How-To

How to Thrive and Survive at a Beer Festival

heading to a beer festival? Here are some helpful tricks you can use to help you survive the event and enjoy your time. And not end up sick and in bed or worse yet, the hospital.

Whether you’re going to Oktoberfest or just a local beer event, a little planning can keep you enjoying the event and trying the best beers there are to offer. Here’s a look at the best way you can survive and enjoy it all.

Ignore This if Your Goal is to Get Drunk

If your goal is to get wasted quickly, then skip this advice. Drinking lots of beer speedily and without food will get you drunk. Your goal isn’t to try hard-to-find beers or the nuances of flavor. Just skip a beer festival. Get a case of beer and drink at home. You’ll save people the step of carrying you off or ending up in the hospital.

Photo by Florian Köppen from Pexels

Pick the Event Wisely

Not all beer festivals are the same. The bigger the event, the bigger the lines both for beer and restrooms. Consider smaller local events, especially out of town. You’ll try beers you can’t find locally, and you’ll have time to talk with the brewers.

Research the Breweries

Once you pick an event, take the time to research each brewery and the beers they offer. Use apps like Untappd to map out your favorites, and spend time perusing the web page for the festival I also like to see if a beer is available locally, especially if it can be had on draft. Again, Untappd will tell you that. At the festival, if you try a beer you can get locally you’re wasting your potential and sobriety. Focus on the stuff you can’t normally get where you live.

Map Your Strategy

Sometimes the web site or app for the festival will have a map of the breweries and their locations within the festival grounds. Write down the beers you want to try at each place. If there’s a beer you really want to try, email the brewery. Craft brewers are social and accommodating, and a quick email more than once landed me a choice beer.

Come In Well Feed and Well Rested

Two things will intensify the effects of alcohol: lack of sleep and lack of food. Get a good night’s sleep the night before, and have a meal beforehand. Don’t eat anything spicy or something that might “repeat” on you. A bland meal won’t interfere with your beer enjoyment. Also, from personal experience, don’t overeat. If you drink too much and vomit, you’ll regret that big meal.

Yes, Pretzel Necklaces are a Thing

They aren’t just for fashion; they serve a few essential functions. First, they cleanse your palate. If you have a fruity sour and then a bourbon barrel stout, those flavors won’t mix well. The bread and salt in pretzels clear that out in your mouth. They also serve as sustenance. You’re less likely to feel the effects of beer all that quickly when you’ve got stuff in your stomach. The higher the ABV or IBUs, the more pretzels you’ll need. Of course, people will ask for some pretzels off your neck, and you’ll be popular. My secret for making these necklaces use a bamboo skewer and tie plain dental floss to the end. Stack the pretzels onto the skewer threaded with floss. The floss does serve as a bonus for cleaning stuff stuck in your teeth.

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Bring a Sling and A Bag

When you’re at the event, lots of breweries will be giving away stickers, coasters, and koozies. They’ll also be selling t-shirts and baseball caps. As your head gets a bit fuzzy, you’re more likely to leave that valuable stuff somewhere. Bring a bag to carry it in. I take one of those bags that fold upon themselves to fit in the palm of your hand. It even has a carabiner to attach to a belt loop.

To hold the sample glass, look online for a sling. You’re less likely to drop the glass if you have a holder for it. It also keeps your hands free to carry your bag. That sling comes in handy when you go to the restroom for sure.

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Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

Take a Picture, it Will Last Longer

Even if you mapped out your beer journey, all festivals have late entries. A brewery you weren’t expecting or a beer you never heard of. So you’ll remember that great beer, take a picture of the booth and the menu. You’ll then be able to add it later to Untapped and rate it. I use Evernote for that and take some notes on the beer.

Keep Your Water and Beer Intake in Check

Just like you should eat a pretzel after every beer, you should also drink some water. That further cleanses your palate and dilutes the alcohol in your body. Of course, you’ll need to go to the restroom more, so that’s just a fact of life.

Don’t Drink Stuff Out of Cans or Bottles

Since you’re already mapped stuff out earlier, if a beer is easily found at retail, then you don’t need to go to a festival to try it. Just head over to the local liquor store and call it good. Your goal is to try stuff that you can’t try somewhere else. Even if they have your favorite beer on tap, avoid it. Get your favorite at your local bar or store, not at the festival. The exception to this rule would be a rare release that might be impossible to find at the local liquor store.

Don’t Drink the Whole Glass

Here it’s okay to waste a little beer. If you don’t like it, pour it out. Usually, there are slop buckets and water jugs for cleaning out your glass. Pour the beer you don’t like into the bucket and wash it out. I avoid doing it in front of the brewer, though. I don’t want to offend them if I don’t like it. After speaking with brewers, though, many don’t mind. They know that not everyone likes every beer. I’m still a bit shy about doing that, though.

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If you aren’t sure about a beer or want to slow down, ask for a half a pour. They’re always willing to pour less beer, so it lasts longer.

Or Buddy Up

I’ll often go with my spouse to drinking events or just a buddy. We’ll either try two different beers at the same brewery or wait in separate lines. We’ll share the samples. I might be getting only half the beer, but we both get to try twice as much.

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Photo by Lukas Eggers on Unsplash

Get to Know Your Brewer

When possible, don’t just walk up and say, “beer me.” Get to know your brewer and ask them questions. They enjoy their craft and love sharing. The best question to ask is how they came up with the name for a beer. There’s always a story. If you’re starting to feel the effects of the beer, chatting is an excellent way to slow down and catch up with your body.

Ask What’s Under the Table

Brewers often figuratively and literally have reserve beers. They’ll bring unique beers that people have to request. They aren’t on the menu. If you did some advance work, you possibly already requested that particular beer. Brewers appreciate educated consumers, so if you don’t see a beer, ask. When in doubt, ask if there is anything “under the table” to try. Sometimes they’ll look at you funny, but sometimes they’ll give you a surprise. If you enjoy a brewery, it’s worth asking.

Getting Tipsy? Wait in Line

There will always be a few booths with long lines. I save those long lines for when I need to sober up a bit more. My stomach is getting queasy, and my head is spinning a bit. I know that I won’t fully appreciate a beer unless I take a break. That line is a built-in break.

Using Yeast or Charcoal to Stay In the Game

Jim Koch of Sam Adams takes a tablespoon of baker’s yeast along with some yogurt before beer tasting.  That may work for him, but for the average person, it doesn’t work. The science doesn’t back him up either. More likely, it’s just his tolerance is higher.

Activated charcoal is a different story. It’s a common remedy offered to get poison quickly out of the body. Taking it after you drink doesn’t do much. Taking it before you start drinking is a different story. If the charcoal is in your stomach before you drink, some of the alcohol binds with it. Studies are mixed as to the impact of it. I’ve done it and noticed a moderate difference. I tend to know my limits and lasted much longer taking a tablespoon of charcoal before an event.

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Don’t Worry, You Missed a Beer

No matter how hard I try, there’s always one beer I missed out on. I got too caught up in the event, and my brain was foggy. There’s never enough time to drink all the beer. That’s okay because there’s never enough time to go to all the festivals. Enjoy your adventures!


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