It has been far too long since we’ve been able to gather together and enjoy a good beer festival. With the pandemic, the festival circuit was completely shuttered for the foreseeable future. But there is some small light at the end of the tunnel. Things are slowly starting to reopen, and festivals are starting to plan for the days that they can once again welcome festival goer’s back; while that may still mean 2022, there are a few festivals (particularly in the US) that are planning a 2021 reappearance.
While many of us may be seasoned professionals when it comes to the beer circuit, there are of course many of you who are new to the scene. For a first timer a beer festival can be both exciting and overwhelming at the same time; but fear not, we’ve got you covered with some tips to maximizing your first festival experience!
Dress for comfort
Beer festivals can be an all day activity, with plenty of standing and walking around. The last thing you want is to burn out because you didn’t have comfortable footwear on. In addition to planning the right shoes, take a second to find out whether the festival is indoor or outdoor and what the weather might be. While many outdoor festivals plan around months with good weather, there have been far too many times where we’ve been caught in the rain and just had to tough it out for the love of the beer. Be prepared to tackle all environmental challenges.
Now you could go completely blind into a beer festival and just browse around with the selection available. This works for the smaller festivals, but once you hit a festival like the Great American Beer Festival where there is something like 5000+ beers available, that’s simply not going to work.
Take some time in advance to browse through the festival website and get a sense of which brewers are there that most interest you. This will give you an idea of where you might want to concentrate your efforts, and get the most out of your festival experience.
Know the rules
Not all beer festivals are created equal. Know in advance if you’re entering into a festival that is all-inclusive or a token event, meaning you’re either getting samples for simply the price of your entry fee or you need to bring cash to purchase drink tokens or tickets.
Sometimes there are also festivals that have specific time limits for ticket holders, these area usually all-inclusive and allow ticket holders in on different sessions throughout the day to drink to their hearts content.
Knowing the rules is going to be particularly important this year and next, as many festivals will have implemented new safety plans around crowds, lines, sanitation, etc. Best to know what changes have been made ahead of time, and how it’s going to impact the overall experience.
Create a battle plan
There is a lot going on throughout festival days; you’ll be drinking, eating, chatting, going to the washroom, watching live music, entertainers, playing games, attending special sessions, etc. While all that can sounds awesome, remember that every other festival goer will be doing exactly the same thing, so if you don’t have a plan you’ll typically end up spending 45 minutes waiting for the washrooms or longer waiting for food. Expect those wait times to double with Covid safety plans in place.
Think strategically and attack the festival with a battle plan. Can you eat earlier than the usual times? Head to the food trucks early and skip the lines. Know where the furthest washrooms are, they will be the least busy. Know the times you want to see certain bands, etc. Planning will go a long way here.
Hit your favourite breweries first
This might be the single most important piece of advice. If you’ve done your research then you already have a list of breweries and beer you want to taste. Prioritize them first, and go as soon as possible. Not only will you be able to enjoy the beer before you’ve gotten tipsy and can’t even taste them, but chances are those beers are going to sell out faster than others, so don’t miss your chance of trying them at all!
Pro-tip: if you are attending with a friend and there’s a line for a beer you really want to try, trade places in line during the wait to go and fill up with something else. Don’t wait in line and waste all that time with an empty glass.
Plan for a safe ride home
Seriously, you’ll be drinking all day, be safe.