16 July 2009

11 Things A New Beer Festival Visitor Should Know

Summer weekends are usually jam-packed with beer festivals across the country. This is a great way to introduce new beers and beer styles to both seasoned veterans and new craft beer drinkers. While the seasoned veterans may already know how it works, the new craft beer festival attendee may find it simply overwhelming. With experience on both sides of the tap handles, we've hopefully come up with a helpful guide for a beginner.

At these festivals it's usually really hot and you find yourself in long lines, sometimes not even being really sure what the line is for. You get up to the table and all of a sudden you need to make a decision. You've heard of the brewery, but you are not sure about the beers they offer. What beer should you pick? The simple answer is that if you are not sure, just ask.

If this is your (or your friend's) first time to a beer festival, dress comfortable and arrive early. The lines to get in are usually quite long.

Here are 10 more tips that may make your first-time experience more enjoyable.

1. Do not say, "Give me the lightest thing you have". This phrase is too vague to be helpful in any kind of way. Do you mean lightest in color or lightest in alcohol? If you are not clear, you may end up with a Tripel (upwards of 10% alcohol) when you really wanted a Pilsner (usually around 4-5% alcohol). If you are not sure what to get, let the server know that you are new to craft beer and are not familiar with all the styles.

2. Do not go up to a merchandise booth and ask what beers they have. Be aware of your surroundings and of where you are. If you are oblivious to the fact that there are no taps, bottles, or coolers on the table, you may want to rethink getting another beer at all.

3. If there is a long line behind you, do not stand around after your beer is poured and offer your thoughts. Get your beer and move out of the tent. Enjoy the beer with your friends out of the way of others.

4. Do not be mean to people pouring your beer. Better yet, do not be mean to anyone. There are lots of people moving around trying to get somewhere. Sometimes your server is a volunteer; sometimes it's the brewer. Some of these people work in beer for a living - try to imagine what it would be like for you to go to work and all of your co-workers were drunk.

5. Either know a little bit about beer, or be open-minded. We've heard stories or actually have seen people throwing their beer at the server because it had sediment in it. Please do not do this under any circumstance.

6. It is not a race to see how much beer you can drink. You will not be able to try everything, so take time to enjoy what you do get. Take advantage of the food offerings and drink some water once in awhile. You may think that a couple hours is not enough time, but it really is.

7. Be prepared for long lines for the restrooms. The whole festival is about beverage intake after all. Just get a beer, get in line, and wait your turn. Don't cut in line, don't shout at people, and for the love of god, DO NOT TIP THE PORT-A-POTTY OVER. If you are germ-weary, bring hand sanitizer. Sometimes the paper towels/water runs out. Often the restrooms are beyond disgusting.

8. If you smoke, please do not do it inside the tents. For some people, smoke = gross = no beer enjoyment. Smoke outside, then place your butt in a proper receptacle (proper receptacle does not equal the ground).

9. Do not ask for more beer after the festival has ended. And as the old bar adage goes...You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

10. Get a designated driver, go somewhere else and sober up, or rent a hotel room. Sometimes a hotel is not an option. Anticipate for this and make necessary arrangements.

We want everyone to have a safe, enjoyable experience, and we would like to see you again at the next event.


  1. What's the parking and/or taxi situation like?

  2. If you're the kind of person who likes toilet paper and you notice that it's running low, grab a little extra and put it in your bag for later. I've done this at GABF a few times.

    Also, my beer fest secret: wear a skirt. It's so much easier to pee.

  3. kmwinter...a few blocks south on Broad Ripple Ave, you should be able to catch a taxi pretty easily. You may have to walk a few blocks for parking. But there is plenty of public street parking.

    Tracy...being a guy, I usually don't have to worry about that. But since I will be there from 9a to 9p (Volunteer Coordinator), I may have to...well, you know.

    So you may see me in a kilt on Saturday!

  4. Wait, I only count 10! If the 11th is a secret, I'm at risk of making a dufus out of myself this Saturday!

  5. the first one wasn't numbered.. I saw this coming.

    "If this is your (or your friends) first time to a beer festival, dress comfortable and arrive early. The lines to get in are usually quite long.

    Here are 10 more tips that may make your first-time experience more enjoyable."

  6. The #17 bus goes from downtown to Broad Ripple via College Ave. The #18 goes from downtown to Broad Ripple via Central. No DUI, no cab fare, no parking hassles, and only $1.75 each way!

  7. Someone give Ahow a medal.

  8. Be nice to everyone??? I was with you right up 'til then.

  9. You forgot rule #12: Buy your pretzel necklaces, pretzels, chips, and water from the wonderful non-profit organizations that might be working the tents (especially those named Dads Inc.). Help a brother out!

  10. Bob Mack - yeah, what would you know about being nice anyway?

  11. Hehehe. I'll keep these in mind for 24th and 25th...

  12. All good...especially #6.

    I would add..."drop any pretentious facade you may have brought in with you."

    It bugs me to know end to see guys walking around as if they were a beer encyclopedia, holding glasses high up to the light, giving unsolicited advice, etc.

  13. Numbers 1 and 8 were violated quite frequently yesterday.

  14. Rule # 12:

    Do not be 8,700 miles away the day of the event.

  15. Jim - Yes, yes they did.

    Charlie - We miss you! You better be there next year!

  16. I have a bit of feedback. The biggest complaint I had (and it was a huge one) was the signage was horrendous. All the beer festivals I've been to prior to this had signs at the roof line directly over the beer telling what beer was there. What this did (aside from removing the mystery of what you were standing in beer for) was create many micro-lines. If you wanted to get a less popular brew, it was quicker to get through line. It would have even been ok if the entrance to the tent was 1-2 feet higher so you could see the sign behind the beer, but the 4" above the crowd's head was not enough.

    All in all though, a great festival. Only 6 months till Winterfest!!!

  17. Sounds like you didn't get an event program?

  18. No, I had a program. The map was off in it though. The tent with Monarch was near the south entrance, unlike the map and the World Class tent was where the Monarch tent should have been. I understand that the map was probably printed awhile ago.

    Overall, finding the individual breweries (Bell's, Ram, etc) was not as big of a deal, but to find a beer at the distributor's booth was much more difficult.

    It certainly wasn't a show-stopper, but I would have made a huge difference to have some signs up at or above roofline. I could certainly see how this would happen since it would have been easy to navigate with no people during the setup period, but throw in 4,000+ people and it gets tougher to navigate.

    I feel like a whiner now, but I do want to thank everyone who made this possible, it was truly awesome. A special thanks to 3F for the Dark Lord. Hallelujah!

  19. had a wonderful time! Broad Ripple Brewpub's Relegator black IPA and Rock Bottom's American Dream IPA were my standouts.

    IMO #3 was the most violated rule

    and I'll 2nd the notion of signs on the outside edge of the tents (even with the program I found it difficult to tell which line was which)

    3. If there is a long line behind you, do not stand around after your beer is poured and offer your thoughts. Get your beer and move out of the tent. Enjoy the beer with your friends out of the way of others.