Weddings are such wonderful social gatherings. Brides know that every detail is important to the experience for their guests. That’s why choosing the kind of beer you should serve at weddings takes a bit of knowledge and consideration.
When deciding what kind of beer to serve at your wedding, you will need to consider the season, venue, and aesthetic or theme of the wedding. You’ll also need to determine how many people will be in attendance, how you plan to serve the beer, and what other types of alcohol you’ll have available in order to determine how much you need to purchase.
Keep reading to learn how to use this information to determine the kind of beer you should serve at your wedding, as well as how to get the best value for your budget without sacrificing taste or convenience.
What kind of beer should you serve at a wedding?
Beer has exploded in popularity in recent years. With the onset of small craft breweries on the scene, large beer distributors have felt pressured to offer more flavors, types, and varieties to their product lineups.
This can make it confusing to choose what kind of beer to serve at a wedding. With so many styles and choices, it can be hard to narrow down to just a few options.
We’ll look at types and styles of beer by season to help you choose a category. Then we’ll evaluate the pros and cons of domestic, regional/local, and imported beers. Lastly, we’ll determine the ways to serve it and how to estimate the amount needed for your wedding.
To make the choices easier, let’s walk through the details of what kind of beer you should serve at your wedding.
Mainstream domestic beers
Ask a hundred beer drinkers what their favorite beer is, and you’re likely to come up with nearly the same number of answers. The choices these days are endless.
Mainstream domestic beers are still popular because they’re easy-drinking beers. Almost anyone will drink one of these if they can’t find a craft or import beer that they like. Good choices in this category are Budweiser, Coors, and Miller along with their lighter counterparts.
According to a recent survey from YouGov America, the 10 most popular mainstream domestic beers in 2021 are:
- Sam Adams
- Blue Moon
- Coors Light
- Miller Light
- Bud Light
- Miller High Life
- Michelob Ultra
Let’s look at the pros and cons of serving mainstream domestic beers at a wedding.
Overall, mainstream domestic beers are inoffensive, inexpensive, and easy to find.
- More reasonably priced than craft beers or imports
- Widely available in a variety of cans, bottles, and kegs
- Most are lower calorie and ABV than craft beers
- Almost no one finds the taste offensive
- The lighter versions are even lower in calories and alcohol content
Domestic beers, however, are rarely anyone’s favorite and are unlikely to stand out at your wedding as they are so easily available.
- Not the best tasting
- Kind of basic
Mainstream imports also continue to increase in popularity. Often depicted in ads as exotic, cosmopolitan, or pictured on the beach, import beers are Americans’ guilty pleasure.
Everyone is familiar with Corona, Heineken, and Guinness. These are three of the most popular imported brands of beer. But, there are many others to explore that are even better.
According to BeverageIndustry.com, Dos Equis Lager expanded their market in 2020 to provide 5-liter mini-kegs for the home market due to its popularity. Modelo Especial, a Mexican pilsner-style lager, has also exploded in growth over the last few years. Both of these beers are featured in many Mexican restaurants across America. They rank fourth and seventh in popularity respectively.
Another import that’s widely available is Stella Artois Belgian Pilsner. It’s another light, easy-drinking beer. It’s the fifth most popular mainstream import in America.
YouGov America listed these 7 beers as the top-selling imports in 2021:
Mainstream imports are fairly easy to find and still on the less expensive end of beer options while also tasting a bit special.
- Provides a diversity in the taste experience from American beers.
- Offers an air of prestige or sophistication.
- They may taste better than domestic beers as many imports benefit from hundreds of years of brewing experience
While they are no necessarily better than domestic beers, you will paying for the international shipping and storage.
- More expensive than domestic beers
- May be harder to find in a variety of bottles, cans, or keg sizes
Regional and local breweries
Many regional and local breweries offer a great selection of beers to serve at weddings.
Smaller breweries provide better taste than many mainstream domestics and a wide variety of flavors for nearly every palate. They can be a bit more expensive, but most breweries will assist you with ordering and may even deliver your selections to your venue.
Don’t forget to consider the alcohol content of each drink. Craft beers tend to be higher in ABV. You probably want to stay at the lower end for a more enjoyable event for everyone.
Local craft beer breweries are a great option if you’re looking for something special or want to support local businesses.
- Wider variety of flavors.
- Brewer can assist with choosing the type and quantity for your event.
- Some offer choices between kegs, bottles, and cans.
- May offer delivery of your order to your event site.
- Will provide all the needed equipment for a keg.
While many people prefer to drink craft beers, the wide variety of flavors available means that my favorite craft beer and your favorite craft beer may be very different.
- Can range from slightly higher to very pricey depending on the type of beer.
- Domestic and import drinkers may find some flavors bolder than they like.
Best beer for a spring wedding
When planning on a wedding, you’ll consider the season for your choice of dress (and, to a lesser extent, suit), venue, and even meal. Why would it be any different for your choice of beer?
It makes sense to consider the seasonality of some beer types. A spring wedding, for example, can walk the line between a refreshing summer beer and a dark winter beer without veering too far into either. Pale ales, IPAs, and Pilsners are all good choices for a spring wedding.
Similarly, on a hot summer day, you’re not likely to want a dark, heavy oatmeal stout. Likewise, on a cold winter night, a Corona with lime can seem out of place as well.
The best beer styles and flavors during spring
With warmer temperatures and brighter days, spring is always a welcome sight and a beautiful time of year for a wedding.
Spring beers fall somewhere between light and refreshing, and dark and complex. With warm days and cold nights, beers that are lighter, but still substantial are a welcome taste.
Consider one of these styles for your spring wedding:
- Pale Ale – Light yellow to dark golden in color with classic citrus aroma with floral notes with a slight, grainy sweetness. Up-front hops flavor but balanced with lightly sweet malt notes with a clean finish.
- IPA – Ranging from orange to copper in color, they have intense citrus, floral and fruity aromas often with pine notes. Flavors range from citrus to floral to piney with noticeable hop bitterness and a light malty backbone for balance.
- Pilsner – Pale, golden straw-colored. Sweet, grainy aroma with hints of floral and honey. Spicy hops and lightly sweet malt flavor with a slightly bitter, dry finish.
Below is a list of recommended spring beers to serve.
Spring wedding beer list
A mild spring wedding allows you to pick your favorite beer without worrying as much about style as you might during a fall/winter or summer wedding.
These beers are widely available, very popular, and excellent mainstream choices for your spring wedding:
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – A nearly universally popular beer, this pale ale is heavy on the hops, with a full body and an intense smell of pine and citrus. This beer has a 4.0 ABV.
- Lagunitas India Pale Ale – Self-described as a highly-drinkable IPA, this beer is richer and a bit more mellow than the intensely hoppy Sierra Nevada option. It has a 6.2 ABV.
- Trumer Pils – This is a German-style beer that is characterized by its distinctly hoppy aroma, light body, and heavy carbonation. It is 4.9% ABV and claims to pair well with any food.
If you’re working with a wedding planner who is knowledgeable about beer or a local craft brewery, it may be helpful to reference one of these beers as a starting point or a general descriptor.
Best beer for a summer wedding
Your beer choice for a summer wedding should take into account the time of day, the meal of choice, and if your reception will be held inside (with air conditioning) or outdoors.
Beers for summer weddings can be some of the most delicious. Nothing tastes better on a hot summer day than a crisp, ice-cold beer. Especially if your event is outdoors. There are so many styles and flavors to choose from besides “light” beers.
If you’re looking for summer beers with mass appeal, you can’t go wrong with pale ales, wheat beers, and American-style Light Lagers.
The best beer styles and flavors during summer
Despite the name, some of your best choices for a summer wedding may be lawnmower beers, so-called because they taste so refreshing after a hot afternoon of mowing the lawn.
For a summer wedding, consider choosing one of these beer styles:
- Pale Ales – Light yellow to dark golden in color with classic citrus aroma and floral notes with a slight, grainy sweetness. Up-front hops flavor but balanced with lightly sweet malt notes and a clean finish.
- Wheat Ales – Cloudy orange color with a citrusy aroma. Slightly sweet, bready flavor with hints of clove, banana, and citrus. Serving with a slice of orange opens up the flavors.
- American/Mexican Light Lagers – Light yellow in color, light-bodied with a lower alcohol content. Very light malty flavors and aromas with a dry finish.
Summer wedding beer list
Flavors for summer beers are light and refreshing. Bright, fruity, and citrusy flavors are common flavors in spring beer styles and they pair well with any type of summer food.
Some of the best nationally available summer beer choices include:
- Bell’s Oberon American Wheat Ale – This what ale is a simple summer beer with an 5.8% ABV with spicy and citric tasting notes.
- Blue Moon Belgian White Wheat Ale – Blue Moon’s taste is very wheat-forward, with a subtle sweetness and sparkling citrus flavor. There is just a hint of spiciness on the finish from the coriander that is used in brewing. It has a 5.4% ABV.
- Bud Light/Coors Light/Miller Lite/Corona Light – While these are each distinctive in their own right, they are interchangeable in that they are all mild, intensely drinkable, and refreshing beers.
Best beer for a fall wedding
Fall weddings are always popular. The chill in the air brings out boots, sweaters, and cozy dark beers. The fall season creates a feeling of warmth and comfort. Your fall wedding beer choices should reflect that energy.
German beers, like Oktoberfest, are always a fall favorite. Malty and full-bodied, they are great for autumn nights. Of course, pumpkin spice is a fall must. Pumpkin ales are a great way to salute the season. For some guests, you will still want a lighter option. Amber lagers or hoppy IPAs will round out the beer choices nicely for a fall wedding.
Fall beers open up a wide variety of specialty and seasons flavors, but it’s worth remembering that most dark beers are also heavier and have a higher alcohol content than lighter-colored beers. These strong flavors also have the possibility of contrasting against the meal.
The best beer styles and flavors during fall
It’s important to keep in mind what food you’ll be serving alongside your beverage, but the right beer can help elevate your meal.
Try one of these for a great fall beer choice for your wedding:
- Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen Amber Lager – This Oktoberfest is so popular that it’s served year-round. With a 5.8% ABV, this amber beer will pair perfectly with most fall meals.
- Schlafly Pumpkin Ale – This dark beer is suprisingly sweet and with cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. With an 8.0% ABV, this beer will not pair well with some meals but it is perfect alongside a savory cheese or a mild cheesecake.
- New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale – Fat Tire is a very popular beer with a “fresh herbal hop profile” and a 5.2% ABV, which is relatively low for a darker beer.
How do you serve beer at a wedding?
How you serve beer at a wedding depends on a few factors, including your budget, the venue, logistics, and your desired aesthetic.
Depending on your venue, you may have limited options based on their existing vendor contracts. If you are able to supply your own beer, you will need to research the local variety of local options available to you including mobile bar services, draft beer stations, growler stations, or serve-yourself cans, bottles, or kegs.
Keep reading for more information about the beer-serving possibilities for your wedding.
Many venues do not allow outside food or beverages, but they often have a selection of in-house or outside contract services available.
If your wedding reception is at a rented venue, your caterer may offer bar service packages. They will offer a limited number of options in price-graded packages. Normally, they will open the bar during cocktail hour, close it during dinner, and reopen it after dinner. A standard bar package is about 4 hours.
While it’s very convenient, this is also the most expensive option for serving beer at a wedding.
Other indoor and outdoor venues
Once you’ve chosen your venue, you can start selecting food and beverage services for your ceremony and reception.
If your venue allows outside catering – or if you’ve foregone the inside wedding altogether – you have a huge range of choices available to you, including:
- Mobile bar services
- Draft beer stations
- Growler stations
- Other creative beer stations
Take into account the overall theme and mood of your wedding when choosing the style of beer service that’s perfect your big day. A draft beer station may not make sense during a super formal event!
Mobile bar services
If you want bar service at a venue that doesn’t provide it, there are mobile bar services you can hire.
These services can supply just the bartender or they can supply the whole package just like a catering service.
This option is good if you want to buy your own alcohol but still want a bartender.
Draft beer stations
These units cover one or more kegs for self-service draft beer for your guests. They can be used indoors or outdoors and for formal or casual events.
If you decide to purchase craft beer from a local brewery, using personalized growlers to serve your favorite brews is also a great option for smaller weddings.
You can choose a few of your favorite local craft beers and ice them down in growlers with pint glasses at the bar table for guests to serve themselves.
Or you can serve them with tasting glasses and let guests make their own beer flight.
Other creative beer stations
Serving beer at your wedding doesn’t require a big set-up though – there are loads of fun, creative, and inexpensive options out there.
Try coming up with a way of presenting your drinks that fits in with the personality of the couple and the style of the wedding overall.
For outdoor, or country-themed weddings, cans and bottles can be served in creative ways that can add to the overall relaxed, family atmosphere. Beer iced down in big galvanized metal tubs customized with the couple’s names and wedding date can cute and inviting. Other ideas you can find on Pinterest for icing down cans and bottles are canoes, bathtubs, and wheelbarrows.
For an even more informal backyard reception, you could round up coolers from family and create a camping or picnic-themed reception. This could be an economical, fun idea for couples who eloped or just returned from a destination wedding where the focus is just on getting together with family to celebrate.
Cans vs bottles vs kegs
Deciding on the best way to purchase and serve beer depends on the reception venue, the style of wedding, the mix of your crowd, and how much beer you expect them to drink.
When you have a large guest list, the alcohol budget can add up quickly. Buying beers and cans can provide your guests with more choices. And, they are convenient to purchase, store, and require less time to get cold than kegs.
For larger gatherings, kegs are a more affordable choice. They come in small enough sizes so that you can still provide some variety if you wish.
Cans are a popular serving choice for beer in everyday life, but are they appropriate for a wedding?
Serving beer in cans for a smaller wedding can be economical, easy to transport, and keep cold. However, If you’re having a larger or formal wedding, cans can look cheap.
For country-themed weddings, cans served in creative ways can add to the overall relaxed, family atmosphere. Cans of beer iced down in big galvanized metal tubs customized with the couple’s names and wedding date can be a cute, themed addition for this type of wedding.
For a super informal backyard reception, you could even round up coolers from family and create a camping or picnic-themed reception. This could be an economical, fun idea for couples who eloped or after a destination wedding.
- Cheaper option than bottles
- Great for informal, outdoor, or backyard receptions
- Easier to scale up or down as the guest list gets adjusted
- Safer than bottles
- Easier to return or give away if unused
- Can provide a larger variety
- Can look cheap for formal reception settings (think frat party)
- Harder to store and transport in quantity for larger weddings
- Cost is higher than buying a keg
Many people prefer drinking beer from the bottle instead of out of a can because it allows you to avoid the metallic smell, plus there’s just something a little nicer about an attractive bottle than a stubby can.
Bottles tend to be viewed as more upscale than cans. But, they can still invoke a feeling of a backyard barbecue for some people. Others prefer drinking beer from bottles over cans or draft beer.
Purchasing bottles can offer more variety to your guests than buying a keg. You can purchase several different kinds to have something that appeals to everyone.
- Easier to scale up or down as the guest list gets adjusted
- Easier to return or give away if unused
- You can serve a wider variety of beers
- Easy to clean up and recycle
- Most expensive option
- Broken glass could be a safety issue
Buying cans or bottles in bulk
Regardless of the container type you choose for your beer, you can order many brands at local liquor warehouses.
Talk to your local liquor store owners. They are knowledgeable about buying in bulk and some offer delivery services for weddings. They also know what sells best in your area and what gets returned. You should place the order about 3 weeks in advance.
Big warehouse stores like Costco can also be cost-effective for buying larger quantities of bottles and cans. It will limit your selection, but it’s a cheaper option than liquor stores. Remember, you’ll need a place to store it. And, someone will have to move it to the venue and ice it down on the day of the wedding.
Kegs are the go-to choice for frat parties everywhere, but are they acceptable for a wedding?
Kegs are a good choice if you’re having a larger reception where you would need several cases of bottles or cans to serve beer. While it does limit the number of varieties, draft beer is significantly cheaper than buying cans or bottles.
Many beer companies offer smaller keg sizes like ⅙ barrel kegs or ½ barrel kegs so you can provide more variety for your guests. Keg beer is fresher tasting and can add a more upscale feel to your reception rather than everyone walking around with a bottle or can. You can also use pint glasses if you don’t want plastic cups sitting everywhere.
Waste can be a significant factor if you overestimate your needs. Leftovers can’t be returned and can only be stored refrigerated for about a week. Keep in mind the keg sizes vs the number of servings you need before ordering.
Remember to ice down the kegs early on the morning of the wedding. Beer that isn’t properly cooled will be very foamy. You can use trash cans or plastic buckets with ice behind the bar (if one is present) to keep them cold. Or, you can use a kegerator or portable draft stand which will keep the keg cool or cover the keg and the ice container.
Now, let’s look at the pros and cons of serving beer in kegs for a wedding.
- Better tasting beer
- Significantly cheaper for larger quantities
- Many liquor stores have them cold, which cuts down on icing time
- Liquor stores and breweries may deliver them to you
- No cans or bottles sitting around
- Limits the variety of beers you’re able to serve
- Leftovers can’t be returned if you overestimated
- You may have to rent, build or buy a draft system or pay for tap rental
- You need someone experienced to tap it correctly for the best experience
- You need somewhere to ice down several hours before the event
- Plastic cups will likely be sitting everywhere by the end of the night
How much beer do you need for a wedding?
To calculate how much beer you need for a wedding, start by multiplying the number of guests by the number of hours. Then allow each guest to have one drink per hour.
- For example: 150 guests x 3 hours = 450 drinks
If you’re serving only beer and wine, it’s usually split between 60% wine and 40% beer.
- 60% of 450 drinks = 270 glasses of wine
- 40% of 450 drinks = 180 beers
If you’re also offering mixed drinks or cocktails, the ratio changes to 50% wine, 20% beer, and 30% liquor.
- 50% of 450 drinks = 225 glasses of wine
- 20% of 450 drinks = 90 beers
- 30% of 450 drinks = 135 mixed drinks
Using the information below, you can determine how many kegs you would need based on their size and the number of servings they contain. Or, you can use this handy drink calculator from Liquor Depot.
|Keg Size||U.S. Gallons||12-oz Servings||Cases|
|Full Keg (1/2 barrel)||15.5||165||6.89|
To summarize, there are a lot of considerations when determining what kind of beer you should serve at a wedding. Taking the time to look at your options and make a plan can help ease a little of the stress for the post-wedding party. Work out your goals, make your list and start getting ready!