Beer, Garden: That Time We Hosted a Brew Tasting in Our Yard

What’s everyone up to this Memorial Day weekend? Right now we’re prepping for our vertical gardening demo in LA (happening on Saturday — come! Here are the details) followed by QT with our friends and enjoying our SoCal surroundings. On that note, we’d like to share a fun party we had last month in our garden…

Beer garden

Beer garden

Our friends Tim King and Anthony Baca (both amazing photographers) took over the cameras while we served and mingled.

Ryan has always wanted to host a beer tasting. And, though you might not believe it, I, Chantal, have a knack for identifying beers with my eyes closed. (A skill I uncovered in Portland.) So Ryan planned a party with a sudsy tournament at the center, which was held on a Saturday that started chilly but got cloudless and warm by the time our guests arrived. The tasting was optional, of course. And it was a competition — with written notes, bandana blindfolds, and a wooly cactus as the grand prize!  We partied into the evening and everyone left, we captured a time-lapse video of three Echinobivia “Rainbow Bursts” cactus flowers blooming simultaneously from our outdoor living table.

About 45 friends, friends of friends, and family of friends showed up. About 33 or so took part in the competition, and it was lively all around. For music, we played vinyl records with special attention to our dearly beloved Prince.

Beer garden

The day started off overcast, but the clouds made like a tree (y’know, and LEFT) before our guests arrived.

Beer garden

Friends brushing up against the friendship tree (Crassula ovata, foreground) = our kind of party.

Beer Garden The Horticult Garden

Beer garden

If you decide to throw your own tasting party in your garden, here are some tips and lessons we’ve learned after throwing our first:

  • Find a bar supplier, and purchase a bulkload of tasting glasses at a great price. We bought 72 four-ounce glasses for $60… and we still had to wash a couple of times to remain stocked during the event.
  • Air plants are perfect for decorating the serving table! Take a coil of bonsai wire and make a quick stand! See above photo.
  • Print out a tasting guide to help your guests better describe the beer. We found great descriptions on Appellations Beer website and used it to make this handy printout. How else would we think to describe the fermentation flavors as “horseblankety”?
  • Make plants the prizes! We gave away a fabulous old man cactus as the grand prize.
  • Pick a theme. Ours was Prince and vinyl. We think a ’90s party would also be fun!
  • Don’t overcomplicate the tasting competition! Ryan developed a fun but complicated system for administering the tastings, which only he could run…which got more difficult as the day went on! Here’s how it went: We served four people at a time. First round was eyes-open and and each taster made notes on the four different pours. Then we’d have the contestants don the blindfolds, and we’d hand them the beers in a different order. After taking off the blindfolds, they’d write down the order of the beers they thought based on their tasting notes. Connecting the sequences on the scoresheet proved to be a tedious and confusing task even for the sober mind.
  • If we had to do it again, we’d use pitchers. We’d let everyone openly sample 10 different beers and make their notes. Then we’d use pitchers to serve the 10 in a secret order to the entire party. We’d then reveal the order and determine the winner. The blindfolds were a hit, though—so maybe we would serve a couple of the rounds blindfolded, in small groups. To spice things up!
  • Have your friends help bring the beer! We had our friends either bring a six pack or a growler of their choosing if they planned to participate in the competition. This assured we would have enough beer and then some!

Check out the footage below. We hope you have a wonderful weekend!

—TH

Beer garden

We printed up a one sheet tasting guide to assist our guests describe the beers. We used descriptions from Appellation Beer. Download the PDF here.

Beer garden

The grand prize for the beer tasting competition was this spiky old man cactus!

Beer garden

Beer garden

We always love bringing out the growlers for beer parties in our garden. And local Stone Brewing (you may remember our Stone Farm tour) fills these growlers in a growing number of locations throughout San Diego County. The growlers should be opened within a couple of days and only last a day before going flat (in our experience).

Beer garden

Tim feeling somewhat in the dark as he awaits his next pour. Maybe wondering if Ryan has completely forgotten about him.

Beer garden

Beer garden

Ryan devised a fun, but complicated system for hiding the beer IDs by correlating them to numbered coasters. In theory it made sense but in practice he was the only one who knew how to serve!

Beer garden Beer garden

Beer Garden The Horticult Garden

Beer garden

We had friends bring the vinyl and we kept the party lively through the decades, and through the many eras of Prince.

Turns out our friend Andrew has been collecting Prince albums through the decades (some still had $1.95 price tags left on them). He managed the turntable for most of the day, spinning hits from The Time to today.

Beer garden

Beer garden

Garden shenanigans.

Beer garden

Beer garden

Beer garden

The after party.

Beer Garden The Horticult Garden

Our friends Jay and Kelli took home the old man. Jay was one of 8 contestants who had a perfect score.

Beer garden

Beer garden

Disco nap while waiting for the flowers to bloom.

Beer garden

A video posted by The Horticult (@thehorticult) on

Beer Garden The Horticult Garden

Echinobivia ‘Rainbow Bursts’ blooms at night and only last one day! We got to enjoy this triple bloom while winding down from the party on Sunday.

Beer Garden The Horticult Garden