How to Host an Easy Wine and Beer Pairing Party

It's always fun to experiment with wine pairings. There are equally endless pairing opportunities with beer, too!

So we decided to take things up a notch and host a pairing party. We gave it a "Better Together" theme to acknowledge both the pairings and the friends we were bringing together.

Here's our step-by-step guide so you can host your own wine and beer shindig.

Zinfandel and meatball pairing station for the Better Together party

Step 1: Pick Your Beverages

We were expecting about 20 guests, so we opted for three wines (two red and one white) plus two beers. It's nice to have a variety both because your guests may have different tastes and it allows you to explore some different pairing combinations.

Plan for 1/2 bottle of wine and 2 bottles of beer per person. We bought four bottles of each wine and two cases of each beer, knowing we'd likely have plenty of left over.

Yes, things could get out of hand quickly if everyone actually drank that much. Keep in mind some people may gravitate towards certain drinks while other people will try them all. We could have gotten away with less, but that might mean late arriving guests could miss out on trying one or more pairings. 

We opted to have more than enough of everything.

All of our wine selections retailed for less than $20 and were purchased at San Diego Wine Company. They offer amazing prices by working with their sources to find special deals on outstanding wine.

The beer came from Costco. I probably don't have to explain that one

Here's our lineup:

  • 2016 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier
  • 2015 The Calling Pinot Noir
  • 2014 League of Rogues Zinfandel
  • Pacifico Mexican Lager
  • AleSmith San Diego Pale Ale .394


Step 2: Select One Food Item to Pair with Each Beverage

Our go-to guide to make us smart on food pairing is What to Drink with What You Eat

The book takes the guesswork out of fantastic pairings. Just look up whatever you are drinking and the book will suggest some excellent food pairings. The book also works vice-versa, so you can look up a particular food and select the perfect beverage to go with it.

Truth be told, Chef Sally also spent quite a bit of time researching various cooking magazines and websites for recipes that would appeal to a wide range of palates and go well with our drinks.

We also have a few friends with different dietary restrictions. For instance, we tried not to make every pairing include meat so our vegetarian friends would have plenty to sample.

Here were our pairings:

Chenin Blanc/Viognier with Mediterranean Farro Salad

Chenin Blanc/Viognier with Mediterranean Farro Salad

Pinot Noir with Zucchini Wraps

Pinot Noir with Zucchini Wraps

Zinfandel with Texas Smokehouse Meatballs

Zinfandel with Texas Smokehouse Meatballs

Mexican Lager with Chili Verde Pork

Mexican Lager with Chili Verde Pork

Pale Ale with Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels

Pale Ale with Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels

We also added some cheese, crackers, carrot sticks, hummus dips, fudge, and pound cake bites plus plenty of water and soda.

Pro-tip: Select food that's easy to eat with one hand, so your guests can have a drink in one hand and use the other to nibble.


Step 3: Set Up Your Stations

We put out all of the pairings in distinct stations to make it obvious what food we were pairing with each drink.

It's fun to get your guests' input on which pairings really work, so we also put out white boards and dry erase markers by each station and asked our guests to vote on each pairing they liked.

Pairing station set up with food, beer, taster cups, napkins, and plates.

Here's our supply list for each station:

The TOSSWARE cups were a clutch move.

We didn't have enough glasses to set up five pairing stations for 20 guests and we didn't want to use plastic cups that taste, well, plasticky. The cups are 100 percent recyclable and didn't impart a plasticky taste on the drinks. 


The Winner!

Our party was a success and our guests had a lot of fun. The winning combination was the zucchini wraps paired with the 2014 The Calling Pinot Noir! 

The winner of our Better Together pairing party was The Calling Pinot Noir and zucchini wraps.

People really liked the Pinot Noir. A lot. It sells for $37 at the winery, which is still probably too low for a wine this good. And we got it for less than $20. Wow. 

The pairing was also terrific, with the herbaceousness of the wraps blending well with the slight earthiness of the wine. 

The other pairings also received rave reviews, with the only mixed bag being the Chenin Blanc/Viognier and Mediterranean farro salad combo. Some liked that one while others thought the mix wasn't quite right.

All in all, our guests had a great time and we did, too!  

Posted on May 18, 2018 and filed under Tasting Experiences.