With the Tailspin Ale Fest fast approaching, I got to thinking about past beer festivals and release parties I’ve attended. From massive events like the Great American Beer Festival to smaller gatherings like the Rare and Wild Beer Tasting in Asheville, NC, I’ve crossed the spectrum when it comes to the festival scene. Most have been loads of fun but there’s always a small portion of the participants who don’t know proper festival etiquette or take things a bit too far. Since no one wants to be “that guy or girl” (or, as we like to call it, the John King), here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to help you get the most out of Tailspin w/out embarrassing the family name.
- Pace yourself. Those little 1 or 2 ounce samples may not look like much, but it’s not hard to wind up uber-fooked after several hours of sampling, especially when some higher alcohol brews are thrown in the mix. Even if you only tried 10 beers an hour (and assuming an average of 8% abv), that means you’re putting down 4+ high abv brews over the course of the festival, and that is being conservative with the number of samples consumed. Keep that in mind before you try and become the first participant to sample every beer on hand. No one wants to see you puking and passing out simply means someone will be drawing phallic symbols on your face with a sharpie.
- Drink lots of water. And no, I don’t mean the water enhanced with hops, malt, and yeast. Be sure to drink plenty of actual H20 during the session. It may mean you break the seal earlier/more often than planned, but it will also help decrease the potential for a hangover and keep you on your feet longer.
- Eat and then eat some more. Not only will food help soak up all that hoppy/malty goodness you will be enjoying, it will also help support some of our favorite local food trucks. And if you aren’t in the mood for an actual meal, make yourself one of those pretzel necklaces you see at beer festivals. They may look funny but they increase drinking stamina and cleanse the palette a bit between samplings.
- Have a DD in place. I may sound like a stickler here, but make sure you have travel arrangements made beforehand. I don’t care if it’s a sober pal, a taxi, or a giant flying eagle. Let’s not have the festival experience ruined from a bad incident afterward. Please be safe.
- Try beers you haven’t had before. Everyone knows what their favorite beers are, but one of the best parts of a beer festival is that you can sample a ton of things you haven’t had before without spending $4+/pint or $8+/four-pack/sixer/bomber. Branch out, try new things, and learn about new breweries. It’s what the cool kids do.
- Remember the after party at Boombozz. Boombozz in the Highlands is hosting the unofficial after party and you’ll want to be able to join in. They have one of the best draft selections in town and your body will appreciate a chair and some food (to go along with more good beer) after a multi-hour festival.
- Overdo it. Similar to the first point above, you don’t have to try everything in the first hour. Take your time, chat it up with fellow beer-folk, and enjoy the festival. It’s ok to be the tortoise.
- Take notes on all the beers you try. I know there’s a section of the craft-beer loving public that enjoys reviewing beers (I used to be one), but large festivals are not the scene for that. This would do an injustice to most any beer you try to tick after the first hour or so. I don’t care how experienced a reviewer you are, your palette simply can’t pick out the subtle hoppy notes of that saison that happens to be the 38th beer you tried that day. Noting something you really like is fine, but don’t try and review every single sampling.
- Clog up the line/tables/booths. It’s cool to sit around and talk to brewers/distributors/etc about the beer they are serving, but keep in mind that others want to try the beer too and you lingering around are keeping that from happening. I know you paid for the ticket, but so did everyone else. Get your beer and move on to a common area to enjoy it or get in another line to try another brew.
- Knock a glass out of someone else’s hand. I don’t know why, but some people seem to get their rocks off by knocking a perfectly good beer sample out of someone’s hand and then yelling “ohhhhhhhh!” afterward. If you’ve ever been to GABF, especially the Friday or Saturday night sessions, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s not funny. It’s not cool. Don’t be an ass like that.
- Be a know it all. As hard as it is to believe, not everyone really wants or cares to know the history of Brewery X and the 8 different recipes they have used to make their IPA. There are plenty of appropriate times/places to show off your beer knowledge, but doing so at a festival won’t win you any popularity contests. Some may like hearing you espouse about different types of sours, but don’t assume because the person likes craft beer that they want to know everything about it.
There are other things that could have been mentioned, but this is a pretty solid list to ensure that you’ll be able to enjoy Tailspin as much as I plan on. Eat, drink, and be merry folks. See you on the 22nd.