August 22, 2014

The Dos and Don’ts of Beer Festivals

By: Ryan Hodros, Culinary Arts Student

This past Saturday was Ed Fest, a celebration of beer and music held in the town of Edwards, just outside of Vail.  It was a great time, with fun music and delicious brews to keep anyone entertained for hours on end.  But while I was there, I noticed a few issues.  They weren’t really problems, because it didn’t really put a halt to the fun—let’s call them faux pas that festival patrons should avoid in the name of not spoiling anyone’s afternoon.  But instead of just being a Negative Nancy, I’m also going to provide alternatives to these faux pas in order to keep from turning into a festival snob.  Here we go!

The Dos and Don’ts of Beer Festivals 1

Don’t treat the brewers like beer dispensers

I understand that a lot of people go to beer fests to basically get an all-you-can-drink pass, and that for many that means rushing from tent to tent getting as many two ounce pours as possible in one afternoon.  But these brewers put their heart and soul into their beers and ciders.  Many of them left lucrative jobs as engineers, lawyers, and military members in order to pursue their passion.  That’s not to say you  can’t drink as much as you like (within reason, obviously), just show the brewers and their employees some respect.

Do play festival bingo

Prior to going to the event, print up bingo cards with squares that include obscure facts about brewing and the brewing industry.  “Brewed in a five barrel system or smaller,” “Made by brewers who have been brewing less than two years.”  “Made exclusively with Colorado hops.”  And so on.  Not only will this force you gab with the brewers and their staff, you’ll learn a ton about the breweries in your area, which will make it easy to find a place to take a date when Friday rolls around.  And it’s fun!

The Dos and Don’ts of Beer Festivals 2

Don’t pour a beer out in front of its brewer

You will inevitably run into a brew you don’t like.  Maybe it’s an IPA, and you’re not a huge fan of big hops flavor.  Maybe you don’t like the sour taste of a Belgian.  Who knows?  Your tastes are your tastes, and you don’t have to choke down every pour you accept.  But come on, these brewers work hard on their beer, and being a beer snob isn’t cool no matter where you are.  You could just walk ten or fifteen feet away from their tent and pour it out that way, which is a nice, non-rude way of solving the problem.  But you could always…

Do talk to brewers about a beer you don’t like

Let me clarify:  I’m not saying go up to a tent that served you a beer you don’t like and start haranguing them about their awful work.  What I am saying is to go to the brewers and ask what went into the beer so you can learn about a style you don’t care for and either learn how to avoid it in the future, or how to appreciate it for what it is.  I don’t like red wine, but going through wine academy with Chef Jean Claude this week has given me an appreciation for it, so it’s possible.  Just be civil—some beer fest patrons turn into real jerks, and you don’t want to be one of them.

Don’t drag your designated driver all over the place to watch you drink

Of course you’re going to bring a DD—you’re a responsible, good-looking guy or gal who knows better than to risk people’s lives for no reason.  Maybe you’re so cool that you paid for their ticket.  What you shouldn’t do is force your DD to watch you drink all afternoon.  There’s more to beer festivals than just beer.  At Ed Fest, there was food, virgin cocktails, games, hula hoopers, music, brewers to gab with, strangers to get to know—there’s plenty for a DD to do besides watch people drink.  So while you should definitely hang out with your generous buddy and try to make the afternoon a bonding experience, don’t make them feel obligated to babysit you all afternoon.

The Dos and Don’ts of Beer Festivals

Do buy your designated driver some delicious festival food

This will cost you a bit of money, but come on.  They’re saving you the hassle of getting a DUI, which is expensive and troublesome (not to mention they could be saving your life and the lives of other people).  They’re basically the unsung heroes of the festival, making the world a safer place for everyone.  They deserve a corn dog.  Or a funnel cake.  Or a pretzel.  Or a cone of homemade potato chips and a smoothie.  Whatever their preference, get your DD something to snack on at the festival.

Don’t flirt with every person you meet at the fest

Nothing throws a bucket of cold water on a fun afternoon like getting harassed.  And while festivals like these are tailor-made for meeting people, it’s important to remember that a lot of the time, festival-goers are there to enjoy some music, some brews, and the company of their friends.  They’re not necessarily there to find a date.  I also understand that pounding two ounce brews all afternoon can sometimes make it hard to read social cues, but that’s no excuse.  Save your pickup lines for another time so you don’t ruin someone else’s fun.

Do gab with your fellow festival-goers

Beer is a social drink, and the above seems like I’m warning you about stranger-danger.  I’m not—gab with your fellow patrons about beers you’ve tried, beers they’ve tried, what food goes well with what brews, the band and their music, etc.   The more patrons talk to each other, the more the festival changes from a collection of small groups into one big party.  AND you get the added bonus of getting to know fun people with whom you share a common interest.

Beer fests are one of the best reasons to get into beer culture, and Colorado residents are fortunate in that there is at least one beer fest every month of the year.  Get out there and be a part of the scene.  Do it for the fun.  Do it because you’re interested in becoming a culinary professional, and beer is the future of the restaurant world.  Do it because you’re bored and you want something to look forward to.  Whatever your reasons, get to a beer fest and have some fun!

Photo Credit: imbibedenver.com

Photo Credit: imbibedenver.com