Tips for Choosing the Best Beers for a Party, Plus 5 Favorite Picks

Tips for Choosing the Best Beers for a Party, Plus 5 Favorite Picks

Casey Barber
May 29, 2014
(Image credit: Casey Barber)

Light up the tiki torches and get those hot dogs marinating—it's backyard party season, people! You might have a wraparound porch (and if you do, I'm jealous) or a city apartment with a fire escape, but whatever your entertaining situation, you're going to want to buy beer before your friends come over.

Here's how I decide what beers I'm serving at my parties and some of my favorite recommendations.

1. Choose low ABV "session beers."

Whether it's summer or winter, when I'm hosting a shindig, I make sure whatever I'm putting out for mass consumption has a fairly low ABV, hovering in the 5% range. You could call these "session beers"—brews that are flavorful but still low-alcohol enough that you won't get embarrassingly loopy after drinking a bunch of them over a long period of time.

Though some will nitpick that a true session beer should never rise above 5% ABV, I play a little more loosely with the definition and just check my ABV percentages before buying stuff that I already know tastes great. "Sessionable" is a good watchword to note when choosing beers for lazing about the backyard, sitting by the pool, tailgating, or just hanging out drinking for an afternoon.

2. Buy good beer, but don't spend a bundle.

And while I love my friends dearly and would never buy them cheap swill, I do take into consideration whether I'll be paying $10 or more for a 4-pack of bottles, or the same amount for a sixer. Big parties are not the time to bust out my $20 750-ml bottles of The Bruery's Sour in the Rye that only a few people will get to enjoy; when buying in volume, I'm definitely thinking about bang for my buck.

(Image credit: Casey Barber)

5 Favorite Beers for a Party

Cans are always surefire winners because they chill quickly and don't make me put in an extra bicep workout when I drag the empties to the curb for recycling. Founder's All Day IPA (4.7% ABV) is the poster child for an all-around great session beer—I'm forever grateful that they're putting this aromatic but not-too-bitter IPA in cans, and even happier that they're selling them in packs of 15. All Day IPAs all around!

I'm also a fan of the Sixpoint lineup, especially their smooth Sweet Action cream ale (5.2% ABV). Sixpoint's cans only come four to a box, but each holds a generous 16 ounces, so I'll let it slide.

For friends who want that classic, crisp old-timey beer flavor, I direct them to Victory Prima Pils (5.3% ABV)—it's got that clean, wheaty flavor so many of us associate with the beers we cut our teeth on, so to speak, accented by grassy hops for modern craft beer palates. (OK, OK, I've been known to throw a few IC Lights into the mix too. I'm a Yinzer, what can I say?)

But not everyone likes hops, so I take care of my malt-minded friends with Abita Turbodog (5.6% ABV). Brown ales and lagers usually run higher in ABV than their paler counterparts, but this one strikes a great balance of caramel and toffee flavors with a light-bodied drinkability.

And because it's fun to have a fruity drink in the mix, I always have a few six-packs of Shiner Ruby Redbird (4% ABV) on hand. Drinking one of these always makes me think of good times in the sweaty Austin sun, and its grapefruit-and-ginger palate appeases those who "don't really like beer." (To which I say, we just can't be friends anymore—kidding!)

Now that you've stocked your fridge and set out the koozie bowl, just let me know what time I should show up. What beers do you like to have on hand at your parties?

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