Beer Festival Dos and Don’ts

There’s an etiquette for everything. Any veteran of local, regional, and national beer festivals has a mental list of dos and don’ts to maximize enjoyment and learning at beer festivals.

The dos of beer festivals

The dos of attending a beer festival include the following:

  • Bring a designated nondrinking driver or scout out public transportation.

  • Get there early to avoid a huge crowd. Crowds can hinder any conversation you may try to have with a brewer. And parking is usually less of a problem for early birds. You may also want to leave earlier if traffic and congestion are issues.

  • Take, use, and keep your festival program. The large and well-established festivals hand out detailed programs loaded with fun and educational information that may be useful for months beyond the festival date. Plus, you need to keep on top of the schedule for demonstrations and classes if they’re offered.

  • Wear comfortable shoes; expect to walk and stand around a lot — and possibly get your toes stepped on. Beer festivals aren’t known for lounge-chair seating accommodations.

  • Dress appropriately. Protect yourself from the elements if the festival is outdoors.

  • Bring along a small backpack or large fanny pack, if they’re allowed. Most large indoor festivals no longer allow backpacks.

  • Bring a portable container of drinking water. Too often, the glass-rinsing stations are out of water, and drinking fountains are either hard to find or draw long lines. Heat, humidity, and beer drinking aren’t the best partners. Dehydration is a problem worth avoiding. You also want to rinse your palate, don’t you?

  • Bring bread, pretzels, crackers, or some kind of munchies (avoid greasy or spicy items if you’re taking your tasting seriously).

  • Bring a pen or pencil and a small pad of paper and take (legible) notes of the beers you taste. You’d be surprised how valuable good notes can be the next time you visit your favorite beer store or festival. You’d also be surprised at how much you can forget after four hours of beer tasting!

  • Accept anything handed out for free. You may not want all the buttons, pins, coasters, posters, and matchbooks, but someone you know may — and they’re free!

The don’ts of beer festivals

The don’ts of attending a beer festival include the following:

  • Don’t let lousy weather keep you from going to an outdoor beer festival unless the weather is seriously bad. Most festivals are shielded from the elements under large tents. A little rain in your beer isn’t a problem.

  • Don’t go to a beer festival on an empty stomach unless you’re sure that food is being served there. Most beer festivals offer food, but quality and variety can vary greatly. Festival concessions can also be ridiculously expensive.

  • Don’t bring children. For the safety of your child as well as for your own enjoyment, find an alternative to dragging Junior along with you.

  • Don’t buy a book or any other heavy item until you’re ready to leave, or else you’ll have to lug it around with you. Of course, they may sell out by then, too!

  • Don’t stand around the pouring table after receiving your beer. Nothing is more irritating than having to fight through a crowd to get to the beer. Get outta da way, already!

  • Don’t hang out all day or night at the table that serves your favorite beer. Be bold, be experimental — try those beers that you can’t get at the local liquor outlet. Beer festivals are the best places to learn about a wide variety of unusual beers and beer styles. Don’t make one place your corner tavern.

  • Don’t make tasting every single beer at the festival your goal. In some cases it can’t be done; and in most cases, it shouldn’t be.

  • Don’t drive after drinking beer all afternoon or evening.

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