Beer festivals are a great way to try a lot of beers all in one easy location. Often, there will be 50 or more beers from 20 or more breweries, allowing you to sample a diverse group of brews. Here are a few tips we’ve compiled to help you have the best beer festival experience this summer.
1. Get tickets early.
As the popularity of craft beer grows, so does the popularity of beer festivals. Festivals like the Great American Beer Festival are sold out within hours. Since beer festivals are so popular, tickets are often limited, and they do sell out. Many offer VIP tickets to get access to rare beers or a chance to meet the brewers, and these are usually among the first tickets to sell out.
Many festivals will post on their websites what breweries and beers will be available, and some even publish a map. Make a list of the ones you want to try and put together a strategy. With so many beers, it’s easy to get distracted, so make a list of the ones you want to try and be sure to hit those first. It’s also helpful to coordinate with friends, touching base periodically for recommendations.
3. Dress for your day.
Beer fests take a lot of planning, so most are held rain or shine. Take a look at the weather forecast before you go and make sure to dress appropriately. Also, beer festivals often get very crowded, so be prepared for it to get a bit hotter and stickier than you may be expecting. Don’t wear your nicest clothes – beer often finds its way to the floor/ground, so whether it’s mud or party sludge, you’re likely to get a little of it on you.
4. Eat before you show up.
It’s not only a good practice not to drink on an empty stomach, but most vendors know you’ll be ready for some food sometime between beers 11 and 12. Often, their markups are a bit excessive (which might be OK with you if the festival is supporting a good charity), and they often only take cash. You can also take some with you, as it’s not uncommon to see people with pretzel necklaces at the festival – it’s festive and practical.
5. Pace yourself.
You’ve got several hours to try a lot of beers (you usually won’t/shouldn’t get to all of them), so look at it like a marathon, not a race. Consider how long you’re going to be there, and think about how many you want to have each hour. However, it’s not just about how many you have. Beers at the festival can range from 3% up to 10+% ABV, so it’s important to also consider how big the beers you’re having are.
6. Drink lots of water.
Not only is it a good way to prevent the dehydration that alcohol causes, but it’s a good way to cleanse your palate and your glass between drinks. A clean palate and glass will help you get most out of the craft beers you’re sampling. Most beer festivals will have water available in several places, so be sure to get a little between samples.
7. Don’t like it… don’t finish it.
There’s nothing that says you have to drink it if you don’t like it, which is why they pour samples. Don’t be afraid to dump a beer if you can tell instantly that you don’t like it. Just be considerate, especially if the brewer or brewery rep is serving you, and don’t dump it on the ground where everyone is walking.
8. Don’t drop your glass.
At many festivals, you only get one sampling glass, and if you break it, you don’t get a replacement. Also, if it’s indoors, and you drop your glass everyone in the place will know it and look your way. (However, I noticed at the Great American Beer Festival there were several people who dropped their plastic sample glasses on purpose to get attention.)
9. Be considerate.
Everyone at the festival is there to have a good time, so be friendly and meet other beer lovers. That also means being considerate by not holding up the line, not holding a space in line for your friend, and getting out of the line once you’ve gotten your sample. In addition, remember the volunteers at festivals are volunteers and they are working hard at a repetitive task. They’re also the ones holding the pitcher/tap, so be nice and say “Thank you!”
10. Know when and how to call it quits.
There’s always someone at the beer festival stumbling around or being carried by their friends. Don’t be that guy (or girl)! If you feel yourself getting too drunk, call it quits. Also, make sure you’ve planned ahead of time how you’re getting home – a designated driver, Uber/Lyft, cab, public transportation, etc. Whether it’s knowing when to say when or getting home, it’s always best to employ the buddy system.
This certainly isn’t a complete list, so if you have any other tips or advice for your fellow beer festival attendees, please include them in the comments below. Cheers!