Beer festivals are a thing—there’s no denying that. From Sierra Nevada’s amazing Beer Camp to, naturally, The Great American Beer Festival, expositions of the best and brightest in the beer world have become a staple for connoisseurs and people new to the craft beer world alike. Beer festivals are a chance to try new things, indulge in old favorites, or to simply enjoy beer. If you’ve been to a beer festival before, you know how amazing this can be. If you haven’t, take our word for it and find the nearest festival and grab a ticket. Beer festivals, when organized properly and done right, can be amazing experiences. Not only do you get great beer, but you get to experience great beer in a great environment—surrounded by hop heads and malt mates (if that isn’t a thing, it is now) that simply want to talk good beer.
This past weekend, the World Beer Festival—Sponsored by All About Beer—took over the Columbia, SC Convention Center for a day of craft drafts and more. In total, there were over 70 breweries pouring over 250 different beers for festivalgoers. In addition, the already-happy drinkers were able to toss back a few in the Belgian biergarten and get down with their bad selves at the silent disco.
All in all, the World Beer Festival was a wonderful experience. From the beer selection to the staff and volunteers (the real heroes of any festival) to the overall vibe—who wouldn’t like coming upon a bunch of people rocking out on a dance floor, all wearing headphones?—every part of the festival was enjoyable. Plenty of beer, lines that weren’t too long, enough bathrooms—basically, everything you could ever ask for when slightly to moderately to more than tipsy.
If you’ve never been to a beer fest before, and our description has convinced you that you need to go (and if you haven’t decided that, yet, you really should. Like, really should) you’re in luck. We’ve put together a handy little guide for how to navigate your first beer festival!
- Carbo-load—Just like any race, a beer fest is a test of endurance. So many beers, so little time. In order to best maximize that time, though, you need to be ready. Going in empty-stomached is the worst possible idea. You’ll get drunk quickly and mess up your chances to enjoy the bounty set before you. Instead, be smart about it. Eat beforehand and then don’t be afraid to pick up a pretzel necklace while you’re there. Also—and this may seem obvious to some—remember to stay hydrated. At most beer fests there will be water stations. Use them. Drink plenty of water and go to the bathroom plenty. Keep that cycle going.
- Have a Plan—With so many beers to choose from, a beer fest can be a little overwhelming. It’s okay, though. Take a breath, grab the festival guide, and make a plan. Think about it this way: if you’re a beer connoisseur, you’ve probably had a bunch of the beers already. Look for the ones you haven’t had or the ones that are hard to get and make a note to try them. If there are favorites of yours that may not always show up in your market, make a note to try them, too. Attempting to try everything in order will inevitably result in failure: you don’t want to wake up the next day realizing you missed out on a once per year opportunity.
- Don’t Be a Dick—this may seem obvious, but remember, you’re probably going to at least get a little drunk. That bit of bravado may want to start showing itself. That want to be the smartest person in the room may start to eke out. Remember, though, many of the people there know as much if not more about beer than you. They probably don’t want to hear your rehashed stories about drinking Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder once. Don’t showboat. Drink your beer, compliment or thank the people pouring it for you, and move on. If a brewery has run out of something you were looking for, remember that it’s ok
Bonus Tip: Don’t Drink and Drive—Does this need any explanation (and did you think we wouldn’t mention this)? If you’re going to be drinking, don’t be stupid about it. Have a DD or download Uber. Or Lyft. Or use public transportation. Or take a cab. Or walk. Whatever you do, don’t get behind the wheel. Enjoy your beer fest from beginning to end by not worrying about how you get home.