A Twist to the Summertime Cookout: Themed is the Way to Go

This post was originally written in early May, prior to the creation of our blog site but still relevant as summer is in full effect. 

In Connecticut, the colorful buds of spring are cropping up despite the chill that lingers in the air. This year the summer solstice falls on June 21st and brings with it the promise of sunshine and fun. The anticipation of summertime triggers nostalgic memories of burgers sizzling on the grill, the taste of a cold, frothy brew on a warm day, and the fragrant whiff of flowers or freshly cut grass.

This time of year makes for easy entertaining. One of the best ways to kick-off the start of summer is to host a themed cook-out, such as a barbecue beer tasting. Nothing says summer quite like a cold pint paired with a juicy burger or a hotdog with all the trimmings. This type of cook-out can be a cinch to pull off for a small group of  your closest friends and family. As host, you need to supply a good amount of food and drinks for all your guests. This is critical! If you want to be cheap and/or lazy by skimping on either food or drinks then don’t host a party.

Any good cookout requires some preparation in advance. First, send out evites to all your guests and have them RSVP a few days before the cook-out so you have an idea of how much food and drinks you’ll need to get beforehand. Next, create a menu but keep it simple for a barbecue beer tasting. Some of the things you’ll need include burgers, sausages, hotdogs, soft or hard pretzels, chips, dip, salad, desserts, condiments and, of course, a couple cases of beer depending on how many people are attending. One trip to Costco the day before should be enough to supply you with most of the items needed for the cook-out as long you go armed with a list and don’t allow the food stations to distract you too much. If you live in Connecticut, you’ll need to make a separate trip to the liquor store for the beer. I suggest BevMax, which has a vast selection of beer including craft types that are worth trying at your cook-out.  Also, have your guests bring a pack of their favorite craft beer to the barbecue; include this detail in the evite you send.

During the cookout, have a tasting contest. To make it easy, select four beers for the tasting from the first four guests that arrive to the barbecue with a pack of beer. Make sure to have plenty of plastic cups on hand as well as disposable forks, spoons, knives and plates for effortless clean-up. Welcome all your guests to sample each beer and to vote on the two they like the best but not from the pack they brought to the party.  Next, have your friends try to guess which two beers will get the most votes. Have them jot down the first and second part of the contest on two pieces of paper, which you, the host, will collect and tally. The second part of the contest is a clever way to get your guests to interact with each other by prompting them to ask each other about which beers they prefer. This might spur additional chit-chat among your guests. The person that figures out the two cook-out favorites wins a prize such as a bottle of each beer or a box of treats to take home. It’s up to you as the host to decide what kind of prize to give to the lucky winner but keep it fun and simple.

Another way to hold the contest is to have it be a blind tasting by not allowing guests to see the brand of beer their sampling and differentiating the beers by either numbers or colors on cups. If your guests are beer connoisseurs, put their skills to the test by challenging them to blindly sample four beers then guess the brands of each. You can either give them the names of the beer makers in advance to match with the samples they taste or leave out that detail to make it harder. However way you choose to hold the beer tasting contest, it’s a fun summertime activity that will go well with your cook-out.

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