Whether you need a party idea for the holidays or just want to add a variety of beer to your fridge, a beer exchange party solves both problems and is easy to organize. The article you’re about to enjoy reading was written based on a party my dad throws each year during a Rams game (RIP STL Rams), but you can throw this party whenever you’d like. While I outline how it’s done below, feel free to tweak these steps to make your party your own. Have an idea better than mine? It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened. Leave a comment below to tell me how to improve on this soiree of swigging.
Beginning in the year 2000, my dad started throwing a beer exchange party. This was before “craft beer” was even a household term in most of America. The idea was simple: Invite a group of guys over for a Rams game, drink the beer(s), and at the end of the night everyone takes a mixed assortment of beers home. It’s a win-win-Rams lose situation. While it sounds simple in theory, there’s a reason his party’s a success today and that’s because of trial and error. With no further ado, here are 5 steps to throwing a successful beer exchange party:
1. Invite 7 People
You can invite 6 people. You can even invite 10 people. That’s fun and all but it won’t get you to the perfect number: 7. You want to invite 7 because once you include yourself, you’ll have 8 people that are bringing beers to split up. Here’s how you do it.
- Everyone bring 5 six packs of the same beer
- 6 of the beers get put on ice for people to drink during the game
- 24 of the beers get split up between everyone (3 per person)
The first year my dad threw the party, some guy who was probably distracted by the ill sounds of his “Stankonia” CD didn’t read his Netscape email correctly and showed up with 5 different 6 packs. That doesn’t math well for splitting evenly. Don’t be that guy.
2. Keep a List
You’ll want to make sure that you give a few weeks (even a month or two) notice to everyone. Toss out a few dates that may work and see which one sticks for everyone. After the date is set, ask everyone to send you which beer they plan on bringing. It’s up to you if you want to put a price limit or brand restrictions (no macros for example) on the party. You’re now in charge of making sure everyone picks a beer in a timely fashion and that there are no duplicates for that year’s party. Next year when you organize the party again, include the list of beers from the previous year when you send out invites so people know what’s off limits.
One year, a guy brought a beer that had been brought a few years prior and his punishment was that he had to bring and cook steaks to order for all the other guys at next year’s party. That’s one hell of an awesome penalty and a good deterrent for people to respect the list.
3. Get buckets
We’ve already discussed that you’re going to ice down 6 beers out of the 30 each person brought. Putting 48 beers in a giant cooler causes a lot of digging around. That’s a lot of time spent hunched over and shifting ice rather than enjoying the beer and the game. The best way to ice the beer is to get 6 cheap, small buckets and put 1 of each beer in each bucket. That puts a manageable 8 beers in every bucket and folks can grab as they please throughout the game.
Something my mom does to add a crafty touch to the party is to decopage decoupage (Holy crap, I got it on the second try!) each bucket with beer labels from the previous parties. Necessary? No. Somewhat cool in a way you’re kind of afraid to admit and although you might not do it personally you’ll now ask your wife/husband/gf/bf/significant other to do the same for you? Yep.
4. Bring Food
When you have room full of eight people watching football (or baseball or hockey or Designing Women reruns if that’s your jam) and drinking beers, you’re going to need food on hand. The solution is simple enough: When you have people email you the beer they’re bringing, have them also give you a dish they can put together that doesn’t suck. Now all you have to do is make sure people don’t double up and that you have an assortment of dishes instead of 8 different crock pots of chili.
Don’t even pretend like you didn’t plan on bringing chili as soon as you saw the title to this section. Everyone makes “the best chili because it’s not too hot but it’s still kinda spicy, you know?” Sure, I promise, I won’t tell anyone. You can trust me, what is it? Oh, your secret ingredient is brown sugar? Guess what, bud…EVERYONE’S SECRET INGREDIENT IS BROWN SUGAR!
5. Give a little extra
As the host of the party, it’s a nice gesture (and good incentive) to offer the attendees a small parting gift along with their beer. This could be something like a pint glass, a bottle opener or even a personalized soft sided cooler. Spend as little or as much as you want on the gift but it should probably have a beer theme. Hell, even a set of coasters or some koozies are better than nothing.
Although this party is awesome enough on its own, the parting gift is another great way to make sure that people come back each year. I was 17 when the party started and nobody, and I mean nobody, has dropped out of the party since I’ve been 21. That’s right. I write a blog about craft beer, I’m a Certified Cicerone®, and I’m the son of the party organizer and I’m not on the invite list. Looks like it’s time to take my own advice and throw my own shindig next year.