Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ale’s 10 Tips for Fully Enjoying Beer Festivals!

One of my favorite things about beer festivals is just meeting fellow enthusiasts of the world’s greatest beverage, plus actually trying new ales and lagers breweries around the world want us to experience. The next one is today, the 2nd Annual Winter Beer Carnival, here in Atlanta and I have been hella excited about going. (Go here for a recap.) For the second time this week, I was asked about tips on how to really take advantage of attending beer festivals—and how to not play yourself in the process. Short and sweet, here are Ten Tips I could think of on the fly ‘cause I gotta get outta here. There will be more additions to this list as we continue to explore the world of beer, one festival at a time:

1) Don’t go too hard the night before
Usually, beer festivals are during the weekend so it’s difficult to do this, but get a good night’s sleep the night before; don’t club or drink too much. Beer fests are all about getting your sip on so if you go there already half drunk and recuperating from the countless tequila shots only a few hours earlier, you will not get your money’s worth and already be behind the eight ball.

2) Check the weather
If it is going to be hot as hell, dress appropriately. You are already going to sweat out alcohol, so wearing hot gear will increase the chance of dehydration. Don’t be that cat who passes out or has an I.V. running in ya in front of everyone. Unfortunately, there is always one.

3) Eat something
I’m not suggesting a country buffet “with all the fixins” because that would leave little room for the brews and make you mad sluggish. Just a half of a sandwich, some toast—something to energize you, line your stomach a bit and help make sure you won’t get drunk too quick. Also, there is usually a food vendor who provides everything from pretzels to hot dogs. Look out for that too.

4) Put your mind in a happy place
Don’t be fixed on one style of beer, like “I only like wheat beers.” Stop it! Now is your chance to open your mind and add to your “favorites” list. For instance, I am still working on the sour beers. Not there yet but working on it. Speaking of which…

5) VIP, anyone?
I go to the VIP section because they get crazy in there…in a good way. There has to be some justification for the higher ticket price, but there can be one-time brews you will never try again, experimental concoctions, high gravity beers for the pro imbibers and, oh yeah, you usually get in an hour earlier!

6) Pace yourself
The beautiful thing about beer festivals is the chance to try so many! The serious ones boast over 100 types to try (the Mondial De La Biere in Montreal said they will have 500 on deck this June!), so there is a reason (beside legalities), they give you 8-ounce cups. I honestly sip only 4 ounces so that I can try as many as possible. Oh, and even then, you don’t have to drink the whole cup. This is the one-time opportunity to (Lord, help me) pour beer out.

7) Take mental notes
Piggybacking #5, use this time as not a drinking binge, but a chance to learn about the different beers you drink, the breweries who make them and the styles that they are. Breweries don’t come out to show off the beer for a one-day fix. They want you to keep them in mind during your next visit to a package store or pub. Better yet, take a picture or bring a pen to write them down.

8) Drink lots of agua
Ummmm…go to #2 again to feel me! Drink before, during and after so you can hang out later on as well.

9) Bring dinero
It’s always nice to have cash to buy beer schwag that might not be available in your city, get magazine subscriptions to brew publications like (ah-hem!) Beer Connoisseur Magazine, and vittles. Also, it is great for emergencies like cabbing it or public transportation in case your ride bails on you or just can’t roll. Cuss your friend out later; just get your ass to the house safely first.

10) Make friends
It’s official: people attend beer festivals to have a good time. They are happy, smiling, miraculously never fight, and are just happy to get their drinking on with other folks who love beer just like them. It’s a beautiful thing. Meet folks! Enter: “We are the world” song here.

I know there are more tips, but I am about to get ready! Again, this is an ongoing list so feel free to add more in the comment section below!


Your main man, Ale

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