Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).
We’re entering the season of the beer festival: great gatherings of breweries and beer fans celebrating the vast diversity of today’s craft beer scene. Unfortunately, too many attendees go the full St. Patrick’s Day at these festivals and turn them into amateur hour. This does nothing to bring people into the craft beer community, and only makes it harder for more events to be established later. Today we’re going to lay down some simple rules for attending a beerfest. Follow these simple bits of advice, and you’ll have a great time while keeping yourself out of trouble.
Hydrate: I cannot stress this enough. The bigger beer events are often held outdoors on fairgrounds or parks, and you don’t need me to tell you how the summers get in this area. Combine heat with sun exposure and alcohol, and you can find yourself in a bad way awful quick. As a rule I recommend a ‘golden ratio’ of 1:1 for beer and water when going out in general. At a beerfest, go even higher with the water. What? You don’t want to wait in line for the restroom every half hour? Too bad. If you follow no other rule in this column, please effort to follow this one.
Focus: It may seem like you have all day when you get to a festival, but even if you do you’re not going to be able to get around to everything. That’s not the point, either — the point is to seek out and try new and interesting beers. Take a good, solid lap around the fest and get your bearings. If a list is provided note some things you know you want to try and take your time getting around to them. It’s not a race and it’s not a contest.
Respect the staff: The same rule applies here as it does with waiters and bartenders — it’s your party, but it’s their job. As friendly as a brewery or distributor rep might be, they aren’t there to throw down. Chat and joke all you want — that’s fine, we’re all there to have a good time. Just keep in mind that 1. They have other festival attendees to take care of and 2. They can’t hook you up, bro. In fact, it’s illegal for them to do so in 99.99999% of cases. That leads us into…
Don’t be ‘that guy’: If you’re walking through a festival and there’s a circle eight feet or greater around where no one is walking, you’re being that guy. If you’re not having a conversation yet yelling about something, you’re being that guy. The guy over there in the brewery/sports team/college/band t-shirt that you don’t like? He doesn’t care that you don’t approve, so let it slide. If you try a beer you don’t like, it usually means nothing more than that it’s not to your taste. It doesn’t automatically mean the beer “sucks,” and no, telling the guy/gal who poured it for you that it “sucks” is not appropriate. It can be inevitable with such a confluence of great beers that you might catch a bit of a buzz — but wait…
Hey! Food! There is always an abundance of food at beer festivals, and even the worst of it is usually pretty good. Take advantage. BBQ is classic, and if there’s cornbread all the better. A good hot dog at proper intervals can give you the right protein/carb intake to keep you in line during a long day of sampling. If you’re on a diet, you probably shouldn’t be at a beer fest in the first place. If you’re on a diet like I am, call it a cheat day and go nuts. The priority is keeping your wits about you. As always, even if you’re having a beer with your food, down some extra water.
Have a ride ready: Bring a group and make sure someone is the designated driver. Split a cab or hired car for the day — heck, rent a bus and make it a real party. Have phone numbers programmed into your phone for a cab or car as needed, just in case. If you’ve seen any of those nature specials where big fish just plow right through giant schools of little fish picking them off here and there, you have an idea of how beer festival crowds are watched by law enforcement as they leave. Beyond that, you’re looking out for your friends and everyone else around you.