A beer festival survival guide

By Jim Witmer

Photo: Beer festival rule No. 1: start with the lighter beers first, like lagers and blond ales; photos: Sarah Browning

There are many different kinds of beer events, from the tap takeovers in bars to the monthly beer tastings at restaurants to the big international events, like the one held in Denver every October. Locally, there are plenty from which to choose, too.

While the smaller ones are much easier to navigate, the large ones might take some strategy.

Here are my top 20 tips for making your experience the best possible:

1. The first rule of thumb to follow is to start with the lighter beers first, such as lagers, blond ales, saisons, and wheats, and move toward the stronger IPAs to the Imperial Stouts and Barleywines. Avoid nuking out your palate early. Then finish with a palate-cleanser low-ABV beer, somewhere near where you started.

2. Pace yourself or you will get in trouble without proper food and hydration. It’s not a race; it’s a marathon. Be careful out there. Being trashed in public is kind of a disgrace, right?

3. Rinse your glass between beers, and drink the water instead of tossing it out. The professionals bring or buy a big bottle of their own to carry.

4. Try new styles. If you don’t like a beer, dump it. You have plenty to choose, so don’t waste your time on something you don’t like. It’s your chance to be promiscuous with a wide range of flavors.

4. Savor the ones that interest you. Find out more about them. Take notes on your phone and look them up later – don’t focus on your phone all day. Find those beers later in a store or bar and try them again.

6. Log them into the various social media apps, but only if you can take the time to seriously evaluate them. If you are not in a frame of mind to do so, leave it alone.

7. Beers reveal their flavors and aromas better when they warm up a little, and sometimes they are poured too cold. Give them a moment to find the right temp.

8. Take the time to look at the wide selection and make an effort to seek out the ones that interest you most. Develop somewhat of a strategy. Just don’t get too hung up on it.

9. Locate the restrooms ahead of time so you can deal with that issue when the time is necessary.

10. Is it really necessary to stand in a line for a beer? Sometime it’s worth it, yes. But you have to decide if you can do better by trying a less-hyped beer for one that few have discovered yet, and the line is short.

11. If there are brewers on hand, ask them what has contributed to the character you like best about the beer. Like, “I really like your XYZ ale and I’m wondering what more you can tell me about it. What ingredients or processes make it so great?” (Just move to the side for the conversation and don’t tie up the line).

12. If allowed, take a chair and find some shade so you can take a break once in awhile.

13. Never, never, never attempt to take a beer out of the festival grounds.

14. Never, never attempt to take anything such as brewery posters, point-of-sale logos that you did not pay for.

15. Consider the VIP Pass option, if money is not an issue and you want to avoid lines. It’s really a nice luxury to get in an hour earlier, and I doubt you will regret it. They are limited, however.

16. Support your locals. Go see what they brought to the party and give them your attention. They often bring something special, made only for the festival.

17. Check out the weather forecast and plan your wardrobe appropriately unless your mom takes care of that for you.

18. Have some extra cash. Just in case. Some festivals have some cool silent auction items.

19. Get a designated driver—or sober up. Better yet, get a hotel if you are from out of town and make it a night.

20. Enjoy the fact that we have so many awesome beers to enjoy. Cheers!

Reach DCP beer writer Jim Witmer at JimWitmer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP beer writer Jim Witmer at JimWitmer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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