August 26, 2011

Beer Fest Basics

By Rick

Have you ever heard of the expression "a kid in a candy store"?!

That's how I felt at a recent microbrew festival- but I was a kid with a stomach ache!  I was still nursing a torn Achilles tendon- plus I had a case of "the sniffles"!  It was hard for me to enjoy beer samplings- just like a kid with a stomach ache trying to eat all that chocolate!

But I want to encourage others to experience that "kid in the candy store" opportunity and to attend a brew fest.  It's a wonderful opportunity to sample beers that you might never see- or never taste- again!  Here's some "pointers":

- Buy tickets in advance.  They're usually a bit cheaper that way.  Some festivals limit attendance too; you don't want to be turned away at the door when you're thirsty!

- "Get the lay of the land".  Find out where your "favorite brews" are- and STAY AWAY FROM THEM!  (Remember: you're there to sample NEW beers!)

- Some people might like to have a "game plan"- start by sampling all pils, then moving to ales, IPAs, ESBs, etc.  ("I'm one of those "planners".)  You can make some comparisons that way- rather than just sampling anything/ everything that a vendor has to offer.

- Water is usually available to "cleanse your palate" and to clean out your glass.  Take advantage of it.  Keep track of your sampling glass too; there are hundreds that will look the same.  (I wrap a rubber band around mine.)

- Don't be afraid to "take notes" on the beers you sample.  (You won't be the only "beer geek" doing it.) Write down the ABV-  or anything else- to help you remember a brew that catches your fancy.  I can almost guarantee that you won't remember all the samplings you tasted when you wake up the next morning!

- Ask the vendors about their beers.  They usually have ample info available and are  willing to disperse it.  But remember: there are dozens- if not hundreds- of people waiting to sample the same brews where you may be standing!  (One of my pet peeves is when a bunch of people "monopolize" a vendor!)

- "PACE YOURSELF!"  This is not a Frat Party!  Sometimes food is included as part of your Festival ticket price; sometimes you have to pay separately.  (Your body will thank you if you eat (and drink) responsibly!

- You'll probably be standing in lines for "the good stuff".  Talk to the others about your "favorites" for the night.  Maybe they tried one that you didn't?!

- I like to save buying "souvenirs" until the end.  There's "gimmees" you can pick up throughout the night, but I doubt if you want to carry that special T-shirt or pint glass around all night.  (PS: Sometimes the souvenir prices go down as the night goes on!)

- Last- but not least: make sure you have transportation home!  (You've been drinking beer for a few hours!)  Have a plan: a designated driver, call a taxi, shuttles to nearby hotels, etc.  DON'T DRINK & DRIVE!

I hope you have a chance to be "a kid in a candy store"!


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