What do backyard BBQs, baseball games, and beach side bars all have in common?
If you answered sunshine and dudes in tank tops, you’re almost right. The answer is beer.
More than just a tasty and refreshing way to quench your thirst on a hot summer’s day, beer has slowly but surely become a national past time all its own. Now I’m not talking Bud Light or Stella (if you’re feeling fancy), I’m talking craft beer. Malty, hoppy, sudsy concoctions of grains and yeast served ice cold and with a smile.
Beer has been around for a while – ages, in fact, with some evidence suggesting that beer has been brewed since 4300 BC. Craft beer is a little more of a modern undertaking since we now have refrigerators, and it is only in very recent years that the number of craft breweries and the demand to try them all has reached the point of needing stadium-sized events for the sole purpose of tasting as many as humanly possible.
And thus, the Beer Fest was born.
With the number of breweries growing exponentially on an international level, so does the number of beer festival-type events in order to accommodate and promote them. Because these numbers are reaching into the thousands at this point, you would be hard pressed as a modern adult of any age to not find yourself at one in the near future. So with your imminent beer fest trip in mind, here is a shortlist of do’s and don’ts for you and your friends to take note as you drink your way through this new age of boozy beverages.
Arrive Early/On Time
Since these are events based around drinking alcohol, there are laws in place to try to control the level of drunkeness of as many people as possible. This will usually be done in the form of either vouchers/tallies, or timed entries. In order to maximize the number of beers you can taste and limit the amount of wait time in line for these tastings, it is very important that you get to your event early or as close to your designated entry time as you can.
If your event is based around vouchers/tallies, you may have the option to buy more if you run out, however, all beer festival events will have a last call and hard stop time. This means that once the last hour listed on your ticket strikes, the brewers are no longer allowed to serve you anything except water. There is no getting around this because there are legal consequences for both the event organizers and the breweries if these hard stop times are not strictly observed. Make sure to set those alarms.
Make Note of Water/Food/Bathrooms Before Getting Started
Again, these are events based around the consumption of alcohol. I don’t care how good you think your tolerance is, by ingesting shot after shot of different flavors and levels of booze, you will find yourself getting tipsy (maybe even a little sick). Don’t ever feel embarrassed about grabbing a glass of water or going to the bathroom, they are there for a reason and use of both are highly encouraged.
Also, don’t feel obligated to finish all your samples, especially if you find you don’t like something. There are dump buckets and rinse water for your tasting glass and many brewers will gladly dump/rinse your glass for you if you get up to them and have not had a chance to do it yourself (they want to make sure you get the full flavor of their beer and enjoy it, too).
Food is usually provided by way of paid vendors. Bring cash and a friend so that you can take shifts in line standing/running out to get more samples while you wait. Because food is likely to be sold on site, most events will not allow outside snacks into the event area. I personally have yet to see anyone turn away a good pretzel necklace, however, so if cash or friends are tight, you always have that to fall back on.
Talk to the Brewers
Any brewery wanting to exhibit at these events needs to provide their own staff. This means that the person pouring your sample either had a hand in making what you’re drinking or was hired by that brewery to know what you’re drinking. If you’re not familiar with the types of beer they are offering, ask them and they will be more than happy to explain flavor profiles/highlights/special ingredients with you. If you have an allergy (even gluten!), let them know and they can either offer you something else or suggest one of the other breweries.
The beauty of the beer fest is the number of choices and endless possibilities available to you, so whether you are a Stout man, an IPA guru, or a Cider girl, there is something for everyone. You never know, you might even try something way out of your comfort zone and love it.
Have a Plan for Getting Home
Drunk or tipsy driving is so not cool. Many beer festivals offer specially priced, even free tickets for designated drivers that include food/non-alcoholic beverage perks. There may also be discounts for ride-sharing services or public transportation depending on the size of the event and where it is located.
As much as a beer fest is fun, the breweries and event organizers want to make sure that everyone gets home safe and never feels the need to get behind the wheel after partaking in too much of what they have to offer. Keep in mind that there are usually also going to be police and extra security on hand to promote control and safety as much as possible.
Don’t Feel Pressured to Try Everything
Most beer festivals try to offer at least a dozen or so breweries which in turn, usually offer 2 or more varieties to sample. Some more sizable ones list around 100 breweries with samples ranging up to 400+ varieties. It is humanly impossible to sample every single beer at a beer festival, and I’m not saying that as a challenge. Seriously, DO NOT take that statement as a challenge. Sample pours are supposed to be between 1 and 4 ounces which are very easy to over-pour.
Since a standard serving of beer is 12 ounces, you can usually count on drinking the equivalent of 2 to 4 normal-sized beers within the span of a few hours. If you also take into account that the alcohol level of these samples can range anywhere from 4% to 15%, you are pretty much guaranteed to have a nice little buzz by the time last call rolls around.
The great thing about having so many beer festival events popping up all over the world is that if you miss a certain brewery or beer at one, you can always find them again at another. Also, getting super drunk or sick on samples is not classy. You will get looks, and might even get in trouble.
More than anything, remember to have fun and enjoy what you’re drinking. Beer festivals are built around the idea of discovery and passion. The brewers are there to not only show you a product, they are taking pride in their work and hoping to share their new, innovative recipes and techniques with a larger audience. With that said, who’s ready to try some new brews with me?