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Illustrations provided by M Sauter, creator of Pints and Panels. See below.
Any beer lover knows, or will find out, that their wedding is going to be the most stressful beer-related activity of their life. At a typical party or casual beer-tasting people bring six-packs and share. You want to avoid mistakes, like trying some really obscure beer from Niger at a bar that ends up tasting like instant hangover (Biere Niger). At a wedding you are the sole host and it’s your responsibility.
Think about it. All your friends who love beer are going to judge your selections and cast an opinion. “A keg of Supplication? Awesome!” On top of this, you have non-beer drinkers and they’ll constitute a huge percentage of the wedding population. “I like Fat Tire but not much else,” you might hear them say. Or maybe even “All beer tastes the same to me, I can’t tell the difference.” I got that one recently and just about shat myself.
So there you go; beer lovers on one hand, potential beer lovers on the other. What you decide might bring people over to the beer loving side or drive them away forever. Remember when you had that really crappy IPA as your first IPA and you believed you didn’t like hoppy beers? Their fate lies in your hands. Don’t. Screw. This. Up.
I did a pretty extensive beer set-up at my wedding and get asked for selection advice all the time. No matter the weather, I always come up with the same suggestion: get something hoppy and refreshing. For example, a Pale Ale or Lager would be a good choice for the uninitiated and then buy something special for the serious beer drinkers. Note: That something special shouldn’t be too extreme. The goal is to get the Pale Ale drinkers to try out the other beer and like it.
At my own wedding I had three kegs from Lagunitas Brewing: the Pale Ale, Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Extra and Censored. I was only serving beer and wine and due to the relatively young age of the 170 attendees, Sumpin’ Sumpin’ was my high-alcohol backup for when the other kegs got drained. There’s nothing like an 8.8% beer to slow people down a bit. Oh, and people were camping on site or within a block of the hotel. I don’t recommend this setup for all weddings.
So a nice crisp beer along with a stronger amber beer does the trick. There’s a reason you don’t see Stouts and Lambics at weddings too much. The beer has to taste good, but you want to be able to drink at least six of them no problem. If you plan on dancing pretty hard, make it ten. The beer also needs to go with whatever dish you’re serving, so don’t get too crazy or else you’ll end up with half a keg of beer that will probably go to waste.
If you’re on a tight budget, my best advice is to get some coolers, ice, and hit up the local Costco for some cases of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Lagunitas IPA. They’re cheap and bottles can be self-distributed at the wedding. Guests can just reach in and grab one, but you do have a waste issue with all the necessary recycling. Caterers might charge you extra for hauling everything away.
My catering company of choice was going to charge me so I decided to spend half that cost on a tap system in the interest of saving money and the environment. Here’s the setup I built. I bought a CO2 tank (20lb), two taps, all the hoses and regulators, and built my own bar. The catering company brought beer glasses instead of champagne and it all worked out great. The person bartending only had to pour wine while everyone gleefully poured his or her own beer right out of the tap. “Just like at the bar!” some would yell. It gives your wedding something unique people will remember.
Caution: Most people don’t know how to pour from a tap. They’ll screw it up and get foam everywhere. If I could have changed anything I would’ve posted a simple diagram showing how to pour a pint.
I spent about $400 on the whole bar system and kept in the end. When comparing the cost of hiring a bartender, beer, and renting equipment, buying the draft system made more sense. You might as well just buy it yourself. I mean come on. You were going to get it at some point, right? Right? I purchased everything from Micro Matic.
So remember, get Pale Ale or Lager and something a little stronger for the wedding. If you go with a Hefeweizen you run the risk people not liking it because it tastes like bananas. You could go with a cider, but who can really drink more than a few pints of that, especially non-cider drinkers. Don’t bring out the big guns, but don’t give up and just get Anchor and Trumer. You can do this. I have faith in you.
If you’re already married and served craft beer, share your selections and advice in the comment area below.
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Illustrations for this post were graciously provided by M Sauter, creator of the website Pints and Panels, where she uses her skills as a cartoonist to review beer. Check it out!