02 Oct 2009 @ 10:06 AM 

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.
Yep, it's a Beer Festival
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!

Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 02 Oct 2009 @ 10:06 AM



Responses to this post » (4 Total)

  1. ingrate says:

    Great advice. A few additional points:

    Most Festivals will have vendor info up prior to the big show. Some may even have maps. I look through the list of vendors and what they are bringing before hand and make notes of specific beers I would like to try.

    Go to some of these first!
    Given that I like dark heavy and sweet stuff, my palate can get a bit trashed later in the festival. “Please…I just want to –smell– your beer.” Is my typical 3 hours in please. Hit a few of your favorites right away.

    Check the weather!
    Throw a jacket in the car (if you are driving). I have been to a few that have been on the cold / rainy side and I was rocking the shorts and teeshirt. On the flip side:

    Check the weather!
    I have been caught in jeans on a 90+ degree NC festival before.

    Call a Cab. Call a Cab. Call a Cab.
    I am excited that this year the group I am going with are all piling into a cab both ways. Especially with the BBF immediately following our session.

    Locate the Milk Stout.
    This might seem a bit random…but this is a pro tip. If you are going to try some of the crazy hot sauces and spicy items floating around a beer festival…figure out where the New Holland Brewery is located. Dragon’s Milk will –save– your life.
    (Duck Rabbit will do in a pinch)

    Dump it! Dump it! Dump it!
    You are attempting to conserve two finite resources: Your sobriety and your palate. One is going to go. The other is probably going to go. Make them last. Ask for two ounces. Dump the rest.

  2. Sarah says:

    Bring snacks! They’ll let you in with them, and it will help with hunger pangs and alcohol-absorption. Granola bars, cookies, pretzels on a string — all of these things are good.

    If you plan to get merchandise, bring a bag to put it in. This is also handy for storing your glass when you have to use the port-a-john and wnat to leave your stuff with a friend.

    Again, with the dumping beer you don’t like. Do it. You will be happy you did.

  3. nate says:

    Good tips. There is nothing more irritating to me than when someone who didn’t “plan well” uses all of there drink tickets up in a matter of minutes, drinks no water, and then stumbles into me sloshing some beer out of my glass.

    On thing i like to do is claim a space if it is available. I like to find a table, or a few chairs, and lay some stuff on them and claim them as mine where I can go and sit down, relish a beer or eat a bite. This space is especially coveted after a few hours.

  4. erik says:

    I was still amazed at this last one that I went to to find people throwing up an hour and a half into a four hour session.

    It’s a little mind boggling. I mean.. for one thing, it’s just not that much alcohol. It’s beer, not shots. You’ve got to be HUSTLING to down enough beer to give yourself alcohol poisoning in an hour and a half in 2 – 6 oz. increments.

    Those people must have been at a damn sprint.

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