How to Buy Beer for Your Next Party, According to Experts

Beer experts weigh in on everything from the best glassware to checking expiration dates.

9 min read

*Alcohol delivery and alcohol sales are permitted in certain states and only to people 21+. Please drink responsibly.

*This article includes mentions of merchants or brands who are partners of DoorDash, and DoorDash may receive a commission if you choose to make a purchase from these merchants or brands.

Picture this: It’s summer. You’re hanging out with all of your friends. What’s everyone sipping on? Ice-cold beer, of course —  the ultimate party beverage. Easy to drink and with plenty of variety, from crisp lagers to frothy ales, there’s a cold one for just about everyone to throw back on a hot summer day.

Whether you’re a seasoned or amateur beer buyer, it can be tricky to answer questions like, “What different varieties should I buy to please different kinds of beer drinkers?” So we enlisted the help of three beer professionals for their expert takes on how to buy beer for a group gathering: Anne Becerra, the first woman in New York to hold the title of Certified Cicerone (a sommelier of the beer world); Zach Mack, beer educator and owner of Alphabet City Beer Co. in New York; and Tara Hankinson, co-founder of TALEA Beer Co. in Brooklyn.

Read on for their tips on how to buy the best beer for any party, from intimate soirées to rooftop ragers.

Choose three different styles.


“It’s always nice for people to have options,” Becerra says. She suggests buying three classic styles: a pilsner, a wheat beer, and an IPA or pale ale. When it comes to quantity, Mack says, “I always overshoot because it's never fun to run out in the middle of the party,” he says. “But you could always order through DoorDash if you need more.”

Pilsners are golden, frothy lagers that taste yeasty, like crackers or bread, with notes of bitterness. There are great domestic versions, but it’s safe to go with a traditional German or Czech one, too.

Wheat beers are softer and fruitier. “A lot of times, you’ll find that people who ‘don’t really drink beer’ still like these,” Becerra says. Try hefeweizens for “aromas of banana, vanilla, clove” or witbiers for “citrus notes spiced with orange peel and coriander.” 

When it comes to IPAs and pale ales — the most popular styles of craft beer, known for their wide range of flavors and robust, hoppy bitterness — Becerra recommends choosing something from your favorite local brewery.

Think (but don’t overthink) about the food.


“As with any food and beverage pairing, it's essential not to overthink it,” Mack says. He suggests narrowing pairings down to two lanes: complementary and contrasting. For example, Mack says, “tropical fruit notes in IPAs tend to sing alongside more vibrant ingredients like mango salsa on fish tacos, while a piece of Stilton blue cheese can contrast the richness of a heavy imperial stout.” 

At the end of the day, pairing beer with food comes down to personal preference. Mack likes to drink a black lager alongside barbecue while Hankinson prefers her barbecue with fuller-bodied IPAs. In a party setting, it can be fun to have a few food flavor profiles — like pizzas topped with different ingredients or wings in varying degrees of heat — for your friends to taste-test with each beer.

Check the dates.


Unlike wine and spirits, beer has a short shelf life, so Mack advises checking the dates on the cans or bottles. “Typically speaking, IPAs should be no more than a month old. Basic lagers shouldn't be more than five or six months old.”

Your fridge is your friend (so is your bathtub).


In Hankinson’s opinion, it’s best to chill beer in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours. If you don’t have that kind of time, she says, “Submerge the beer cans in a mix of ice cubes and water for 20 minutes to get a fast, cold chill.” Too much beer, not enough fridge space? Make like Mack and do the next best thing: Fill your bathtub (or the kitchen sink) with ice and shove the beers in, replenishing them as the party goes on.

Let the party dictate the glassware.


Becerra recommends pouring beer into a glass versus drinking it straight from the can. That way, you’re likely to have a fuller drinking experience, from inhaling aromatics to seeing the frothy foam head at the top. For an intimate dinner party, Becerra likes Spiegelau tulip glasses as well as plain old wine glasses. But disposable cups (preferably biodegradable) work great for larger parties.

For Mack, drinking straight from the can at big, casual parties is a go-to, not a faux pas. “Ultimately, it comes down to portability and enjoying it in the moment,” he says. According to Mack, part of why breweries used to be adamant about pouring beer into a glass was because beer clarity was something of a bragging right. “But now that hazy New England IPAs have become the darling of the industry, there's less of a need to scope it out,” Mack said, adding that some breweries even encourage easy drinking right from the can.

For outdoor events, go with cans.


Ever drank a bottled beer outside that’s just tasted… off? It’s not just you; it’s science: “Light is a really easy way to skunk a beer,” Becerra says, referring to the chemical reaction that damages bottled beer when it’s exposed to light. Hops contain alpha acids that are sensitive to light, and when these acids break down, they react with the beer's sulfur content and create a pungent aroma. “For outdoor events in hot weather, cans keep out light, keep your beer fresh, and are easy to transport.”

Get creative.


While you could buy a bunch of beer and call it a day, you could also do something wild and crazy: Make beer cocktails. “Whether you're craving a spicy margarita or a tropical fruity drink, make a version using beer, which lightens the alcohol level and makes the drink more refreshing,” Hanksinon says. “We use our Weekender Pink Lemonade lager for a twist on a Paloma: 3/4 oz tequila, ice, our lager, and a tajín rim.”

Remember your favorites — for next time.

“It may seem like there are a billion options out there,” Becerra says, acknowledging that the beer landscape can be overwhelming. Her advice? Remember what you love. “The brewery might make other styles you end up enjoying, and you can find other breweries that make the same style. You can explore to find something you love just as much, if not more.” And then, of course, you can share it with others. 


Photography: Paul Quitoriano
Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros Gomez
Food Styling: Mieko Takahashi