Surviving Your First Brew Fest – Tips and Strategies to Maximize Enjoyment

Brew fests are amazing ways to get to know the world of craft brewing. They come in all shapes and sizes, from small local events to regional and even national events. You’ll find every style of beer imaginable here, as well as some that you might not have imagined (that’s a good thing). However, if you’ve never attended a brew fest before (or even if you have), there are some important things you need to know to ensure that you enjoy it fully, both the day of the festival and the next day.

Your ID and Tickets

No matter how old you look, you’re going to be “carded” to get into the brew fest. Make sure you have your ID on hand (most festivals will require your ID to provide you with a hand stamp, so you don’t have to flash your driver’s license at every booth). You should also make sure you have your tickets (most festivals offer tickets for sale well ahead of time). Don’t plan on buying tickets at the gate, as they often sell out quickly. Buy now.

Choose Local

If this will be your first brew fest, you should consider attending a local event. While there’s nothing wrong with heading to a regional or national event, particularly if there’s nothing available at the moment in the area around you, attending a local brew fest will give you a good idea of what craft breweries are up and running in your immediate area, and what’ types of brews they’re putting out. One of the most unique things about the craft beer movement is the ability to support small, local businesses, so check out what’s coming up around you.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Whether you intend to spend all day at the brew fest or you’re just going in for a couple of hours to see what’s what, make sure you get a full night’s sleep beforehand. Being properly rested will help you focus on comparing the different samples available, and will also ensure that you have the energy to go all day if you so desire.

Footwear Matters

You might not think it, but your choice of footwear matters a great deal when it comes to attending a brew fest. You can count on there being a lot of walking and standing involved, so make sure that you’re wearing shoes that will be comfortable all day. A good pair of walking or running shoes is probably the best bet.

Eat and Eat Again

Brew fest vendors offer small samples of their wares to attendees. You can count on getting a couple of ounces from each brewery represented at the festival. That’s not much at one time, but over the course of several hours and a hundred or more samples, it adds up to a lot. Make sure you eat before you hit the festival, and make sure you’re able to eat during the festivities as well. Most festivals will have some type of food on hand for attendees, but if yours won’t, make sure you bring some food with you. 

Alternate with Water

Water is likely the last thing that will be on your mind, but pay attention to your hydration levels. While this is certainly important for outdoor festivals held during the warmer months of the year, it’s also vital for any beer fest attendee. Alternate between beer and water – it will help keep you hydrated and minimize the effects of alcohol. Your body will thank you the next day.

Find Out What Breweries Will Be There

The organizers of the brew fest should put out a list of breweries that will be on hand. Do yourself a favor and check out the list. Find out what breweries you recognize and make plans to visit those you prefer first (some vendors can run out of samples quickly). The list of vendors should also include a list of the beers they’ll have available for sample. This can be important information in determining what vendors you’ll hit first, and which you decide to skip.

Get a Map

Whether it’s a rough outline of the various areas where beer will be served or a detailed map containing vendor names and more, you need a map. There’s help here – the organizers of the event should provide you with at least a basic map to help you navigate the festival. You’ll also find additional signage throughout the festival to help you get where you’re going. Pay attention and use these tools to your advantage.

Be Open Minded

Brew festivals are exciting venues that allow exploration, investigation and experimentation. You’ll find cask ales (real ales), stout, amber lager, black lager, IPAs, hefeweizens and tons of other options. Be opened minded about sampling things you might not ordinarily try. You don’t have to go overboard, but at least try a few options outside your norm. You might be surprised at just how tasty they are.

Don’t Be Afraid to Pass a Brewer Up

Speaking of skipping, don’t be afraid to pass over a brewery if they’re offering something that you’re not really interested in. While experimentation should certainly be the name of the game, you need to watch just how many samples you’re downing over the course of the day. If the sample doesn’t interest you, skip it.

Bring a DD

Never attend a brew fest without a designated driver. Never drive yourself after one of these events. If you don’t have someone to act as a DD, make sure you can call a cab when you’re ready to leave, or have the means to call a friend (maybe get them to drop you off and pick you up). It can be very easy to have a bit too much to drink at these festivals, and you should never take chances when leaving. 

Attending a brew fest is an incredible experience. Follow the tips listed above and you’ll have more fun and stay safe at the same time.