For those of you unfamiliar with bottle shares, they are gatherings of craft-beer lovers where each attendee brings a bottle of beer (or two or five or ten) to share with the group. For some of us, bottle shares are rare events, planned well in advance with invitations extended to only our closest beer-geek friends. For others, bottle shares occur more frequently and can range from a few close friends to a blowout of massive proportions.
For Issue 5 (Winter 2014) of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®, we took an informal poll of our fellow craft-beer lovers and put together a basic list of bottle-share etiquette dos and don’ts that will ensure you get invited back. Plus they’re just good manners.
Take great beer. Your bottle share may or may not have a theme (e.g., big beers, Belgians, stouts, whales only). Regardless, take a great bottle of beer to share. This is not the time to unload the three leftover beers from that sampler 12-pack you bought two months ago.
Take your own glass. It’s not considered rude, and even if your host has enough high-quality glassware to go around, (s)he won’t mind that you brought your own.
Make sure you take enough beer. Ask your host how many people will be attending and take enough for each person to get a 2-ounce pour. If you have only a single 12-ounce bottle of some really killer stuff and there will be more than six people at the bottle share, just save it.
If you’re a vet, embrace the noobs. These events can be intimidating for people who are just starting their love affair with craft beer. They need encouragement, validation, and education. And you’ll make a friend.
Obey house rules. We’ve been to bottle shares where smart phones were banned so that people talked about the beer instead of checking in on Untappd or posting photos to social media. Sometimes the digital connectivity can be fun, but obeying house rules is the best way to go.
DON’T DO THIS
Don’t open someone else’s beer. If you aren’t the host and it’s not your beer, don’t open it.
Don’t be a jerk. Don’t declare a beer infected, inferior, or downright nasty until after the person who brought the beer has had a chance to weigh in. Once they’ve commented on the beer that they thought was special enough to share, you can give your opinion—tactfully.
Don’t over-praise your own bottle. Let other people, especially the host, recognize that killer bottle that you brought.
Don’t be too late. Being able to talk about the full range of beers at a bottle share is part of the fun. If you show up ten beers in, your context for the rest of the event is skewed.
Don’t get bent out of shape if your bottle doesn’t get tasted. We’ve been to bottle shares where there were six people and thirty bottles of high-gravity beers. Not all bottles will be tasted. And if yours is one that isn’t, it’s okay. Consider leaving it as a gift for the host.