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Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Brewed

A wedding is a beautiful public declaration of love and commitment between two people that is meant to be shared with the friends and family closest to the couple.It’s a day of joy, special moments, and memories to last a lifetime. Many times, the planning and execution of the day is just as important as the day itself. It’s important to many couples to have a wedding that is as unique as they are with special touches that guests will remember and talk about for many years to come. The vows, the church, the dress, the food, the photos, the reception venue, the entertainment, the speeches, the celebration – all important, and so are the beverage choices you serve to your mix guests, whether it be a cash bar, open bar, the drink for the toast, or a combination of all of the above. Spoken from a true “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” perspective, beer and wine are seemingly always the most prevalent alcoholic beverages served at weddings far and wide, with champagne being the celebratory toast choice. –And while cost is always a factor, (and an important one at that), the beverages you choose at your wedding reception can highlight yourselves as a couple, be chosen to complement the dishes and dessert served at your wedding, and make for a unique and garida pleasant surprise for your guests to enjoy … In addition to your college roommate making a complete fool of himself on the dance floor, for their entertainment (or horror)!

The Basics: How does one calculate how much booze to serve? Popular consensus from multiple wedding websites concludes that one drink per adult, per reception hour should be sufficient and that if you’re having a full bar at said wedding reception, the perfect booze ratio is 1/3 beer, 1/3 wine, and 1/3 liquor – along with champagne for your speeches and toasts. If we’re talking about beer, (and we should be, since this is, after all, a column called “Brew Time”), there’s always the option of cans, bottles, or kegs from which to serve your guests. A traditional Half Barrel Keg (what you see in the bars) holds approximately 165, 12oz beers and is usually the most cost-efficient choice. If your guest list doesn’t include many beer drinkers, there are 4 other keg options available. The Slim Quarter Keg and Quarter Barrel Keg both pour approximately 82, 12oz beers, the Sixth Barrel Keg holds approximately 55, 12oz beers, and the Cornelius Keg is the smallest at approximately 53, 12oz beers. The smaller kegs might also be a good option if you elect to serve up a few different craft brews since palates of your guests will vary. Cans and bottles can be purchased by the case, and if you’re unsure about a how much beer might be leftover, this might be a better option. You can always stow away cans and bottles, use the extra at a different event, or give it away at the end of the night. Not as easy with a keg or two.

The Choices: It helps to know who your audience is and what they like; i.e. Your guests. There will always be that uncle who insists that Bud Light is the best beer EVER and that’s the only thing he’ll drink. You’ll also have your stereotypical female guest (who’s also probably your brother’s new girlfriend) who insists upon a Michelob Ultra. And hey, that’s okay, it’s a wedding, you’re going to be hosting all types of folks with all kinds of tastes —poor or not— and many times, a few different choices are going to be what you include on the menu. But if you’re looking for something different, or you’re a craft beer aficionado, or maybe you’re not, but you enjoy craft beer and sharing it with others, there are many different options to choose from that are perfect for a wedding setting.

Wheat Beer – This selection of beer is refreshing, light-bodied and meant for warm weather and quenching your thirst. Perfect when you consider the season of summer/spring/early fall, and all the booty-shaking, Electric Sliding, and YMCA-ing your guests will be doing. In addition, you might even be able to get that Bud Light swigging uncle to try something that isn’t going to shock his taste buds into retreat-mode. Belgian-style Witbier wheat beers in particular are light with notes of citrus and coriander. German-style wheat beers, known as Weissbeirs or Hefeweizens, are light, sweet, with hints of spice or fruit. The American version is known as a Hefeweizen (still a German term) or simply a wheat beer, and these are usually golden in color, unfiltered (cloudy-appearing), light, and lemony.

Likely the most popular American Wheat Beer/Hefeweizen that is readily available and is considered to be enjoyable across the spectrum is Blue Moon Brewing Company’s Belgian White (5.9%ABV), out of Denver, CO.  It is light, smooth, medium-bodied and in true fashion, has notes of both orange and coriander.  Some prefer it with an additional slice of orange added as well.

Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY, which is arguably King of the American Belgian-style beers, offers a variety of Belgian-style wheat beers that include Game of Thrones —Seven Kingdoms (6.9% ABV Belgian IPA), Game of Thrones— Winter is Here (8.3% ABV Witbier), and Witte (5.2% ABV Witbier), among many others. Bonus, if you’re into a Game of Thrones theme for your wedding, Ommegang has ALL the beers to accompany it. (& p.s. I totally want an invite to THAT wedding! … unless of course, it’s going to be a rendition of the Red Wedding, then nevermind.)

A rather enjoyable German/Bavarian Hefeweizen that I have had the pleasure of sampling, was at Yazoo Brewing Company in Nashville, TN. At 5% ABV, it has fruity, banana notes, and was completely and totally refreshing with a slightly tart finish. And, lastly, just outside of Burlington, VT, Fiddlehead Brewing Company, known for their IPAs, has brewed a wheat IPA —Sorry for Wheat? (8.2% ABV)— a hazy, soft, very floral brew with a dry finish. It’s kind of a combination between a traditional wheat beer and a traditional New England-style IPA, and very, VERY, tasty. You’ll have to travel to obtain both these brews, or have a destination-style wedding!

India Pale Ale (IPA) – IPAs have a vast array of different notes, bitterness, and finishes. They range from grassy and earthy to floral and juicy to piney and nutty. What one connoisseur of craft beer savors in an IPA, another connoisseur might not. For purposes of pleasing a crowd, these popular and enjoyable (by most all, even your snobby craft-beer friends) IPAs are mild to moderate in bitterness and hops.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Pale Ale (5.6% ABV) out of Chico, CA, is simple in name, and simply a well-rounded IPA that is a solid choice for a wedding reception. A brew that you can find nearly anywhere and everywhere, it pairs well with everything from cheese during cocktail hour, to pulled-pork for an outdoor summer wedding in the country, to prime rib at your black-tie evening reception. Smooth with a balanced bitterness, this is brewed primarily with Cascade hops that give it the slightly spicy and citrus/floral notes that are present throughout.

Slo Mo’ IPA (6.5% ABV) by Empire Brewing Company in Syracuse, NY, is another good choice for a crowd pleaser. Brewed with Falconer’s Flight and Mosaic hops, it is juicy, juicy, juicy – which is another way of saying it’s fantastically citrusy with notes of grapefruit and so very refreshing. As the name implies, this is a perfect brew for a warm spring or summer day while “slo”ing down and enjoying the bliss and excitement surrounding your wedding day. It also happens to be a good choice if you’re into “keeping it local.”

Lambic – This is a unique choice that can, in fact, be an alternative to using champagne for your toasts! It is a beer that is very close to its champagne counterpart with characteristics of being carbonated, tart, and dry on the finish. The brews are made with a mash of unmalted wheat and aged hops that ferment spontaneously in wooden barrels. Many are also made with fruit or fruit juice, which adds a whole second level of complexity and subtle sweetness.

Popular and easy to obtain, Lindemans Framboise Lambic Beer (2.5% ABV) from Belgium, is a small microbrewery that has been specifically making Lambic beer for 6 generations, beginning in 1822. This brew is dark pink in color, bubbly, much in the same way as champagne, and has a rich raspberry flavor with bit of tartness. A total treat, which your wedding guests will no doubt find to be a fun little unexpected twist on the traditional champagne wedding toast. Or this will make a lovely accompaniment to your wedding cake and desserts – especially pairing with anything chocolate!

The Finishing Touches: The beer theme doesn’t just have to be relegated to your open bar. With everything that Pinterest, Etsy, and Instagram has to offer and scroll through these days, your entire wedding can have craft beer involvement! From having your wedding reception at a brewery, to incorporating hops blossoms into your bouquets and boutonnieres, to having your caterers cook with beer in the courses served, to giving personalized beer koozies (or “stubbies” as they call them in Australia – oh the things you find when you do research for your Brew Time articles) as wedding favors, there’s all this and so much more!

Of course, these ideas and offerings are only a few options when it comes to what beer to serve at your wedding. I have really only scratched the surface of all of the different types of craft brews available to you and your big day. There are always choices to go with themed weddings or something specific to the couple being married. – Fall weddings can offer a pumpkin beer of choice, or if the happy couple are coffee-lovers, a coffee stout or porter might be a one-of-a-kind addition to your bar offering. Or perhaps there was a special vacation or you share a unique bond or perhaps you visited a specific brewery along the dating and engagement road to marriage. And there’s the opportunity to serve a beer or include something beer-related that highlights that special time in your lives that you both wish to share with everyone at the wedding. The possibilities are endless! Cheers to that!

Kristin Merritt
Just a brief introduction that I’ve joined the Table Hopping crew as your new craft-brew-loving gal who will be bringing you your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope that I can give a few recommendations for your grocery lists, event suggestions and local hotspots for an afternoon out with friends or planning a date, and if not for nothing, perhaps enlighten you with some random knowledge that you can amaze your teammates with at trivia night – or at least give you and your pals a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! I have some mighty large shoes to fill that my friend and fellow Syracuse Women of Craft Beer member (& founder), Gloria Rakowsky, left for me, but I hope that my style (and shenanigans) will keep all y’all coming back for more each month. Cheers!