How to: Brown Paper Bag Blind Beer Tasting
Whether you have friends and family just getting into the wonderment of craft beer, or hang out with beer geeks who have expert palates, blind tasting beer can be both a fun and educational experience.
In no way are we claiming to have invented the art of blind beer tasting, but we did want to share with you how we do our blind tastings, along with our printable tasting note sheet. Feel free to modify these guidelines and put your own unique twist on things as you see fit.
There are a million possibilities out there of how to run your own blind beer tasting event, but the most important thing is to keep pushing your knowledge of craft beer, and have a great time doing it!
We typically play this beer game with 4-5 people. In this example, we will assume 4 players, and you can easily see how to scale up or down as needed:
- 1 black marker
- 4 paper bags
- 4 different beers (at least 3oz per person)
- 4 tasting glasses
- 4 Tasting Note sheets – Download printable PDF
- 4 pencils or pens
- 1 masking tape (optional)
First you need to acquire the beer. Unless you have a capable third party buyer, somebody will always have an idea what beer could possibly be wrapped inside the brown paper bag.
For that reason, we have done the purchasing in one of two ways before: every guest brings a bottle to the tasting they have never tried, or the host provides all bottles picked at random out of the fridge.
With your bottles set aside, number your brown paper bags 1-4, and tightly wrap the bag around each bottle. Get the paper tight around each neck, and we have found the tall wine bottle baggies work best for bombers. Twelve ounce bottles and pounder cans (16oz) fit better into shorter sack style lunch bags.
All of the tops can be popped now, or tape over the caps with masking tape if you are worried any of the artwork might be recognizable. Next is the fun part — drinking all the beer! We use 4oz tasting glasses, so get everyone filled up and get to it.
Scoring / Rating
Going one bottle at a time, use the tasting sheet to make notes on color, aroma, and flavor. In the “Style” box — you guessed it, try to figure out what family the beer belongs to. And if you think you know what the actual beer is, go ahead and blurt the answer out. The most important thing is to discuss every beer, and what you liked or dis-liked.
When it comes to scoring, there are 2 designated boxes. The first with stars are meant to be shaded in with your “Individual Score” for each beer. For example, 3.5/5 stars.
The second box is something we started incorporating, used for “Power Ranking” each beer in the flight. As you are doing your blind flight, make a mental note of what your favorite beers were, and then rank them in order by preference — 1 the best, 5 being the worst. Why do we do this? More on that in a second…
After you have made it through the entire flight, start unbagging each beer one by one to see what you were drinking. At this point, spirited debate and conversation should ensue, especially as everyone realizes what styles and breweries they had been drinking.
As for the power ranking, each participant picked a favorite, and they get to finish off the remainder of that bottle at the game’s conclusion. In the rare case where 2 people prefer the same beer, you can work it our amongst yourselves, or grab your second choice if it’s unclaimed.