Corporate tasting – some lessons.

Last weekend I officially went corporate. I have been looking for a way to make a little more of a job out of this beer passion of mine. That sounds weird, but I already evangelise about craft beer wherever I go – why not make a little money off of it? After all, if it were up to me I’d be doing beer related things as my actual job – and what better way to start?

The organisers of a corporate end of year function were looking for a way to entertain (especially) the dads, since the moms had all sorts of spa treatments lined up. So I was phoned up and asked to organise 3 sessions of craft beer tasting for 20 people a session.

Do you know, I got so damn excited I spent the next few hours designing this tasting experience – to the point that I basically had a script. Anyway, what I decided to do was take the guys through an example of each style (within reason). So I chose 7 styles to showcase, and then had debates all over the place as to which beer exemplifies the style best.

The styles and beers I chose (in order) were:

  • Lager: Striped Horse – Pilsner
  • Pale Ale: Red Sky – Avenger
  • Weiss/ Wit: Woodstock Brewery – Hazy Daze
  • Amber Ale: Jack Black – Lumberjack
  • IPA: Devil’s Peak – King’s Blockhouse
  • Lager: And Union – Dark Lager
  • Stout – Smack! Republic – Newtown Nemesis

I deliberately put the Hazy Daze in as a wild card. But otherwise the rest of the beers I figured were great examples of their styles, but also easily enough to find after the session.

I also put together tasting sheets and organised prizes (mixed cases) for the most interesting/witty reviews of the beers.

So let me tell you how it went. In two words: organised chaos. That makes it sound terrible but it was the opposite. It was awesome. But it was messy too. The first session got everyone so excited that more than the allocated 20 people pitched up (most of the extras just wanted to spectate). I was competing with the sounds of a massive PA system as well as construction noise across the street. So I really had to assert my (shortish) self by standing on a rock and basically shouting.

Then I started learning lessons:

  1. People do not want to waste time – you have to get into the beers as quickly as possible (rather than giving any pre-amble first)
  2. It doesn’t matter how well you construct your script, it won’t be followed
  3. People really waste – I initially poured (in my opinion, a meagre) 40ml or so of each beer. But since these are not people’s mainstream beers, they almost never finish each taster. The litres of beer wasted was … beyond me. But I learnt straight away to give them less.
  4. The set-up and re-set up is HECTIC. Washing 144 tasting glasses 4 times in a day is nuts, and especially in between the sessions when you have 30 mins to wash up, clean the tables, set up again as well as pour the beer. Next time, I know to either have more hands or more time between sessions.
  5. Nobody is going to love all the beer, no matter how you sell it. And that’s ok. It’s a tasting.
  6. You will get your super-users (to coin the UX/Software development phrase) who are so into it that they want to stay, taste more, talk more or even help with the set up/clean up. It’s amazing to see!
  7. You will also get the people that are essentially disruptive and/or destructive. From nicking the glasses to not listening or mixing up their tasting order (deliberately) – it’s frustrating… but you can’t control it.
  8. Even if you’re a newbie, when you speak about things that they don’t know as well as you do – people listen. This was the best part for me – because while I’ve been in the scene for a while, this was my first event where I was the purported authority and I enjoyed the fact that people learned, asked questions and took something away from it.

So all in all, I’m really excited. I’ve connected with a few people who love the concept as part of entertainment for events and hopefully this grows into a proper business.

In the meantime, I leave you with some of the best comments about the beer:

About the Lumberjack Amber Ale:
“I knew an amber once, she was also caramel – this tastes better”

About the Newtown Nemesis:
“I wouldn’t even give this to my nemesis – it would put too much hair on his chest”

About the And Union Dark Lager:
“Now this is a union I would support”

About the King’s Blockhouse:
“Like the highveld rain”

So, if you’re in the business of organising year-end functions, corporate entertainment or stuff for delegates to do at conferences, give me shout. It’s a lot of fun!

You can mail me at or SMS me on 0825659404





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