What if I told you that for typically $50 or less, you could go to a place and drink as much beer as you can stomach. A place where breweries you love, breweries you hate and breweries you’ve never heard of mingle among each other with rarities for the tasting. A place where live music and the smell of freshly seared meat provide the backdrop to your tent-hopping, cup filling Saturday. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Well it is. And you’re going to handle it like a pro.
There are very few experiences in this world like a beer festival. Whether your festival has 60 people or 600, whether the breweries pouring are local, national or global, and whether your Oktoberfest is in Soulard or Munich, there’s nothing quite like them. The only real rule at a festival is to enjoy yourself but there are a handful of ways to ensure you get the most out of your experience.
1. Do Your Research
It’s very easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of choices you’ll encounter under those beautiful tents. The good news is that the festival organizers have given you every bit of info you need in order to avoid long waits and try every beer you have your heart set on. Every festival will at a minimum release a list of breweries that will be pouring during each session. If you’re lucky, they may even release an entire list of all the beers that will be poured. This will be your bible for that weekend. Find the ones you want to try in advance and simply place a mark next to them. These can be breweries you’ve always wanted to try, beers you’ve never had, or something as simple as “every saison at the festival.” No matter how you choose your beers, find them and once you’ve tasted that beer, cross it out.
If you truly stick to your plan and skip over breweries/beers that aren’t on your list, you’ll have all of your beers sampled before most people make it out of tent number one. That gives you plenty of time to go back to the beginning after the crowd thins out and try the ones you skipped in the first place.
** Bonus Tip: If you’re going to drink a wide variety of beer styles, go from the lightest in flavor (blondes, cream ales, lagers) to strongest (IPA, DIPA, Stouts). This will keep your palate from getting wrecked for as long as possible.**
2. Drink Water
Whether it’s your first festival or your hundredth, there is a real big chance that your mouth will try to write a check that your liver can’t cash. You’ll need to make sure you have taken every precaution to give it a fighting chance. Consider for a second that most festivals are held outdoors. Acknowledge that they are also held during the warm months of the year. Finally, think about the fact that you’ll be standing elbow to elbow with hundreds of fellow drinking enthusiasts. That’s a recipe for a lot of things but above all, it’s a recipe for dehydration.
It’s so, so, so, so, so important to drink water throughout the day. Every few booths at the festival there will be pitchers of water with dump buckets nearby. A lot of folks utilize these to just rinse their glass so they’re not mixing remnants of their stout with their blonde ale (clearly they didn’t read my Bonus Tip above). However, it’s best to rinse your glass with that water and then drink it, don’t dump it. The water will both fill your stomach, rendering you unable to consume until you die, as well as make sure you’re staying plenty hydrated throughout the day. Win-win.
3. Skip the Regulars
If I’ve had a beer before and I can get it at the store, I typically skip it at festivals (unless it’s my totes fave). Those breweries you’re always stocking in your fridge might bring out a small batch cask of something or a special release you can’t pick up locally (try both if they do), but a lot of breweries are going to try to introduce the beers you’ve had a dozen times to people who may not have had them yet. While there’s absolutely, positively no reason to allow your butt to be hurt over them doing this, it also gives you a reason to try new things. Make sure you take advantage of that fact.
4. Get a Designated Driver
I shouldn’t have to write more than a few sentences about this. Don’t be an idiot, get a DD. Most festivals will let a DD in for free or for $5. Plus, the next day when you’re wondering why your significant other isn’t talking to you and your wallet has White Castle onions in it, your DD will be able to fill in the gaps for you.
5. Socialize Respectfully
The sad but true reality is that testosterone and alcohol have a tendency to be enemies. Nowhere is this less apparent than at a beer festival. I can assure you that nobody is there to do anything besides meet new people and try new beers. Because it’s crowded, you’ll be bumped into by anyone and everyone and that’s okay. If you can’t really tell where the line for the pumpkin doppelbock starts, odds are that the guy that “jumped in line” to grab a pour didn’t either. If someone tells your girlfriend that they like her shirt, it’s because they’ve been to the same brewery.
Also, if you overhear someone talking about a beer you’ve never heard of, a style you’ve always wanted to know more about or even just their favorite liquor store in the area, jump in and participate. On the flipside, if you know more than the Average Joe, share your knowledge without coming across as a beer snob elitist (we both know you know what that means). No matter what the situation throws your way, just go with the flow and have a good time.
There you have it. The 5 things you need to know that will make your beer festival a successful one. If only there was a list that told you the 5 things you shouldn’t be doing at a beer festival. That would be extremely neat.