A Shopping Guide On What Beer & Wine To Buy For Your Event

One of the most common questions we see from first-time event hosts and soon-to-be-married couples when they’re planning the bar selection for an upcoming event is, “What do I buy?” and that is a VERY good question. Even if you are the person that knows their way around a bar, or if you rarely -if ever- drink but you still want to provide your guests with a fair amount of options and selection to enjoy, it is an important list to put together that requires some input from the pros.

Sure, some hosts have the mindset, “Well, I’m going to go grab a few cases the day before and whatever I grab is what they get – and if they don’t like it, oh well.” and for some, that is a perfectly acceptable way to look at it – but in reality, if that’s your choice, you’re probably not reading this blog post. But don’t worry, it isn’t something you need to stress over, just do your best and use our handy general guides to help you along the way.

Below we have put together a guide on what to buy, what factors to consider when putting together a list, a very basic list on how much to buy (see our next blog for a more detailed list), and a few suggestions on selections that are currently trending. In the end, our goal is to help you put together a list that fits your budget, your preferences, help guide you when trying to shop for a variety of guests, and hopefully make it as easy as possible when choosing what to buy!

Let’s start with some of the factors to consider:

Factors to consider: season, time of day the majority of the event will take place, where the event will take place, your budget, age-range, length of time the guests will stay at an event, and assumed general guest preferences.
Season: if it’s a warm, summer day, the last thing most people will want is a dark or thick beer. Most guests are going to lean towards lighter beers – think lagers, pilsners, hefeweizens, belgian wits, or an easy session beer (low ABV%). In regards to wine, a bright and chilled white or rosé will be the more popular options.
Time of day: this plays into the “season” factor above – if it’s throughout the whole day, do NOT get a lot of high-ABV beer that will have everyone needing a nap or a cab home halfway through the event. Also, if the event takes place later in the evening where it will start to cool off, a few more darker options like an amber, red ale, or ESB may be something worth adding. If it is a more formal, evening event -especially with many dinner options- adding in more red wine may be advised.
Where the event will take place: if the event is outdoors, you definitely need to factor in the weather and season, but if it is indoors with climate control, you can fudge a little more and not go as heavy on the chilled white/rosé options for wine, or the lighter beer selections.
Average guest age:  as most Bartenders can tell you, the average 20-something will probably lean towards something different than your grandparents might select. So if most of your guests are younger, get things that are more “trendy” like rosé, prosecco, IPA’s, ciders, or even the spiked seltzers. The same on the other end, many people that have a tad more “experience” let’s say, tend to stick with the classics; Cabernet, Chardonnay, less-hoppy beer, and are more scared of rosés because they lived through the dreaded “white zins” of the 80’s and 90’s, and that’s what they associate with “pink wine.” Of course, those are extreme generalizations for the different age groups and there are many who don’t fit those assumptions, but it is a starting point to consider.
General guest preferences: Any pro can give you a list of what is trending, what is typically most popular this year, what beers are “in season” but you know your guests much better than we do. If you know your guests are big on craft beer, get more craft beer or less “macro” beers, or if you know you have a big group of wine drinkers, go heavier when ordering the wine.
Budget:  When it comes down to it, get what is within your budget. Creating a thoughtful alcohol selection is considerate to your guests and will help create the “vibe” you’re hoping for -amongst all the other details of the day you’ve worked on- but at the end of the day, no one is going to leave because you didn’t offer the full variety their favorite watering hole provides, or that obscurely-expensive wine bottle they found while touring the winery in the Willamette Valley last spring. So do the best you can with the amount you’re looking to spend, and reach out if you need help finding the best pricing, selection, or value for your money. Our goal is to save you money, by helping you not waste money on items you probably don’t need, or too much of one option.

“OK, I know what I’m going to buy, but how much should I buy?” Well, there’s no easy answer to that one, and so we’ll save it for our next blog with a much more in-depth answer, but as we’ve noted in past blogs, most wine is returnable, so if you’re going to splurge, aim for more wine if you know your guests will enjoy it. Some beer can be returned, but mostly it is yours once it leaves the store. So, consider the same options, as listed above, but a general rule-of-thumb:
** The average 4-hour reception: 3-4 drinks per guest **
(or 1 drink per guest, per hour)
NOTE: Yes, there will be some that drink more than that, but then there typically will be some that don’t drink at all, or very minimal.

Also, if most of your guests are from out-of-town and will be taking taxis, guest shuttles, or public transportation, you may want to lean more toward “3 drinks per person” since they probably won’t be relying on a designated driver which will “up” the average per guest. If it is local, where most of your guests will be arriving by their own car, or it is at a venue where a long drive is required, consider lowering it to “2 drinks per person” since most guests will have to rely on a designated driver.

With all of those factors, we’ve broken down a very general list of ratios and styles of beer and wine that we’d buy if we were in your shoes in a couple different scenarios:

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