Summer is in full-swing, and it seems like every weekend brings another beer festival or event. Whether you’re a seasoned pro on the festival-circuit or a new devotee to craft beer looking to attend your first event, a little bit of planning will help you get the most out of any beer event
Beer festivals come in many flavors, from the raccous mob-scene of the SD International Beer Festival to the much more laid-back local pay-per-pour events like the Blue Palms Seasonal Festivals, and investing a little time into planning your trip will pay dividends in the amount of enjoyment you’ll get out of them.
Planning isn’t a dirty word
Any time you spend preparing to attend a festival will pay-off in less annoyances and more time spent enjoying the event! There are three main aspects to consider when preparing to attend a beer event:
- Logistics: Location and Transportation
- Equipment: What to wear and bring
- Plan-of-Attack: Know what you want and where to get it
But before we even get to the preparations we want to mention one of our favorite tips for attending a festival (it also applies to any beer-tasting event like brewery dinners or beer releases too). The tip comes from J. Wilson of Brewvana.net in his excellent post Pro tips: Making the most of a beer festival:
In the day or two leading up to the fest I make it a point to lay off hot pizza and coffee for a couple of days. If I burn my tongue on melted cheese or gas station coffee, I’m screwed when they pour that Kolsch a day later.
Those are clearly words-of-wisdom from someone who’s tried to enjoy a tasting with a scorched tongue!
The evening before the event review the website or any other information provided by the organizers and, at the very least, figure out how you are getting there and how you’re getting home. Public transportation is an ideal way to reduce your stress on the day of an event, though it can seem daunting if you are inexperienced with LA’s metro and bus lines. Check out the Metro.net for trip-planners and details on how to take advantage of public transportation. Alternatively, grab an app for your smartphone and plan to take a taxi home. We like to split the difference and take public transportation one way and a cab the other; it is a good compromise of value and efficiency.
Nobody wants to have that moment near the end of the festival when they realize they have keys in their hand and probably should have said “when” three imperial IPA tasters ago. Car pool, metro, taxi, or hoof it: however you get home be smart, and make sure everyone in your group is covered!
A quick thought given to what you’re bringing to a beer festival will go a long way to maximizing your comfort and enjoyment of the event. Bust out your finest comfy-yet-stylish clothes and shoes since you’re going to be on your feet, possibly in the relentless sun, and surrounded by your tribe of craft beer fans.
More important that what you’re wearing is an indispensable item that will be sure to save the day: water. Water is the hangover’s biggest enemy, and by making sure that you’re sipping on non-beer fluids throughout the festival you’ll minimize the post-fest pain. In addition to staying hydrated, having a bottle of water will making rinsing your taster-glass out between pours much easier, and the last thing you want to do is taint a delicate pilsner with the dregs of an inky imperial stout.
Many festival vets swear by a CamelBak set-up to keep lots of water easily accessible, but we prefer a simple Kleen Kanteen or Nalgene bottle since it is much easier to share and refill. Besides the water a small snack or two is a nice thing to have; it is no fun to start enjoying yourself at a festival and realize you’ve got an empty stomach. Food availability is widely variable at events, and lines ar often prohibitively long. An energy bar, small bag of nuts, or the most classic of festival snacks, mini pretzels, can really save the day (a little baggie of Advil doesn’t hurt either).
A pen or two and a pocket notebook is the last of the must-have gear. Even if you don’t plan to take notes on what you sample, though you absolutely should take notes, you may want to write down names of an unforgettable beer, some new friends, or who knows what else. If you are serious about taking notes at a festival we recommend the Rite-in-the-Rain brand notebooks. Built for outdoor activities, the notebooks use a water-resistant paper, and they are great since your notebook will get covered in beer at some-point.
The final thing to consider is some sunscreen. The day-long outdoor events can be brutal if you’re unprotected, and you know what’s worse than a post-festival hangover? A post-festival hangover while sunburned. So pack a pocket-sized bottle of SPF40 sunblock and re-apply every hour or two.
The Plan of Attack
You’ve got your transpo arraigned and you’ve got your equipment set-out and ready. The last preparation to tackle is your actual game-plan for the day. Review the festival literature and decide if there are any must-try breweries. Do you want to prioritize brewers that you haven’t tried before, or do you want to stick to your favorites? You don’t want to list-out every sampler that you want to drink before the festival, but writing down a couple of “high-value targets” is a good idea. If you’re going with friends, talk about what you want to try with them. If you are not averse to sharing tasters with your buddies you can all try more beers.
With your preparations complete, the last order of business is to take-down a substantial breakfast on the day-of the event! This isn’t the day to opt for coffee and a danish; we recommend something hearty with plenty of carbs and ideally some eggs. Eggs contain high levels of a protein, cysteine, which helps your body process alcohol, and by front-loading on cysteine you can give your body the best shot at avoiding the dreaded 6pm, post-festival hangover. (Here is some more info on our favorite magical food)
It may sound like we’re over-thinking what should be a fun and light-hearted afternoon sippin’ on suds with your buddies, but with some forethought, planning, and preparation you can turn an afternoon at a beer festival into a satisfying and enriching experience. Take your time out there, it shouldn’t be a race. Enjoy the beers and the company and the warm LA sun!
Beer festival veteran? What are your favorite ways to prepare for a beer festival?