Bottle Share Etiquette | Everything you need to know about attending a bottle share


Hosting or attending bottle shares is one of my absolute favorite pastimes. There is nothing like getting a bunch of friends together, opening some amazing beer, and having a good time. 

Between the frequent shares I host, and being one of the founders of Whales for Wishes - an annual bottle share and rare beer raffle that raises money for Make-A-Wish - I consider myself a bit of a bottle share veteran. 

I've learned a lot throughout the years, and thought it would be fun - and useful - to share what I consider the “best practices” for attending bottle shares, along with some tips to avoid mistakes I’ve made in the past so others don't have to repeat them. 

What is a bottle share

What is a bottle share?

A bottle share is when a group of people get together and bring beer to open and share. They're most often planned in advance, but can also happen spontaneously, and range in size from a few close friends to large gatherings of dozens or hundreds of people. Regardless of how many people attend, bottle shares are always about coming together to share great beer.  

What type of beer should you bring to a bottle share?

It comes down to what you want to contribute, however, if you’re new to this scene and not sure what to bring, here are my suggestions.

I recommend bringing beer that people don’t normally get to try. This can include beer that is:

  • Not available wherever the bottle share is happening 
  • Limited in terms of production, or only released seasonally 
  • No longer in production or that has been aged for some time 
  • Highly rated
  • A new release from a well-respected brewery 

If you’re not sure what to get, I always recommend finding a local bottle shop and simply asking. I promise this is really common, and if the bottle shop is legit, they will be able to point you in the right direction. Let them know you’re heading to a bottle share and want to bring some beers people will appreciate. At the end of the day, the gesture is often more important than the actual beer you bring. 

Here are some personal examples:

  • I live in California now, but visit North Carolina to see friends and family often. Pliny The Elder is abundant where I am, but not possible to find there, so it’s a treat most people have never gotten to try. 
  • When I was living in NC, I often found myself brining local favorites - such Barrel-Aged Sexual Chocolate from Foothills or Mexican Cake from Westbrook - that had been aged for a few years. 
  • Other times I would snag a few seasonals, like the most recent release of NoDa Brewing’s Monstro or Highland’s Cold Mountain. 

If you’re one of the people who collects beer, you’re probably familiar with dipping into the cellar to find a few bottles you think people will enjoy. That being said, don’t feel like you have to bring really rare beer. If you're bringing something meant to be consumed fresh, check to ensure it's not out of date. 

Pro Tip: Bring more than you think you may need. This is a personal preference, but I’m one of those people who would always wishes I brought more bottles. My rule of thumb is to bring one or two more than you think you may need.

Keep in mind that just because you bring something, it doesn't mean you have to open it! It’s not frowned upon in the same way it would be if you brought two bottles of wine to a dinner party and then took the unopened one back home at the end of the night. If you aren’t sure if you‘re going to open it, just leave it in the cooler and make a game-time decision. 

bottle share

How much beer do you bring to a bottle share?

It depends, but I always recommend folks bring at least one large, or a couple of smaller, nice bottles or cans of beer. 

When I say it varies, I really do mean it varies. I’ve been to shares where people bring one bottle each, and at times people bring six to eight bombers per person. It all depends on the individual, the setting, and who is attending. 

What is the general bottle share etiquette?

There are some generally accepted rules when attending a bottle share: 

  1. If you brought the beer, open it when you want
  2. If it’s not your beer, don’t open it unless the person who brought it gives the ok
  3. If a bottle is open and sitting out, it’s usually fair game (I still usually ask the person who brought it just to make sure)

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you’re being respectful when you pour for yourself, especially if you already had some or if there is little left.
  • It should go without saying that if it’s a smaller, more intimate gathering with close friends, it’s ok to be more informal, just use your common sense. 
  • At smaller gatherings, it’s not uncommon to set a “lineup” or order in which you will open beers. I wrote another guide that talks about how to set a tasting order,  but in general, you go from lighter, less intense beers to the more intense, boozier beers. 
  • If you’re new, it’s ok to take cues from those around you (or the host) when it comes to what to open and when.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask! Beer people are good people. 

bottle shares

Do you need to bring your own glassware?

Usually no. Most larger, established bottle shares will have glassware available. The same usually goes for smaller gatherings. If the host doesn’t have enough, they usually will mention to you and other attendees to bring some. 

Pro Tip: If you're going to a smaller share, ask the host if you can bring some tasters! It’s a nice gesture and it may be something they overlooked (I’ve made that mistake as a host before). 

What about food?

Thus is one of those “it depends” moments.

  • Larger events often will have food provided or available for purchase. Definitely check ahead of it. 
  • Smaller hosted shares it’s a fifty-fifty chance. Same deal, ask in advance.
  • No matter what, always make sure you get a good base in advance or plan to eat early on. Those boozy beers creep up on you fast. 

Pro Tip: No matter what, I always have something with carbs before I head out to give myself a bit of a base.  

How much should you expect to drink?

This is completely up to you, but generally you can expect to try a lot of smaller samples (think two to four ounces) of a wide variety of different beers. 

That being said, I usually tell newcomers that it’s less about how much you’re drinking, and more about what you’re drinking. It’s really common for bottle shares to skew towards higher ABV beers, so even if you just have “three beers worth” (roughly a dozen tasters), it can actually be closer to six to eight full beers in terms of alcohol content. 

bottle share bottles

Should I bring my homebrew?

Go for it! It’s common for people to bring their homebrew and share it. Chances are you will meet some fellow homebrewers at these events and they’ll genuinely appreciate trying what you made. 

Should I drive?

Not unless you have a designated driver or plan on sleeping where it takes place. An Uber, Lyft, taxi, public transit, or camel ride is way cheaper (and safer, obviously)  than a DUI.

Closing Thoughts

Bottle shares are an absolute blast. Not only do you get to try a  bunch of amazing beer - often ones that are rare or highly rated “whales” - but you’ll find yourself getting to meet some friendly like-minded people that you can nerd out on beer with. Don’t be shy, have fun, and drink responsibly! 

P.S. If you plan on or frequently host bottle shares, I recommend snagging one of our tasting glass sets. I know I’m biased, but I mean it when I say these are amazing to have and they are always a fun conversation piece.