Summer beer festival season is upon us. From the World Beer Festival to the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), the Great British Beer Festival to any number of CAMRA events, there is a festival to be had almost every weekend somewhere in the world. Beer festivals are quite a bit of fun, but that fun can be spoiled if you find that you have drank a bit too much. From past experience, this is easy to do. In order to get the most out of attending a festival, while being responsible and not being annoying the following are some steps that you might keep in mind while attending.
1. Make sure that you eat just prior to entering the festival (but give yourself time to get the flavor of the food out of your mouth or you will be tasting food flavored beer), and continue to seek out food for the duration of the festival. Most festival have pre-arranged agreements with (on-site) food vendors that allow for at least one or two low cost food items to be available for purchase from each vendor. Typical beer festival fare of turkey legs, pizza, nachos and different sandwiches will give your stomach a much needed buffer between beer and alcohol absorption. Take time to enjoy your food. This will also help to cleanse your palette between flights of beer.
2. Try to come close to drinking equal parts water and beer. If you have four two ounce servings of beer, try and drink that same amount of water before moving on to another flight of beer. Most festivals provide either bottled water or some other way of obtaining water specifically for this purpose. You will undoubtedly use the restrooms more frequently, but in the end this will keep you from becoming dehydrated and could help reduce the chance of a hangover later on.
3. Have a list of beers and a plan. Almost all beer festivals that this author has attended provide lists of both breweries and the beers that they plan to bring along to vend at the festival. Get that list and start planning what flights you might want to try. Some festival also provide a site layout which makes finding your favorites that much easier. Try some of the following (as long as the requisite brewers are in attendance):
- A Belgian flight
- A pale ale flight
- A hop flight
- A German flight
- A wheat flight
Just remember to balance your taste buds. Don't start a tasting session with a beer with an IBU (international bitterness units) of 90 and expect to be able to taste anything but hops from then on. Start lower and work your way up. Your taste buds will thank you.
4. Make sure you actually taste the beers. Too often attendees at festivals look at those festivals as a four hour kegger. To enjoy the festival and create a lasting impression in your mind and a memory of the beers you drank (that you should be able to find after the festival) take your time to actually taste the beer. Tasting Hints.
- Aroma - Since half of taste is actually our olfactory perception, take time to smell the beer. Make a mental note of what you can smell.
- Appearance - Although most festivals pour in two ounce portions, you should be able get a good idea of the look of the beer. The head retention, color, cloudiness, etc.
- Taste - When tasting, this author finds it best to drink only half of the sample initially. Making a note of the different properties of the beer (bitter/sweet/tart, etc)
- Mouthfeel - What did the beer feel like. Thick, chewy, silky, fizzy. This will have an affect upon your perception and enjoyment of the beer.
- Second Look (Overall) - Finish the beer sample. Did you note any changes from the first taste to now? Did the beer breathe differently or did you experience a flavor that was not present during the first swallow? Many beers (especially ales) are very complex and can't be fully appreciated with a single taste.
5. Keep a record of your favorite beer rather than trying to quaff down more of them. Most festivals have too many beers to possibly learn in the short period of the festival. If you find a beer that you really like, write it down and stick the information in your pocket. Plan to buy it later to enjoy it in the comfort of your home.
6. Most importantly. Have yourself a designated driver or some plan to avoid having to drive after the festival. Pay a neighbors kid, go as a group with one person designated to drive, take a taxi or bus or Uber or Lyft. Revere Beer, but do so responsibly.
Bring along a small bag or wear pants or shorts with ample pockets. Festivals are notorious for giving out swag and if its a beer or brewer you like, then it would be nice to have something to remember the beer by.
Bring a pen to take notes or write down addresses or websites.
And finally, have fun, make some new friends, find a new favorite beer and hope that those pictures don't make it to Facebook. Cheers.