Today is the eve of a beer festival double-header. I’m sure everyone is just about tired by now of hearing me rail on about tomorrow’s World Beer Festival/Backyard Beer Festival marathon. I have a plan for tomorrow (and not just for a day-long tweetcast), and I thought it would be worth sharing.
I have a plan for myself, and my group of friends, to make it through the whole day on our feet. A lot of beer festival veterans
will should know this information, but judging by the amount of vomit I’ve seen at beer fests, the ranks are many who need to follow this advice.
Beer Festival Survival Guide
Regardless of the fact that the beer festival session that you are attending is only (only!?) 4 hours long, a beer festival is an all-day event that must be planned accordingly. You may think that 2-ounces at a time over 4 hours isn’t very much beer, but you’re wrong. Very, very wrong. In fact, because samples are so small (and rarely only 2 ounces) it is much easier to over-imbibe very quickly and turn a wonderful experience into an uncomfortable one.
Start preparing the night before
Hydrate. Yeah, yeah. It’s a party weekend, you wanna hang out and have a good time – it’s gonna be a great weekend! Beer festival! Par-tay!
Sure! Agreed. Live it up. But live it up in moderation. If you start the day hungover, it’s going to go downhill from there. WAY downhill. Have a few beers, have a good time, and have lots of water. Over hydrate today, because tomorrow you’re going to under-hydrate.
Eat well beforehand
Afternoon session? Eat a big breakfast. And some lunch. Evening session? Eat a big breakfast. And some lunch. And a decent dinner. Just eat well.
Why? Because you’re going to be drinking a LOT. You don’t want to be drinking on an empty stomach. It will end poorly. And don’t just trust that you’re going to get food there. You might! But chances are you’re going to be well into sampling before you get around to eating and by then, it’s already too late.
Wear comfortable shoes
You’re going to be on your feet for a long time. Most beer festivals don’t have any place sit down and take a load off. Yet, I still see women in high heels at beer festivals. Blows my mind. Make sure you’re going to be comfortable, it will make a difference on your whole day.
Drink water through the entire festival
Most beer festivals have water stations around. They’re not just for rinsing out your glass. Drink a few ounces now and then. If you drink 2 ounces of water every 15 minutes you’ll drink half of the water you should be consuming for the day, anyway. It’s not a lot of water, and it will keep you fresh and ready for more beer.
There’s also the added benefit of cleansing your palate. I try to drink a little bit of water every time I have a particularly heavy or hoppy beer so I can keep my palate ready for more delicate flavors later.
Don’t be afraid to dump your beer
This is huge.
If you don’t like a beer, dump it, don’t chug it.
If you’re not finishing a beer, dump it, don’t just walk around with it.
There are dump buckets everywhere for a reason. If you dump, you will drink more beer that your enjoy, and you will be a hell of a lot less likely to be over-intoxicated.
Bring something to write with/on
Most festivals will have some sort of program available for your reference, make sure your bring a pen or something to write on it with. You might find a beer that you really like that you want to remember for later. You might find a guy or gal that you really like that you want to remember for later. You might just want to remember where you parked your car. No matter what, take notes. Believe it or not, this will enhance your enjoyment of the festival.
As I’ve mentioned (ad nauseum), this weekend in lieu or written notes, I’ll be tweetcasting my World Beer Festival/Backyard Beer Festival experiences. Join me! We can all share beer notes together!
TASTE your beer
This is the most important thing.
It’s not a drinking contest. They’re not going to run out, there will be plenty of time to get lots of samples.
The whole purpose behind this event is to taste your beer. So taste it. Talk it over with your friends. Write it down. What flavors did you get out of that one? Bananas? Plums? Chocolate? Pine trees? You can get all of those things and so many more flavors. The more you talk about it, the more you will develop a vocabulary for your beer, and the more you will enjoy it.
For the love of god, take the time to enjoy it.
Plan some time within or after the festival to sober up
If you didn’t bring a Designated Driver, you are a total asshat if you leave a beer festival and go straight to your car and drive away. In fact, if you do this you are so much of an asshat you should be banned from going to future beer festivals.
Go get a pizza somewhere, or have one person stop drinking an hour or so before the end of the festival, or call a taxi, or something.
Beer Fest Veterans!
Did I miss anything? Any quick and handy tips about keeping your glassware handy and/or clean? Share the knowledge!
What a great weekend to be a beer drinker in North Carolina. We get a double-whammy of the World Beer Festival and, in the interval between sessions, Fullsteam’s Backyard Beer Festival just a block away.
In one small (and very chic) city, we have the opportunity to get some of the best craft beer and some of the best homebrew around.
My plan in all of this goes like this: Myself (and a group of wonderful friends) will be attending the afternoon (12-4) session of the World Beer Festival, then we will be trucking over to Fullsteam where I’ll be pouring some of my homebrew at the Backyard Beer Festival.
If you’re around at either event, stop me and say hi. I’ll be wearing my bestest Top Fermented T-Shirt.
If you’re not around either event, I’m trying something a little new. Using the magical power of Posterous and my Android I will be recording short audio and video notes as I go and posting them (along with photos) live from both events. All of that stuff will dump onto Twitter automatically, as the day goes and I’ll wrap it all up with highlights here on the blog.
So join me online and off for a great weekend of beer, and witness, firsthand, my descent into rambling drunkenness. It should, at the very least, be entertaining and who knows? There might even be a nugget or two of good beer information in there.
Dear GABF Participant,
Tomorrow, you will be winging your way into a crowded beer festival drinking wonderful – nay! – fantastic and brilliant beer. You poor, poor people. Besotted with quality, good friends, and good times; you have NO idea what you’re missing. Out here in the rest of the world we will be laughing our smug little laughs knowing full damn well that we are better off.
Absence, you see, makes the heart grow fonder. A rolling stone gathers no moss! A… a… bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!! The wombat thwomps thrice at midnight! What? That doesn’t even make sense.
I need SOME sort of cliched little phrase to help me out with this! Didn’t Ben Franklin say something about this? Or was that Winston Churchill? Genghis Kahn? Where are our witty t-shirts now!?
Back to task – you sorry GABF-attending bastards had better watch your internets. Keep a close eye on Twitter, Facebook, and all of your social media outlets, because us non-attendees will be doing something very important: drinking vicariously. Yeah, we’re gonna watch your millions of tweets and posts and little internet postings dying little deaths inside about how much we wish we could be at your side, joining you in sessions, meetups, and tweetups, and we’re going to do the only thing we can do: drink to keep up.
Oh certainly, we don’t drink the drunk of three-thousand samples, but you can damn well bet that we’re going to break out some special stuff this week.
We’ve got to. It’s self-defense.
It’s either that – take the time to sit back and enjoy the ever-livin’ crap out of a great beer – or writhe in jealousy as report after report of deliciousness pours in through our intertubes. The very least we can do is fight awesomeness with awesomeness.
So, all you GABF’ers, you can take your good sweet time to be jealous, too! We’ll be drinking without you! Really! You just watch.
Just… y’know.. raise a glass for me and I’ll raise a glass for you.
And save me a seat next year?
Mark this down as an awesome idea.
October 3rd is the day of the World Beer Festival in Durham, NC. If you’re local to Durham and you’re not going, you’re silly. It is, for real and true, one of the best beer festivals that I have been to. Great variety, good representation from local breweries, great food, good live music, and the wonderful added bonus of a brilliant location. This year (as with many years before excepting last year) it is in the historic Durham Athletic Park, where the Durham Bulls used to play? Ever seen Bull Durham? Yeah. There. Awesome.
This year, there’s even more awesome. Fullsteam Brewery — heard of them? You may have, even though they’re not actually open yet. Sean and Chris have been making waves in craft beer (not like one of those pools, no) because they’re so damn chalk full of good ideas. If you haven’t heard of them, you will. I guarantee it. (In fact, you just have, haven’t you?)
The under-construction Fullsteam Brewery is right around the corner from the Durham Athletic Park. East about a block. Easy walking distance, and they’re capitalizing on that by holding – on the same day as the World Beer Festival, in between the afternoon and evening sessions – a Backyard Brewfest.
It could be awesome or it could be terrifying. It might be both, considering they don’t have bathrooms built into their space, yet. (Let’s hope someone borrows a port-a-john and brings it by!)
There are still spots available for homebrewers, and many free “tickets” still available for the event itself. RSVP here for either.
Is it a little tight on the timing? Sure is, but I’m brewing this weekend to have something ready in time. No problemo. I’ll see you there with a couple of kegs of homebrew. If you’re in Durham for the World Beer Fest – or even if you’re NOT going to the WBF but you’re still in the area? Come on by and say hi.
The Greensboro Summertime Brews Festival in photos:
Good times. I really appreciate indoor beer festivals, and for a couple of reasons:
First off, climate control is your friend. It’s nice to be able to drink beer and NOT be in the blazing heat. The World Beer Festivals in Durham and Raleigh are some of my favorite festivals ever, but when it’s hot you can get drained pretty damn quick. It’s fairly often that I come home from the WBF with a sunburn.
Second, indoor bathrooms always win over port-a-johns.
Last of all, the most magical thing about indoor beer festivals – no smoking. No offense to smokers, but I’m here to taste the beer. Smoking kills your palate. It also kills mine, so I’m happy to taste with as few cigarettes around as possible.
Quick note for people making beer festival programs: Maps and/or booth numbers are nice. Sometimes you’re sitting around going, “Okay, I can see from this list that My Favorite Brewery is here, but where the hell are they?” and they’re hiding behind some bunting or something – maps and numbers help plan what you’re looking for.
Also? Room for notes. Good heavens – room for notes. I might even suggest putting a notes column down the side of the alphabetical list of breweries so that you can look a brewery up and write a note about the beer right there. It makes it a lot easier for people to appreciate the beer now and later.
For whatever reason, I felt like there was a higher percentage of drink-to-get-drunk people at this festival than normal, but to be honest it’s been a while since I’ve been to a smaller festival. Maybe they were just more noticeable. I always consider it a bad sign when you’ve got someone staggering around with a beer-soaked shirt and you’re only an hour or so into a four-hour session.
That said, I really quite enjoyed this. I was pleased to see that a lot of breweries took the time to roll out a special cask or keg specifically for the festival, it was quite a treat. Of particular note were:
Natty Greene’s Southern Ale, wet-hopped with fresh Cascade hops (grown in Mebane, NC) – I understand that it may be making another appearance later in the fall.
Foothills had hourly rollouts of some of their brews aged in Pappy van Winkle barrels. I missed the first two, but the Sexual Chocolate was excellent.
Olde Hickory also had an English Barleywine aged in a bourbon barrel that was excellent – far smoother than without aging – that had just a ton of wonderful vanilla character.
(Next up, I’d like to see somebody age a beer in a barrel that wasn’t used for bourbon previously.)
All in all, the beer that I took away with me the most was Holy Mackerel’s Mack in Black – I had never tried it before and was really impressed. Also saw two local(ish) breweries that I had never heard of before (Boone Brewing Company from Boone, NC and RJ Rockers from Spartanburg, SC – “Beer is Art” is a nice tagline), and was surprised to NOT see most of the North Carolina breweries, especially those who were just an hour-or-so drive away.
It was the first time I’d gone to this festival, with luck, it won’t be the last.