the effort. The great news is that once you’ve made a batch you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor with this season-worthy martini. You can also include the recipe with a beautifully packaged bottle of the infused vodka as a hostess gift as you enter into this party season.  Either way, ENJOY!

GIDGET’S PUMPKIN MARTINI

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Anything pumpkin makes us happy this time of year, so we wanted to create a cocktail that was the best of these flavors without being overly sweet.

TOOLS :: Cocktail shaker, strainer, 2 small plates
GLASS ::  Martini or Coupe
EXTRAS :: Granulated sugar with Pumpkin Pie Spice for glass rim
SERVINGS :: 2 cocktails

INGREDIENTS :: 
4 oz. Pumpkin Spice Vodka Infusion
2 oz. Captain Morgans Original Spiced Rum (dark)
1 oz. Disaronno liqueur
1 oz. Christian Brothers Honey Brandy
1 oz. Half and Half
2 heaping teaspoons of Pumpkin Butter

HOW TO MAKE IT ::
On a small plate, mix together three teaspoons of granulated sugar and three shakes of pumpkin spice. On second small plate add five tablespoons water. Dip glass rims into water briefly then dip into sugar mixture to rim glasses in pumpkin sugar. Add all ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake well and use a fine wire strainer to double strain the mixture into cocktail glasses.

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FALL INSPIRED SPIRIT INFUSIONS ~ SPICY PUMPKIN VODKA

Oh, how I love the fall season! Now is the time to step away from the lemons and limes of summer and head into the cozy cocktails and flavors of autumn with these spirit infusions.

This is the second of three recipes that will have you enjoying the season’s best: warm vanilla, inviting pumpkin and even savory smoky bacon. If you like the creativity of cooking and combining flavors–and, like us, you mix a few cocktails now and again – then infusions are a great place to play around and have fun personalizing your home bar.

SPICY PUMPKIN VODKA

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A lot of spirit infusions start with vodka. This spirit is an ideal base for liqueurs because it’s colorless and flavorless, making it the perfect start for absorbing your flavors.

TOOLS ::
Large glass container with sealed lid, ice cream scooper, vegetable peeler, foil-lined baking sheet and cheesecloth

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INGREDIENTS :: pumpkin-step-2
2 cups raw sugar or kabocha pumpkin
3+ cups vodka (we used Kirkland Signature Vodka from Costco and for the price it works great)
1/2 cup brown sugar
Pumpkin pie spice
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
2 whole vanilla beans
4 large pieces of candied ginger, cut in half

HOW TO MAKE IT ::
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut pumpkin in half and using ice cream scooper, scrape away all seeds until clean. Using vegetable peeler, peel away all skin from the pumpkin. Cut into 1/4” chunks and place onto foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle all pieces with brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Bake until just tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Place cooled pumpkin, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans (do not cut beans as they will overpower the other flavors) and candied ginger into glass container. Pour vodka over all ingredients and seal. Let infusion sit at room temperature in a dark space for 10 to14 days, shaking mixture gently every day to combine flavors. Strain infused vodka through cheesecloth to capture all ingredients and funnel final produce back into vodka bottle.

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Spirit infusions are very simple. You soak ingredients in a base alcohol until you like the taste. Sounds fun and easy, right? Infusions require a waiting time to properly yield the best results and most robust flavors. Get these infusions started now and your patience will pay off in a few weeks.

The key to all infusions will be to choose a decent quality brand for your base spirit. There’s no need to break the bank for a premium variety, but avoid the cheapest ones because no amount of spice will take away the harshness of cheap alcohol. So get in your kitchen and have fun adding a twist to fall’s scrumptious flavors.

Check out our other Fall Inspired infusions – Bacon Infused Bourbon and Vanilla Bean Vodka for more infusing fun!

 

 

LAST MINUTE HALLOWEEN PARTY MENU – PUMPKIN BEER

Too busy to worry about mixers and fancy garnishes for your Halloween libation menu? Save time and stay oh-so trendy by embracing the wide range of Pumpkin Craft Beer available this season. Keep it simple because sometimes nothing beats an ice cold beer served in a chilled glass and with a quick shopping spree to your local store you’ll find plenty to choose from. Released as seasonal fall beers by many breweries, there’s quite a selection of Pumpkin Beer {from ales, to IPAs to stouts} that all taste amazing and easily fit into your Halloween theme. Grab several varieties to provide your guests the chance to dip into the craft beer phenomenon while keeping things simple for your hostess duties. Packed with pumpkin pie spices like ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves, Pumpkin Beers are typically mild, with little to no bitterness so they are destined to please both craft beer aficionados and newcomers alike.DSC_0287

Ice-up the inside of a pumpkin for a little extra Halloween flare!

Ice-up the inside of a pumpkin for a little extra Halloween flare!

PUMPKIN SHANDY

Sometimes nothing beats an ice cold beer served in a chilled glass. Pumpkin Ales are original American style ales that are often released as seasonal fall beers by many breweries. There’s no doubt that fall is the season for pumpkin flavors and we’re thrilled to bring you a drink that turns the tastes of the season into a delicious shandy. Traditionally made with lemon and beer, this fantastic twist on the classic shandy was designed by Kyle Ford, Cointreau’s master mixologist. You’ll love how the citrus flavor plays so well with the spicy pumpkin ale.

For other Pumpkin Ale inspired cocktails, check out the article I wrote for TheGoodStuff for some recipes.

Pumpkin Shandy

TOOLS :: Cocktail shaker, strainer
GLASS ::  Old Fashioned/Highball
EXTRAS :: thin slice of orange + fresh grated nutmeg for garnish
SERVINGS :: 2 cocktails
INGREDIENTS ::

  • 2 oz. Cointreau
  • 2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls of Pumpkin Butter (we love Trader Joe’s version)
  • 8-10 oz. Pumpkin Ale

DIRECTIONS ::
In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, add Cointreau, lemon juice and Pumpkin Butter. Shake well and use a fine wire strainer to double strain the mixture evenly between two cocktail glasses. Top each with beer. Stir to combine and garnish with orange slice and grated nutmeg.

HALLOWEEN COCKTAIL ~ MIDNIGHT SPELL

There’s something magical about the perfect blend of flavors in a cocktail. This libation provides that spark with the rich simple syrup blending subtly with the natural spices of the bourbon and the pumpkin ale. We launched this on TheGoodStuff – the online magazine we contribute our cocktails to {check them out here}. ENJOY and Happy Halloween!

MIDNIGHT SPELL

The Midnight Spell ~ CraftBeer cocktail to keep handy all Fall + Winter long
TOOLS :: Cocktail shaker
GLASS :: Old Fashioned/Highball
EXTRAS ::  thin slice of orange + candied ginger for garnish
SERVINGS :: 2 cocktails

INGREDIENTS ::
4 oz. Bourbon {we used Bulleit}
6-8 oz. Pumpkin Ale
2 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Ginger syrup {The Ginger People – Ginger Syrup is perfect}
1.5 oz. Brown Sugar Simple Syrup {recipe below}

HOW TO MAKE IT :: 
Brown Sugar Simple Syrup :: In a high-sided saucepan over medium-high heat combine 1 cup water with 1 cup brown sugar. Bring to boil, stirring constantly to ensure sugar is dissolved. Turn heat to low and simmer 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain syrup into container and keep refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, add Bourbon, Cointreau, ginger syrup and Simple Syrup. Shake well {shake it like you mean it!} and split mixture between two ice-filled cocktail glasses. Top each with beer, stirring to combine. Garnish with orange slice and candied ginger.