Festive Beer Options To Brighten Your Holiday Beverage Program

By Fred Crudder, Foodable Industry Expert

Champagne on New Year’s Eve? Been there, done that. Who hasn’t, right? It’s about to be 2016, and the bubbles in everyone's bellies are coming from beer these days, not wine. So get hip with a hoppy sip, ‘cause beer is here to ring in the new year.

Pop Some Corks!

If people want a memorable bottle for the upcoming festivities, beer can do that. Some of the greatest beers in the world come in a 750ml format, corked and caged just like Champagne. The ceremony for opening and decanting these is just as dramatic too. These beers are corked and caged for a reason, not just to look good. They have a high carbonation level compared to most beers, and they will certainly add some “pop” to your specialty beer list, as well as to your customers’ good times.

Don’t forget to look domestically, not just internationally, for these beers. Some world-class beers are coming right out of the United States now. Look carefully too, because the fancy packaging and high price tags might cause you to mistake them for imports. There is certainly nothing wrong with fancy imported beers, but customers are enjoying local treats in liquid form as much as they are in edible form these days, so don’t overlook our homegrown treasures.

Glass the Joint Up a Bit

If you do not already stock nice beer glasses, then this is a great time to start. Grab your nearest smallwares catalog and look for beer glasses. Every reputable glassware supplier will have a few selections of stemmed glasses designed for beer. They might include the word “Belgian” in there somewhere. Those ought to work. No reason to get carried away. Something in the 12-16 oz. range, stemmed, with a bulbous body that tapers into a narrower opening will be perfect. 

One thing to remember when getting specialty glassware is to get a bunch. Nobody likes to be the one who gets a regular, boring glass when everyone else has the cool ones. And any bar that has to resort to mismatched glassware looks gimpy at best. It’s a celebration, so you want to look like you were ready for it.

Speaking of Belgian...

Belgium makes some of the most exotic and amazing beers in the world. Sound expensive? They can be. But don’t worry, they are worth it. And if people are going to spend extra money on fancy beers, the end of the year is the perfect time to do it. Not only are they delicious, many of them are strong, so holiday revelers can get into the spirit just as easily as if they were drinking wine. Their strength and complexity lend themselves well not only to revelry, but also to decadent meals, especially dessert.

A Global Celebration

Any well-stocked beer bar has something for everybody’s taste, and the end of the year is certainly no different. In addition to some exceptional beers from places like Belgium and the United States that we have already touched on, think about some places that are a little lesser known for their beer culture. Italy, for example, has some outstanding and unique beers, featuring ingredients many would not expect in beer. Nuts, spices, herbs, and heirloom grains all can turn up in Italian craft beers. Surprised? Your customers might be as well.

There are some really terrific beers coming out of Norway and Denmark lately too. They are making many of the same styles as craft brewers here in America, but I am especially fond of their work with strong, dark beers. They may be hard to pronounce, but they sure are easy to drink.

You Gotta Have Style

We eat and drink with our eyes first, then our sense of smell, and finally our tastebuds. So why not ask your sales reps about beers that come in interesting bottles? Whether they are beautiful, funny, wacky, or even R-rated, beer labels are often almost as interesting as the beers inside the bottle. You can find foil wrapped tops, bottles swaddled in tissue paper, swing tops, and some really unusually shaped bottles. One of my favorites, a strong ale from Dusseldorf, Germany, has such a unique shape that people can’t resist asking about it wherever it is spotted. Once a customer gets their hands on one of these gems, it’s hard to tell the server or bartender to put it back. There is a strong chance that you’re going to make the sale.

Take Flight

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Depending on the type of crowd you get, one idea that never gets old is tasting flights. Offering people multiple small tastes of different flavors is not only exciting for the customer, it is a great way to start and maintain the lively chatter around the table. It’s really hard to let a conversation stall when there are constantly new things to taste. 

A great way to offer flights is to bring the samples one at a time, like a progressive tasting instead of a smorgasbord. Not only do you keep the table less cluttered, you don’t need nearly as much glassware. Plus, when you are tasting anything, especially high-quality beer, you really don’t want a lot of flavor competition anyway. One at a time is really the way to go to help maximize your enjoyment. Keeping track of who had what might seem difficult, but one easy way around that is to make sure each beer is a different color. Your staff can know where each person is in the progression by a quick glance at the table.

3...2...1...HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Beer lovers will truly appreciate knowing that an establishment has their needs in mind when planning New Year’s festivities. For too long it has been a night for liquor and sparkling wine. As the popularity and appreciation of real, quality beers reaches new heights daily, put your place on the map with beer drinkers once and for all. There has never been a better place and time to be a beer drinker than in the United States, right now. Beer drinkers have many things to be thankful for, but a rightful place in the New Year’s festivities has never really been one of them. With the amazing plethora of quality, taste, and diversity in the world of beer, and with your help, that time is now. And to that I say, “We’ll take a cup of kyndness yet, for auld lang syne!” Cheers and keep pouring beers.