The granddaddy of all beer festivals, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), kicks off next week in Denver, Colo. With more than 750 breweries and 3,500 beers, the three-day, four-session festival is more of a marathon than a sprint. Even at just one-ounce per taste, that many beers can pose stamina issues. It is for this reason that you should have a plan before going into GABF or any beer-centric festival.
Here are my seven tips for enjoying beer festivals responsibly:
Tip #1: Eat something before the festival.
A carb-heavy meal will help slow down the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream. Think pasta, a burger and fries, a big steak and baked potato or even pancakes. These slow-digesting foods reduce the amount of alcohol that is absorbed directly into the blood stream through the mucous membrane lining of the stomach. Food also slows the rate of the stomach emptying into the small intestine, where absorption of alcohol occurs at a much faster rate.
Tip #2: Drink water.
Experts say that drinking eight-ounces of water for every 12-ounces of beer will help to counteract the diuretic effects of alcohol. The dreaded day-after hangover is at least partially attributable to dehydration caused by alcohol stripping water from your body. Combat this by keeping the water flowing. At a beer festival, make it a point to drink at least four-ounces of water for every four to five samples.
Tip #3: Have a plan.
At events like GABF where there are literally thousands of beers to try, you will miss out on a lot of great beers if you do not get the lay of the land before you arrive at the fest. Check out the festival’s website (for GABF go to www.greatamericanbeerfestival.com), follow organizers on social media or just take a moment to look around before blindly going from table to table. Some of the best beers will be in short supply, so if you see a brewery whose beers you absolutely must try, get in their line first. But, do not pass up smaller breweries, often the next big think comes from these up and coming brewers.
Tip #4: Pace yourself.
Sure, you only have a limited amount of time to try as many beers as you can. But, remember this is a tasting event, not a drunk fest. No one likes the belligerent fool that stumbles from table to table only to get as much beer as possible. Follow the plan you made for yourself from the previous tip and enjoy tasting different beers. You will have a better time and, though you may not get to all the beers, you are likely to find some new favorites.
Tip #5: Take Notes.
Because you may find your new all-time favorite beer, keep track of the brews you drink. Nothing is worse than getting home after a festival and not being able to remember the name of that awesome brew from the brewer in West Virginia. Apps like Untappd are invaluable for festivals since they allow you to log, rate and even take a photo or and take notes on the beers you try.
Tip #6: Bring cash.
Often beer fests will have food trucks, t-shirt vendors and other shopping opportunities. Do not find yourself unable to buy that must-have t-shirt or hat because the vendor only takes cash. Even if they do take credit cards, paying in cash is invariably faster, leaving you more time to taste beers.
Tip #7: Get home safe.
The best evening at a beer festival can be brought to a screeching halt if you get behind the wheel of a car after drinking too much. Believe me, I know (read my experience with this beginning here). Most festivals have a lower price ticket for designated drivers that include soft drinks. If that is not an option, plan on taking a cab or even Uber (get $20 off your first Uber ride when you download the app and use promo code, “l2jkr”).
Follow these seven tips and you are sure to have a great time exploring the ever expanding world of craft beer.