Welcome to the fourth in our new series of Gatherings from The Kitchn! In the past few months, you've seen Faith's cozy Italian Polenta Party, Anjali's Book Club Brunch, and just last month, Cambria's Spring Vegetarian Dinner Party for Six. This week, I'll be sharing photos and inspiration from my recent All-American Beer Bottling Party — a very casual get-together with several of my friends to bottle a big batch of homebrew.
Over the next few days, I'll be showing you how my low-key party came together — from the IPA Campari Spritzers that set the mood to my ultimate stress-saving decision to buy a pie for dessert instead of making it myself. I'll also be showing you how you, too, can bottle beer at home! Ready? Let's jump in!
The Party Idea: An Afternoon Get-Together to Bottle Beer
I have been homebewing for about five years now and there's nothing I love more than sharing that love (some might call it obsession) with other people. Since working on True Brews, my recent book on how to brew everything from soda pop to beer and wine, I get a lot of requests from friends to let them tag along next time I brew a batch of beer or bottle it up. Throwing a party to bottle my next batch of beer seemed like the most natural idea in the world! All I had to do was pick a day and call a few friends.
Of all of the editors here at The Kitchn, I am probably the least likely to throw the kind of all-out, candle-lit, beautifully-decorated dinner party that normally makes the pages of glossy magazines. I love going to those parties, but throwing them myself? I start to hyperventilate a little. So when I started thinking about this party, I knew I'd be keeping it very casual. Very low-key. That's my style.
This said, I still wanted this afternoon to feel special — something a little more than just any old gathering in my tiny living room but also not a major production. I decided to start the party with beer cocktails and taco appetizers on the porch, then move into the apartment for the beer-bottling itself, and then set a pretty table for an early dinner.
Getting the beer ready to bottle
The Party Menu: Easy Family-Style Fare
I really wanted to keep this menu easy and casual, both to fit the mood of the party and also so that I could focus on my guests and the beer bottling instead of having to be in the kitchen. I tried to keep the menu simple (a challenge for a food writer!), and aimed for a mix of dishes that could be made ahead and those that could be easily made at the last minute.
Cocktails + Appetizers:
- Chopped Brown Rice Salad with Grapes and Pecans
- Fruit Salad Tossed with Mint Simple Syrup
- German Pretzels
- Honey & Chili Chicken Thighs with Creamy Cilantro Sauce
- Craft beers
- Huckleberry Pie
- Vanilla Ice Cream
The Party Look: Laid-Back and Low-Key
I pulled my friend Tracy Benjamin in to help me make my battered old dining room table look a little more presentable for the dinner portion of this party. We decided on small bouquets of summer-time flowers spaced around the table and simple white plates. The food would be served family-style, so we also wanted room for the platters on the table. Some mix-and-matched linens would pull the table together and make it feel fancy without adding extra fuss to the day.
Stay tuned — Coming up on Wednesday, I'll walk you through the whole day from the guests arriving through the beer bottling and then onto dinner. I'll talk about what parts of the dinner I was able to make ahead of time and the moment I decided that making the pie was one thing too many. I'll also share the recipe for those Honey & Chili Chicken Thighs, show you step-by-step how beer is bottled, and give you some tips on throwing your own laid-back get together.
I had a lot of fun both planning and throwing this party. I hope you'll enjoy reading all about it!