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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.
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.
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:
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:
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 If you're bringing something meant to be consumed fresh, check to ensure it's not out of date.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.
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.
There are some generally accepted rules when attending a bottle share:
Other things to keep in mind:
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).
Thus is one of those “it depends” moments.
Pro Tip: No matter what, I always have something with carbs before I head out to give myself a bit of a base.
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.
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.
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.
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.