Brew / Drink / Run Beer Festival Survival Guide
There are many craft beer festivals all over the country. Some are organized around a beer release (Hunaphu, Dark Lord, KBS) and some are just to celebrate all that is good and great about craft beer.
Beer festivals can be a lot of fun. You have the opportunity to try new beers, revisit some old favorites and usually learn a thing or two about beer and the craft beer industry. Festivals can also be hard, though – the crowds can be overwhelming and long lines boring to stand in, plus over drinking is always a problem.
To avoid these festival pitfalls, here are several tips and tricks you can use to make sure you have a fun, responsible and safe day at any beer festival.
Eat: The Italians have a saying “non ha mangiato basta.” A person doesn’t get drunk, they don’t have enough to eat. Food will help you make it through the day. There will be vendors with food and snacks (pretzel necklace!) on hand at the Festival but it’s not a bad idea to also eat before you arrive. Have a nice big breakfast or lunch before you go and your full belly will help keep the pace of your drinking level. Bonus pro tip: Avoid foods that are spicy. They will kill your palate and you won’t be able to taste the beer.
Drink Water: Hydrate before you enter the festival. Once you’re in you’ll see water is usually available at all the festival tents. Most see this as a means to rinse glasses – and it is – but don’t pour it out! Drink that water. As a general rule of thumb you should consume at least as much water as beer. Drinking your “rinse water” method insures you are keeping your water to beer ratio intact.
Pace yourself: This is not dollar beer night; this is a craft brew festival. The day is about quality beer, not quantity. Sip and enjoy your beer. Pay attention to the flavors in every beer you sample. It’s called a tasting for a reason. Make comparisons and talk them over with your buddies. If you don’t like a beer, that’s OK. Don’t finish it. There will always be a dump bucket close at hand. Take a break every now and then to enjoy the music, play a game or just partake in some quality people watching.
Talk to the Brewery representatives: The reps aren’t there just to pour you a drink. Beer representatives all love beer. They wouldn’t be in the industry if they didn’t. They also love to talk beer so ask questions. These guys are pros and you’ll get good answers. If you find a beer you like (or maybe don’t like) ask about the style, the hops or other flavorings used in brewing. This information will help you target beer you know you will like in the future.
Have a plan: The brewery participants and usually the beer lists are announced in advance. Have a look at the list before you go. Make a plan to first visit the brewery tents you are most interested in first. That way you insure you have the opportunity to taste the beers you want, just in case the brewery runs out. Please, please, don’t try to sample everything. A typical fest may have 150 beers. With 4oz pours, that is almost 40 gallons of beer. That plan will not end well.
Take your camera: You are certain to find a great beer you’ll want to revisit later. Camera phones are great for taking notes on and for photographing labels. You’ll appreciate your photos when you make your next trip to the bottle shop and need a reminder of the name of that one particular beer you had at the festival. Better yet there are several beer apps available that usually have a rating system, a means to record photographs and the ability to take beer notes.
Upgrade to VIP tickets: VIP tickets to beer festivals always have several perks that are usually worth it for the craft beer enthusiast. Early entry (shorter lines!) and access to special or rare beers is typical. If you’re looking to check off some rare beers or just expand your palate VIP tickets are usually a good bet. VIP tickets for the Savannah Craft Brew Festival are, unfortunately, already sold out. Those lucky enough to have snagged those tickets will have early access and entry into a specialty beer area as well as free food and a few giveaways.
Have a safe ride home: NO ONE wants you driving home after drinking. Have a ride ready to pick you up or plan for a cab. Some fests offer discounted designated driver tickets. Be cool and buy your best non-drinking buddy a ticket to the festival. You can hang out together all day. They get free water and sodas and everyone makes it home safe.
Beer Festivals are a lot of fun but have the potential to make you or others miserable. These tips should help you through a day of craft beer enjoyment and make your day after the festival a little more pleasant. If you have suggestion for the list send them on. Your experiences could help someone else have a better time at their favorite festival.