Beernomicon is a beer podcast, but once a month for the past 2 and a half years, we have also organised a bottle share. After we have sorted a venue and date we put it out on social media and anyone who would like to attend is welcome to join us. We have met numerous people through doing this and gotten through a lot of good beer we may not have tried otherwise.
In the past we have been asked if there are any rules around the bottle share and even how to organise one, so we thought we’d give a bit of information to help out anyone who may want to start their own bottle share near them.
Obviously this is not a definitive guide but we’ll just use our experience over the past few years to fill in some blanks people may have.
Some of this may be obvious but we thought we’d give as much information as we could.
If anyone is unsure what we’re talking about a bottle share is merely a group of people meeting up to drink beer. Each person brings a beer they have bought and they share it around the group so everyone gets a taste, then you move on to the next person and their beer.
Before anything else its good to sort a venue. Our share is done out of the bottle shop Beermoth, based in Manchester, England. They have a cellar that goes unused most Saturdays so we have the share down there.
In the past we had used a brewery tap and a bar, but didn’t feel comfortable taking up the space that could be used for regular customers. There are usually around 10 of us at each bottle share, and having 10 people bring in their own beer to a bar isn’t so great for the bar, especially when you do a share at the weekend like we do. Some bars may welcome it though, with weekday events being a possible plus for some places as they may be quiet on those days.
Best thing to do is contact your local craft beer bar, pub or bottle shop, and asking if they would be up for hosting a share.
Alternatively, if the share is just between you and your friends and one of you has a free house to use that’s an easy option.
Getting It Out There
Once you’ve sorted a venue and date you’ll need to get the word out. Posting on social media is always a good start. It’s a little easier to get the word out for us as we already have a following because of the podcast. If you start tweeting it out, posting on local beers forums and mentioning it here and there you’ll soon find a few people who are are into it.
Your venue posting it out or having a flyer up can always help too.
It’s surprised us how many people have bottles stashed away either for a special occasion or because they simply cant drink a 750ml barley wine to themselves. One of the great things about doing a bottle share is trying 10 different beers for the price of one. The discussion and comparison that then comes out of it makes every bottle much more interesting than it being sat at home in your cupboard.
You’ll find once you do a few shares word gets out a little and you’ll see people coming back. We’ve honestly made friends through our share which at the beginning was something we never even considered.
Water and Snacks
You have the venue, people have signed up and are ready to go, but there’s a few little extras that’ll make the share go a little smoother.
As with most drinking sessions, water can be key to how you feel the next day. Having water easily accessible will make everything run smoothly. It’s as simple as having two jugs on the table, the people there can then have a swig in-between beer and keep on a steady track to the goal of trying all the bottles brought. For the proper nerds, having water available can also rinse out your glass and cleanse your palate.
After a few months of our share we started bringing snacks. This soon became a full cheese board with crackers. When that became the norm most people who returned to the share starting bringing their own snacks to share, and the last one we did had a table full of food, as well as beer.
You don’t have to set a platter for everyone but a bit of cheese and bread goes a long way. Everyone likes a little food with their beer and on the practical side it stops you all getting too drunk too quickly.
Check with your venue first though as some may not want you bringing food it. If they do their own food then that’s even better as you can order some plates between you all and more money goes behind the bar too.
This can totally change the dynamic of the share. We usually have a maximum of 10 people. For some even that is too many, we think it’s a fair number. Obviously, the more people the less each person gets of the beer. 750ml is usually the standard we ask people to bring to a share as that pours just enough between 10 people so everyone gets a good taste, so any more than 10 and it starts getting a little thin on the beer side.
Some months though we get less than that and it totally works too. Fewer people means fewer bottles but you get a bigger pour of each and more time to discuss and critique.
If it’s just you and a few friends at home, 330ml cans or bottles work well and you can get through plenty of them.
I wouldn’t stress about the numbers too badly, as fewer can sometimes lead to a more relaxed share. Just be a little careful of having too many as having a sip of each beer can become a little frustrating.
Few points of bottle share etiquette we’ve learned:
- Obviously, everyone is welcome
- No judgement on what beer someone brings
- Be honest on your opinions of the beer, but not rude
- Everyone gets a chance to talk about the beer they brought, if they want to
- Everyone gets the same size pour, if they want that much
(But this one is a minefield as I usually pour badly and get moaned at, or pour accidentally different measures for everyone. Which leads to my next point…)
- Drink what you’re given
(possibly unique to our share but we’ve got no time for spending ages on 10 people getting the exact same millilitre amount. We just try our best to get every pour the same.)
- Be respectful of where the share is being held
- Do your best to clean up after the share
- Again, everyone is welcome. Try to create an atmosphere where everyone is comfortable. No one deserves to be talked down to because they may know less or are not taste what you’re tasting.
(We have a fair few regulars, but we also have some new comings every month. A very high percentage of whom return to the shares after their first one, which we’re very proud of.)
-Go for a few beers afterwards, with everyone invited.
There really is no rules on the beer side. Everyone has different tastes, budgets, accessibility so trying to curate a bottle list with strangers (or even friends) can be difficult. We’ve found just asking people to bring what they want to drink opens the shares up to all kinds of breweries and beers.
One thing we do mention when someone new joins the share is to preferably bring a 750ml bottle as we mentioned earlier. As long as you feel that everyone will get enough of a taste thats all that matters.
An issue we have come across is some drinkers feel they haven’t got the rarest bottles to bring or the most sort after brewery stash. This has been a barrier for some to not join our shares, and though we do like trying new or sought after beers, that’s not our aim. We want all varieties of drinker, new or seasoned, to come to the share to enjoy themselves and bring whatever beer they feel they can.
Discussions about order of beer drank often comes up. We usually wing it during the shares and ask if anyone wants to pour their own next and then we have a chat about what we all feel would be suitable. Burning out on pastry stouts straight away, or getting heartburn after numerous lambics can get in the way of a good sesh sometimes. Don’t overthink it though, just drink what you want to.
Hopefully this helps in some way. The bottle shares we do are a big highlight of our months and we are always surprised they are not more common. It is sometimes a little awkward at first when you are with a group of people you may not know, but beer is the great equaliser and you’ll find after a few bottles have been cracked everyone is the best of friends.
So get in contact with your local shop or bar, get it out on social media, meet some new people and drink some lovely beers. You definitely won’t regret it.
P.S. If you not ready to host a full share there are ways of getting curated beer boxes for you and your friends to try. Past releases we have enjoyed, the Rainbow Project for example, are beer boxes of collaborations put together by breweries as a one-off. A recent one was the Northern Powerhouse which features some of the best breweries in the North of England.
These are perfect to split between a few people and are pretty good value for money.
Another option is monthly beer clubs like the one done by Mikkeller, they put together a box of different beers for you every month, you just subscribe and get them in the post - a great excuse to get together with mates and drink some good beer.
We have recorded ourselves doing just that a few times for the podcast.
You can listen to our last one here