10 Tips on How to Survive a Craft Beer Festival Like a Pro
With the craft beer boom alive and well in the United States, chances are you’ve heard about (and likely attended) a craft beer festival where unlimited beer samples flow more than Fabio’s hair in the wind! Consider this post some light beer festival reading for survival tips for your first craft beer festival, or next, brewfest.
10 Tips on How to Survive a Craft Beer Festival Like a Pro
1 – Do NOT pregame!
For the love of God, don’t think you need to pregame for a beer festival! With most festivals lasting at least 3 hours in length or more (we’ve done a 5-hour festival recently), that is plenty of time to get your craft beer buzz on without needing a head start! We promise you, those two beers for breakfast are unnecessary on Beer Festival Day.
2 – Remember to eat
This seems silly to even say seeing that we’ve all had the drunk munchies before, but you need to be sure to eat something before, and during, the beer festival. We all know the effects of drinking on an empty stomach more than we’d care to admit, so don’t be that guy or gal who “forgets” to eat and ends up face first on the ground!
Our go-to game plan is usually to eat something like an egg and cheese sandwich (Chris likes to upgrade to a bagel sandwich to sop up even more suds) in the morning to fill us up and keep us charged for the day. Whatever you pick, have a protein and carbs as a base.
Most craft beer festivals these days bring in some of the top local food trucks too, so you can reload on some mac n’ cheese or pizza during the festival. Just don’t stuff yourself too much because there is more brewfest to go!
3 – PRETZEL NECKLACES!
Our first beer festival in 2014!
If this is your first rodeo, you need to do this. If this is your 18th craft beer fest, you need to do this:
BYOPN – Bring Your Own Pretzel Necklace
It might sound funny and they might look even funnier, but goodness gracious great balls of fire have these things saved us over the many festivals we’ve attended! Chris’s secret is to munch on one pretzel after every beer he tastes, plus any more as he gets the urge. This way, he is always nibbling and sopping up alcohol.
Most beer festivals don’t allow outside food into the festival, but we haven’t been to one yet that hasn’t allowed these salty treats in the doors! Grab some string and a bag of pretzels and make yourself a cheap and delicious snack! You can also upgrade and add things like Cheez-its and string cheese or you can even go all out like this guy.
Be warned, you will likely make friends (those who didn’t BYOPN) who may just come up to you and eat a pretzel right off of your necklace. It can make for some funny pictures…unless you’re uncomfortable with strangers putting their mouths that close to your chest, in which case the pictures are likely to be even better! You’ll have enough liquid courage that it shouldn’t/won’t bother you anyways.
4 – Stay hydrated – it’s a craft beer festival
Just like we’ve all been told for as long as we’ve been drinking alcohol, staying hydrated is one of the best ways to ensure you will make it through the day/night and won’t feel like you’re wearing a really tight hat the next morning (thanks to Chris’s sister for this on-point description of a hangover). And by hydrated, we mean hydrated with water. Yes, beer is made largely of water, you smartass, but it won’t do you any good for making it through a drinking festival! Make sure you continue to drink water (or maybe even a sports drink of some kind) afterward too so tomorrow morning won’t be hell!
We aren’t going to say you need to have a 1:1 ratio of water to beer because that probably isn’t feasible. Just be smart and drink water throughout the day whenever you can.
5 – Don’t break the seal too early
We know we just said to stay well-hydrated, but unless you want to be spending most of the day looking for the shortest porta-potty line, be careful of when you actually make your first pit-stop at the bathroom. Obviously, don’t hold it so long that you pee yourself because that would just be embarrassing!
6 – Have a plan of attack
Many festivals post a list of the breweries who will be in attendance and some even post a map beforehand too. Use this to your advantage to try and scope out your route for the day….or at least where you want to start! Mark the places you definitely want to get to versus the ones that you’d be okay skipping. We usually skip the ones you can get to easily or find in a store anywhere.
7 – Have a meeting spot and know how you’re getting home
With so many people crammed in a small location, phone service could be spotty, so do yourself a favor and pick out a designated meeting spot for any lost members of your group while you’re still sober.
Before you even get to the craft beer festival to start drinking, have transportation plans for afterward. Drunk-arguing with your friends and loved ones about how you’ll get home is not fun and all of us are laughing at you (mostly because it reminds us that other people are like us, too).
Many festivals even partner with Uber/Lyft to give you discounted rides to/from the festival, so be sure to check for that before leaving.
This should go without saying, but unless you are with a designated driver, don’t even think that you might be able to drive home. You literally just drank as much as you could over 3-4 hours. Be smart.
8 – Be adventurous….and courteous
This is your chance to see all that the craft beer world has to offer! Step outside of your comfort zone of the styles that you normally drink. Be adventurous and try new things. Don’t just drink the highest ABV beer though as you will definitely miss out on some great beers…..and you’ll also definitely end up as the drunkest person at the brewfest.
Seek out the beers and breweries that you can’t find easily, or at all, in your hometown. This might be your only chance to taste some of their beer!
And remember that these brewers literally spend their lives creating these beers for us all, so if you don’t enjoy one, get out of earshot of them before sharing your feelings about it. What might not be your cup of tea, might be someone else’s favorite!
9 – Don’t be afraid to pour something out or ask for a smaller pour
If you’re like us, you’re aiming for quantity (number of unique craft beers, not ounces of beer) at these festivals so you can try as many new beers as possible. However, that might mean you have to reduce the amount you drink of each beer sample. Most of the cups/glasses you get at these festivals will have a 2-ounce pour line on them. Let’s face it though, we can’t remember a time that a beer festival has actually followed that pour line. The pour line is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules, Captain Barbossa.
If you have a heavy-handed beer-pourer, be sure to ask for a smaller pour so you’ll be able to taste more beers. Or, if you’re afraid asking for less makes you look like a wuss (it doesn’t FWIW), just get your taste of the beer and either find someone else who really wants that beer or pour it out….out of the brewer’s sight, of course!
10 – Cut the beer, and the brewers, some slack
If you didn’t know it, beer is literally made by science doing its thing (this isn’t the time we will say we should have paid more attention in 10th-grade Chemistry class). That being said, remember that the conditions are probably not the greatest for these beers to be tasted.
Temperature can have a huge impact on how a beer tastes, and when the beer is sitting in a keg in a bucket all day, that’s likely not how the brewer intended the beer to be served. Also, if you believe in glassware giving the beer a different taste, your small tasting glass probably isn’t ideal. Keep that in mind when passing judgment on these beers!
Just do it
Now that you’re a beer-festival expert and know how to handle yourself (and hopefully your alcohol, too), you can go ahead and buy tickets to every single one that comes across your email!
The biggest beer festival in the United States takes place in October at the Great American Beer Festival.
One of our local favorites takes place in August called the DC Red, White and Brew.
Have any other ideas and tips that we should know and try at our next beer festival? We’d love to hear them below in the comments!
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About Boozing Abroad
We are Samantha & Chris and we are Boozing Abroad (literally). Together, we've traveled to over 40 states and 20 countries drinking local beers, wines and spirits along the way.
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Samantha and Chris fell in love with traveling together back in 2015. They met, married, and lived together in Richmond, VA for 7 years before becoming full-time travelers in 2020.
Along the way, they’ve traveled to over 40 U.S. states and 20 countries while drinking local beers, wines, and spirits during their journeys.
Join them as they share travel resources, stories, and guides based on their personal experiences drinking locally when traveling globally.