The Dugg and I have been attending beer fests for more than 12 years. In that time, we've learned some very important tricks and lessons. Probably the earliest was this: when you meet a guy standing in line who is beside himself with excitement that, "... they charge you $15 and you can drink all you want for 4 whole hours!!", avoid that guy. Not only will you likely see him camped out at the macro-beer table, but he's likely to barf on your shoes if you get too close.
Okay, that's one. Read on for several other tips that I hope will help you to successfully navigate a beer fest as well as survive the next day. Well, no promises on a hangover, but these tips should help you to at the very least wake up alive.
1. This ain't a beauty contest. It's a beer fest.
If the fest is outside, wear a hat with a brim, sunglasses, and sun block. Don't forget to SPF your legs. Even if you can't see them when you look down, the sun will hit them full force as you're standing around sampling beer. Wear comfortable shoes; I'm a big fan of Crocs or Chucks for long periods of being on your feet.
2. Drink water. And drink it all day long.
Some fests will supply each brewer's table with a pitcher of "rinse" water. Drink your rinse water. Don't throw it in that stupid bucket that should only be seen at wine tastings. It's water mixed with a little beer, so a) don't waste the beer and b) it's mostly water and you need every drop of it. Personally, I don't trust that a fest will have water on hand, which is why you'll see me with a Nalgene hooked on my pinky finger at all times.
3. Don't drive anything to a beer fest.
Not a car, not a bike, nothing. In our modern world, any resourceful person will be able to come up with some way to get to and from a beer fest. Don't worry about the cost of a cab, just shut up and pay up. Get a hotel room close to the fest. Ask a non-attending friend to drive you and pick you up. Promise them that after the fest you'll be so drunk that you'll offer to take them out to a fine restaurant and pick up the tab. And then do it. No matter what you spend on safe transport to and from a fest, it will be cheaper than a DUI or worse.
Even as a strict vegetarian who also doesn't eat much cheese, I can still find something to nosh at a beer fest. Pretzels are almost always an option. Some people even show up to a fest with a homemade necklace comprised of a bunch of small twist-style pretzels strung onto a ribbon. Looks stupid, but please see 1. This ingenious method of self-sustenance also frees up your hands so you don't drop your tasting glass. Ultimately, though, I usually relax my dietary restrictions at a beer fest enough to include a slice of cheese pizza. Fatty, greasy foods will help you get through the day of drinking by slowing the absorption of alcohol.
5. Bring your own toilet paper.
So, you've stood in a line for about 10 minutes to get your chance at the Porta-John. If you're smart, you off-loaded your tasting glass to a nearby friend. You plug your nose with one hand, and swing open the door with the other. Gripping onto the handle inside the door, you hover your hienie over the pit of stench and take care of business. You reach into the tp holder to find... oh god... nothing. I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me and I won't tell you how I've managed that situation. What I will tell you, though, is how to avoid it altogether. If you're bringing a back-pack or bag, tuck a roll of tp into it. If not, unroll a wad of tp and stash it into your pocket. You may now send me gifts of money in gratitude.
6. Be friendly and don't judge.
Alcohol can transform even the nicest person into a bluthering, staggering idiot. It's just the nature of the beast. Don't shoot someone the stink eye when they spill their beer, trip over a tent post, or sport a huge beer stain down the front of their shirt. We're all in this together and it's all for the love of beer. Craft beer people are awesome, every last one.
At a beer festival in New York, I was stationed outside the men's room waiting for the Dugg to do his chore. As I lazily flipped through the program I heard a group of people chanting:
Single voice: "Gimme a B!" Chorus of voices: "B!"
Single voice: "Gimme an E!" Chorus of voices: "E!"
Single voice: "Gimme another E!" Chorus of voices: "E!"
Single voice: "Gimme an R!" Chorus of voices: "R!!"
Single voice: "What's that spell?!" Chorus of voices: "beer! beer! beer!"
It wasn't until the Dugg swung open the bathroom door (BBBEEEEERR!!!) that I realized the chant was actually coming from inside the men's room. I still laugh when I think about a bathroom full of men lined up in front of the urinals, stalls, sinks, and potted plant in the corner chanting together like old pals.