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Beer Recommendations for Island Themed Party

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Hey Chowhounders~

I admit it. I do not know squat about beer. I have to throw a party for 100 people and only have a budget of $1000 for beer (I may be able to bump it up to $1500 but we haven't bought the wine yet). The food we are serving is Caribbean/Cuban/Jamacian/Argentinean mesh. Does anyone have any beer recs appropriate for this type of food? Specifically our menu will consist of :

Appetizers -
Arentinean Chicken and Olive Empanadas with Chimichurri Sauce
Jamacian Jerk Chicken Skewers
Tropical Fruit Skewers (Mango, Papaya, Pineapple & star fruit)

Entree-
Green Salad
Argentinean Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce
Pollo Picante (Chicken in a Garlic, Paprika, Citrus Marinade)
White Rice
Cuban Style Black Beans
Plantains

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  1. Some may disagree, but with a selection like that I think one of two things: light lager, or Belgian witbier. The former will be a lot cheaper, but the latter a lot tastier.

    Not sure what part of the country you're in, but if you're in an area with any kind of craft brewing scene, you can probably get a pretty decent deal on kegs from one of the local breweries. Based on the food you're serving, even kegs of Henieken could work well (out of a keg, Heineken tastes a lot better than out of the bottle where it's frequently skunked).

    While I'm a huge proponent of trying to get people to try new and different things, a big bash for 100 people isn't the venue I'd choose for experimentation. Some hardcore beer people might suggest IPA to go with some of the spicier items, but IPAs can be a challenging beer for people whose palates aren't acclimated to the increased hop bitterness.

    If you find some local breweries, some styles you should look for are pale ale, lager, schwarzbier (black lager), and wheat beers (hefeweizen, American wheat, Belgian wit).

    Really if I was serving that menu, I'd be doing Belgian witbier as it'd be an ideal match for all the flavors you've got going on there. In my case, I'm lucky to live near a craft brewery that makes this style locally, so I could get it pretty cheaply. You may also be so fortunate.

    Good luck!

    8 Replies
    1. re: Josh

      I agree with Josh, only I would add is, don't confuse the light lager he is talking about with BudMillerCoors light. A good craft brewed lager or a wit or a German/American Hefeweisse would be good.
      Also popular in the Islands is Guinness, and it would give variety to your guests to have 3 choices.

      1. re: niquejim

        3 choices. That sounds good.

      2. re: Josh

        I live in Los Angeles - I was thinking that I would have a light beer for the masses (I think we were going to Amstel Light or something) but I also wanted a fun beer like the Jamacian Red Stripe or the Argentinean Quilmes.

        1. re: missmodular818

          Los Angeles will be rough, there aren't really any craft breweries I know of up there. LA isn't known for that, I'm afraid.

          If there is a Karl Strauss, you can probably get Windansea Wheat which is a perfectly acceptable hefeweizen. Gordon Biersch might be a source for kegs of good lager, I believe they have locations in Los Angeles. I especially like their Marzen.

          And like niquejim pointed out, stay away from BudMillerCoors.

          1. re: Josh

            I don't know if this is a stupid question but how many people will a keg serve? Or how many glasses does it pour? Being as there are only 100 people attending, half of which will probably stick to wine or the sangria we will be providing, I am wondering if a keg is too much. I would like to offer more then 1 kind of beer. I am afraid if I get a keg I will only be able to provide one type of beer. Am I wrong?

            1. re: missmodular818

              There are different sizes. You can usually get kegs in sizes as small as 5 gallons. 5 gallons will pour 40 pints, so one 5 gallon keg should serve your needs well. Bottles are fine, too, and will give you more variety, but you have to be careful about exposing the beer to sunlight because it can make the beer taste and smell off.

              1. re: missmodular818

                If memory serves, a 1/2 keg is equal to 3.75 cases of beer, or roughly 45 12-oz bottles. A 1/4 keg is 1/2 that. As far as I know, there is no such think as a full keg...they would be too big and heavy.

                1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

                  "If memory serves, a 1/2 keg is equal to 3.75 cases of beer, or roughly 45 12-oz bottles."

                  No. A "1/2 barrel keg" of beer, 15.5 gallons, would equal almost 7 cases of beer (6.9) or 165 12 oz. bottles.

                  Non-packaged beer in the US is measure in "barrels"- a barrel of beer equals 31 gallons. True barrel-sized containers once existed in the trade, but are now rare if not extinct.

                  What most folks refer to as "1/2 kegs" are "1/2 barrels" and contains 15.5 gallons of beer. Containers that hold 1/4 of barrel (aka "1/4 kegs") hold 7.75 gallons and the newer "sixtel" hold about 5 gallons (i.e., 1/6 of barrel).

                  Over the years, for many consumers, the terms "barrel" and "keg" have come to mean *any* size container but they once had specific quantities- a barrel equals 31 gallons and a "keg" referred to a 1/4 barrel or smaller container, like the "pony" keg of 1/8 of a barrel- 3.875 gallons (these, too, are now all but extinct).

                  The term "keg" has lost it's meaning and is used for ALL common sizes and the term "pony" has actually moved UP and is often used to mean 1/4 barrel sized keg. (The lesson- make sure you specify what size container, in fractions of a barrel, you want).

                  On to cases- the normal US case of beer is 24 bottles of 12 oz each- which equals 2.25 gallons.

        2. If you have a$1000 or so to spend and are doing the island theme get a bunch of bottles of Red Stripe. While not the most innteresting beer to ever grace this earth it is not bad and the stubby bottles are cool to hold and look at. You can supliment this with a couple of kegs. I know this is an Island party but you can geta keg of Oktoberfest beer since it is the season.

          An iteresting beer that i think might work would be Hitachino Nest Ginger beer. I usually drink ginnger beer soda with my carribean food, so this could work with real beer flavoured with ginger

          1 Reply
          1. re: MVNYC

            I live in South Florida and have many Cuban and Jamacian friends and they all like Heineken, Guinness and Red Stripe. That being said, $1000 after wine should give you the ability to have a wider selection(ie. higher end Imports and craft brews)

            What % do you think will drink beer? From there figure 2 maybe 3 bottles per person + 10% and then figure what you can spend per bottle. That will give you an idea what kind of quality beers you can get.

          2. If you're expecting only about half of the guests to drink beer, then 4+ cases would probably be the simplest way to go for about 50. Otherwise you could do a couple of 5 gallon/Cornelius keg and then get a couple of cases for a bottled beer selection. Bottled beer is easier and more approachable as the guests will be able to easily see what is available to them. Kegs can be a hassle to set up and can make a mess after a couple of hours of serving.

            I would go with a easily recognized lager to in order to appeal to the masses. Amstel Light would work, although I'm opposed to light beers on principle. Like Josh suggested, Heineken would work, as people know and love that green bottle, even if it is often skunked. Karl Strauss makes a pilsener style called Woodie Gold that isn't bad and Gordon Biersch has a pils also, but guests might shy away from a brand they don't know. A hefeweizen or Belgian wit would be another style people are familiar with. Widmer is widely available for an American wheat beer and Hoegaarden is the classic Belgian witbier that has become very popular in recent years. A third beer could be a pale ale from the likes of Sierra Nevada or Stone Brewing. Or you could get something darker in color for people that judge their beer on color first and foremost.

            While it would perfectly acceptable to choose Amstel Light and then get Red Stripe or Quilmes to go with the theme of the food, you're basically getting the same beer. In comparison to the interesting and varied food menu that you've prepared, as a craft beer drinnker, seeing two or three very similar beers would be disappointing.

            If you are considering a more local brewer, Craftsman Brewing in Pasadena may or may not be convenient to you. They don't bottle so it would be keg only but they do make some good stuff.

            5 Replies
            1. re: ultramagnetic

              Didn't realize Craftsman was in Pasadena. I've had some of their beers and remember it being pretty good.

              I'd shy away from green bottle Heineken, though. I'd sooner buy it in cans because at least then it won't be light-struck.

              1. re: Josh

                I am not too concerned about the sun effects on the bottles (unless I should be) it will be a dinner party at 6pm so there should only be about an hour tops of sunlight. I am concerned about re-fridgeration. Sticking bottles in a big bucket of ice isn't good, right? #1 The beer will be too cold and #2 I hate when the labels peel off. Any suggestions since my fridge will probably be too small for all this beer? Phooey. I just now thought of that.

                So I think that I need an approachable light beer, Amstel Light or Heineken Light?
                I'm still thinking that I want Red Stripes. They are affordable and I like the bottles. So what should the 3rd beer be? I want to stick with bottles. I don't want to deal with a keg plus if it doesn't get finished then it is a big waste. Plus plus - I will need more cups and would much rather recycle the glass. Should I have a dark beer? I don't think many of many of the attendees will drink guiness. I just have a feeling. What about Newcastle? What other options do I have? Of course I would like to keep it under budget if at all possible. I don't really need to spend all $1000 on beer alone. I'd rather use the extra cash on adding additional items to the menu.

                1. re: missmodular818

                  Lots of questions!

                  Heineken is light enough as it is, but don't buy it in the bottles. Green bottle beer is almost always skunky-smelling. If you want Heineken, buy it in cans. That being said, if you're buying Red Stripe then there's no need to buy Heineken, as they are virtually identical styles (both are light lagers).

                  If you want to get some other bottled options, skip Newcastle. It's a boring, overly sweet beer.

                  If you're planning on there being at least some beer geek types in attendance, I'd get an IPA as one of your other options. Stone's is very good, and you should be able to find it up there. If not that, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is always a good option - no, it's not an IPA, but it's got a nice amount of hops and is a very good beer.

                  I think for a third, I'd go with Samuel Adams Boston Lager. It's more full-bodied, and has more flavor, than the Red Stripe but is still very approachable. It's darker than the Red Stripe, but just a bit. Nothing on your menu makes me think you want a dark beer, anyway.

                  One last point about cups though, some beer people prefer to drink out of a cup as opposed to the bottle. You need to take some oxygen in with your beer to fully taste it, and drinking out of the bottle is a good way to not taste what you're drinking. But like as not people will drink out of the bottle anyway. :-)

                  As far as the temperature, bucket of ice is actually a good solution. You can always let the beer warm up a bit before drinking it. You're actually a little backwards in your concerns. Temperature too cool is better than too hot, and exposure to sunlight is the single worst thing you can do to beer. Even 30 minutes of sunlight on green bottles can introduce off flavors. It has to do with a chemical in hops that sunlight affects, which makes the skunky smell. Green and clear bottles are worst in terms of letting in those particular wavelengths. Brown is better, but still lets them in, albeit a smaller amount.

                  1. re: missmodular818

                    I forgot to ask......Who is coming to this party? The higher the education/ financial standing the better the beer you will need.

                    1. re: missmodular818

                      There is no way you will come close to spending a grand on beer for this party. $30 a case for what, probably 6 to 8 cases max.

                      To chill the beer without getting it wet or filling your entire fridge, placing the bottles or cans on top of intact bags of ice with more intact bags on top in coolers or large buckets/tubs will work but will take longer. Once the party starts take the bags off the top and it should stay cold with the ice underneath.

                2. Even if it is cliche' the beer for this food is Red Stripe. Also, I really like something super hoppy with very spicy food so one of the domestic super hoppy beers would be nice also.

                  1. You have plenty of $$ budgeted for the following:

                    5 large galvanized metal tubs
                    25 bags of ice
                    2 cases of Corona
                    1 case of Corona lite
                    2 dozen limes
                    3 cases of Red Stripe
                    3 cases of Anchor Steam
                    3 cases of Beck's

                    Party on !

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: TonyO

                      You have plenty of $$ budgeted for the following:

                      5 large galvanized metal tubs..........good
                      25 bags of ice................................good
                      2 cases of Corona..........................OMG no
                      1 case of Corona lite......................OMFG please no
                      2 dozen limes................................For what
                      3 cases of Red Stripe.....................Maybe Okay
                      3 cases of Anchor Steam...............Not SNPA but Okay
                      3 cases of Beck's..........................Heineken is an island drink not Beck's

                      Party on !......................................With better beer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                      1. re: niquejim

                        Heh, hilarious and my thoughts exactly.

                        6 beers per person is probably a lot, but if you're talking about being up that late then it's not unrealistic.

                        1. re: Josh

                          Well, hosting a party is about pleasing your guests, not yourself. If this was a homebrew convention or a group of 100 beer enthusiasts, I would agree (however, Beck's trumps Heineken anyday in my book). I can imagine Aunt Betty and Uncel Fred saying "what the hell is a Heffeweizen ???? I agree tha Corona Lite is nearly as bad as Coor's Lite, but would be willing to bet that it would be the drink of choice of quite a few of the 100 guests.

                          1. re: TonyO

                            I don't like Beck's or Heineken, but if you go to the islands they drink Heineken!!

                            1. re: Josh

                              My neighbors on all 3 sides are Cuban and given the choice of ANY beer they would choose Heineken.
                              It's not the LCD it's the truth.
                              And if wonder bread and velveeta would sell there would be a "Mcwonder burger Kingeeta" on every corner.

                              Sometimes the simple stuff works better( while it may not taste better)

                        2. re: TonyO

                          Really? I guess I initially budgetted 100 people for beer but now think that only half will drink beer. Maybe more like 60 but I still should shoot for 70. Most the women will stick to wine and even then there are about 15 people I can think of in my family that will not drink. period. However, maybe I am overshooting how many beers one person will drink. I was think 6. Is that too many? My parties can run a bit late because many coe from out of town and we don't see each other that often so we tend to stay up anywhere from midnight to 2am.

                          1. re: missmodular818

                            If it is a family family party buy what they like, they will thank you for it.
                            Also, you know how much they drink, or at least a guess.
                            For a family party(not a dinner party) I would go with 5-6 per drinker if the party is going to be going late.

                            1. re: missmodular818

                              better to have too much than to have to make a beer run at 2:00 a.m. I would support the idea of a keg, but the waste can be excessive and the price has certainly climbed the last few years (plus deposit, tap rental, etc.) So, 60 people x 6 beers each is 360 beers or 15 cases. If you buy 12 to 15 cases, I think you will have more than enough.

                          2. If I was coming to this party I would be happy if you had the Stone IPA, the Hitachino Nest and a Hefewizen out of the beers mentioned.

                            But I'm not coming to the party, and neither are any of the beer enthusiasts here, our tastes probably aren't going to be the same as most of the guests at your party.

                            I say go with Amstel (yes, you definitely DO want a light beer), Red Stripe and the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Maybe some Guinness, or Dragon Stout (Jamaican Guinness) if you happened to see that.

                            You could ask a few of the beer drinkers who'll be in attendance what they like, maybe they would prefer Coors Light or Michelob Ultra over Amstel.

                            1. For parties like this, I usually stock a lot of pilsner urquell. (I'm a baby boomer "girl.") But I'd love to see some IPA as a guest.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ccferg

                                Sorry, I just realized this was "island themed." Pilsner Urquell probably isn't appropriate.