Beer festival season is in full swing, especially with Boston’s American Craft Beer Festival taking place today and this weekend. With that in mind, I thought I would share some of the tips I’ve learned over the past four years of beer fests. By no means do I consider myself a veteran fest goer, but there are some valuable things I’ve learned since my first way back in 2010. Here are my 10 tips for a successful beer festival.
10. Grab all the beer swag you can
Nothing screams beer nerd louder than endless piles of stickers, coasters, magnets, and other various beer paraphernalia. Nearly every brewery will have stacks of giveaways that are up for grabs on a first come, first serve basis. You will most often acquire stickers, which make for a great beer fridge collage. I’ve learned that a girlfriend’s purse can be your best friend for storing these goodies.
9. Don’t just order beer
Not all fests feature brewery personnel, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a conversation with those that are pouring. I’ve learned to really appreciate some oft-forgotten breweries because of insight I’ve learned from quick conversations at the tasting table. The best, of course, is when you meet a brewer, or even better, your beer idol. That happened for me this past spring when I had the chance to meet the man who got me into craft beer, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head.
8. Befriend a full stomach
I strongly encourage eating a big meal before tasting beer. It not only helps prevent getting too intoxicated, but it also keeps you full, thereby making you really think twice about which beers you want to try, drink, or dump. Carbs are the winner here, I prefer pizza.
7. Don’t be afraid to dump
Good beers are worth drinking, but not-so-good ones deserve the dump bucket. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other beers to try. You won’t offend anyone by dumping your glass. But remember, just because you didn’t enjoy it, doesn’t make it a bad beer. Someone else is dumping what you’re sipping.
6. Split samples
You can double the number of beers you try just by going with your significant other of family member and splitting samples. It beats having to choose between two rare beers or waiting in line twice at the same brewery.
5. Munchies are good
When your big meal starts to wear off, or if you just didn’t have time to each beforehand, you should turn to munchies to help fight the booze. Many beer fests have food for sample or purchase. Chips, popcorn, pretzels are all classic go-to’s to battle the buzz, and sometimes you will even see hot dogs, beef jerky, or pulled pork!
4. Hydrate (with water)
Drinking water is not just a good idea, it’s a great one. Hydration is important and all beer festivals have water available to rinse your cup, cleanse your palate, and most importantly, hydrate.
3. Pace yourself
Don’t follow in my footsteps a few years ago and follow the mantra “If you aren’t in line, you’re wasting time.” That will only leave you with big hangover in the morning and little recollection of which beers you actually got a chance to try. You want to enjoy yourself, but remember it’s not a drinking contest, it’s a beer festival. No one likes a belligerent drinker.
2. Do your homework
Put in the time beforehand to research which breweries or beers you really want to try. You can always find a list online to search out those white whales. The best part about doing your homework is that you can treat a beer fest as a “free trial”. Why not taste-test that $15 bottle of wild ale before committing to buying it? It has saved me from buying some overhyped and overpriced beers.
1. Drink responsibly
I didn’t want to be cliché, but responsible drinking is far and away the most important tip I can share. Plan to have a designated driver or take public transportation home. Even if you eat well and try to plan ahead, things can happen and you can end up a little more drunk than you anticipated or realize.
Hope these tips serve you well for your next beer festival. Cheers!