Top tips on surviving craft beer festivals
It feels like it is always beer festival season here in San Diego, but having just returned from GABF, The Great American Beer Festival, I was inspired to write a blog post on surviving and making the best of beer festivals. As someone who has spent far too much time drinking tiny glasses of beer, or pouring it for you, I’m going to share some crucial tips I’ve learned (some the hard way) over the years.
Have any tips to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Here’s your essential beer-fest survival guide:
Pace yourself & have a plan
Make sure to pace yourself, most beer festivals will offer 2 oz. pours but those add up quickly especially when you already have your eye on the next beer while your current one is being poured into your glass. For longer lines I do like having a “line beer” though, makes it go by faster.
Don’t start the festival with the 16% abv barrel-aged stout either, it will wreck your palette and you end up with embarrassing stories on Instagram… or was that just me at Horus Hootenanny?
Take a look at which breweries are attending and make a note of the beers you want to try. You don’t have to have a precise plan but having an idea of any interesting or special beers you must try will help you navigate through the sea of beer. Don’t take this as a challenge but there’s no way you’re going to be able to have all the beers at a beer festival.
Get there early & set a reminder for special releases
There are certain breweries that are so popular that their beers are gone long before the end of the festival. Some breweries will take special and rare beers and only serve them at certain times at specific festivals. If you don’t want to miss out, get there early and set a reminder on your phone for those special releases.
Don’t let brewers see you dumping their beer
You’re not going to love every beer you’re served and you don’t have to drink it but don’t be the asshole who dumps the beer right in front of the brewer. Take it to the next booth and dump it there, this is why there are dump buckets. The person at the booth will also be more than happy to rinse your glass for you, especially if you’re going from a dark stout to a lighter beer.
You want to dress comfortably. I would avoid complicated rompers with zippers because you’ll be consuming a lot of liquids and having to unzip yourself sucks, take it from me, I’ve made that mistake. You also want to avoid white or light-colored clothes because you will get spilled on. The same thing with shoes, wear comfortable ones you can walk around in all day but also a pair you don’t mind having stout stains on.
Don’t try to “pick up” or hit on the person serving you beer.
It’s our job to be nice to you. Sorry. Also, you’re holding up the line.
Bring a reusable water bottle and stay hydrated
It seems simple enough but when beer is more available to you and you’re on a mission to taste all the ones on your list water becomes an afterthought. You’re an adult, I don’t have to explain why drinking water is important right?
Don’t forget to eat
As someone who loves food, I can’t believe I have to say this but have a proper meal before attending a beer festival. At GABF this year between running around, drinking and working I barely had enough time to sit down and eat a meal. I pretty much ran on Redbull, stouts, and jerky. Also, bring snacks with you, my favorites are jerky and protein bars. Avoid pretzel necklaces, they get stale and gross.
Don’t take all the free brewery swag.
You don’t need to scoop up all the koozies, stickers, coasters, and pins you can grab. Just grab swag from your favorite breweries if you don’t have any already, or go for the pieces that really catch your eye.
Have a safe ride home
I shouldn’t have to write this but don’t drink and drive. Have a designated driver or take an Uber, Lyft, Taxi, or public transportation. Also, keep in mind some festivals offer discount codes for attendees to use on ride-sharing apps, for example, Lyft offers 20% off two rides to or from any San Diego Beer Week event, including SD Guild Fest.
Things to have in your survival kit
- Tums, or other branded antacids, especially if you are a sour beer lover or going to a festival that focuses on sours like Modern Times’ Festival of Funk.
- Reusable water bottles, I suggest flask to go. It’s really important to keep yourself hydrated and these foldable bottles are great.
- Tissues. Some festivals have bathrooms where the toilet paper may get replenished while others don’t and you have to use a portable one. Keep that in mind, you might also want to pack some hand sanitizer too.
- Sunscreen, especially important for outdoor festivals. Take care of your skin!
- Hangover remedies; powder electrolyte drink mix, and ibuprofen.
I hope you found these tips useful. Let me know in the comments if I missed anything.