Beer Festival 101

June 6, 2019

What is a Beer Festival?

Without getting too technical, a beer festival is any event at which you purchase a ticket to drink a variety of beers.

That’s a pretty broad definition. Especially with the amount of ‘beer festivals’ these days…

There are themed ones, strictly craft brewers guild ones (those have been my favorite), hyper-local ones, global ones, and even ones hosted by individual breweries.

craft beer festival

So how do you tell the difference between a good beer festival, and a bad beer festival? It can be hard to tell for sure until you’re there– festivals can change from year-to-year. Usually there are a few signs though…

Signs of a Good Beer Festival

  • Plenty of water stations around and each booth has water available to rinse your tasting glass.
  • Food is available. And not just food like free packs of pretzels, but real food…
  • Designated drivers are taken care of with cheap or free tickets, as well as free drinks and food.
  • Local, reputable media and bloggers should be covering the event, enthusiastically. If they aren’t, see it as a sign that it’s not going to be worth your time.
  • The beers being poured aren’t the same selection you can get at the grocery store. Before you buy tickets, make sure that beer list is just as diverse as it is long.

Note: Most beer festivals will be unlimited samples and tastings. As of writing, in Texas you are given a set amount, usually 8-12. However, additional cards/tickets are available to purchase, usually on the cheap.

My Beer Festival Tips from Personal Experience

If it’s your first craft beer festival, or your 100th beer festival, pay attention to the tips below. These are my personal favorites I’ve learned (some, the hard way) over the years. Have any tips to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Pace yourself before you wreck yourself!

This is not a race, it’s a marathon. You don’t need to drink the full pour, normally they can be 3-4 ounces each! It adds up. If you don’t like the beer pour it out, just not in front of the brewery.

Make sure to dress appropriately.

What to wear to a beer festival? Nothing too fancy that’s for sure. Jeans and your favorite brewery t-shirt, along with comfortable shoes is plenty fine.

Know where the beer festival is being held and what the weather forecast is and dress appropriately. You could be standing for the next few hours, so pay attention to what shoes you choose to wear.

Drink water!

Beer isn’t the only thing you should be chugging at a beer festival. I like to drink a taster full of water between pours. It can be hard to remember that as you get a little tipsy. That’s why I recommend setting a few reminders on your phone to hydrate! Especially in the summer months when you’re outside walking around for a few hours, you need water. So don’t forget to drink it!

craft beer festivals

Don’t forget to eat before and during.

Normally, I always eat a full and hearty meal before beer festivals. I recommend you do the same. During the festival, it’s always good to eat again. At most good craft beer festivals, there’s usually local options and food trucks which is a great treat for the drunk munchies.

I’ll be honest with you, that pretzel necklace is just a snack for looks, get ya some real food in you so you can keep enjoying the fest– and even the morning after.

Come with a plan– even if that’s to have no plan at all.

Some people come with precise plans, others don’t even look at the list. While I recommend at least looking at the beer list to see if there’s anything fun or funky you ‘must’ try, there’s no pressure to come with a plan.

There’s no way you’re going to be able to have all the beers at a beer festival. Try planning something fun, like going for porters or just German styles, if you’re looking for a different kind of beer festival experience. The only plan you must come with is a plan to get home!!

Don’t take all the free brewery swag.

Let’s be real, you don’t need to scoop up all the koozies, stickers, coasters, and pins you can grab. It looks tacky, to be frank. Just grab swag from your favorite breweries if you don’t have any already, or go for the pieces that really catch your eye.  

Checking In…

deep ellum beer

To keep up with your Untappd check-ins, take a quick shot of each pour next to the info sheet. Shoot, you can even hold up a number of fingers, that you want to rate it when you take the picture.

Either way, in doing this you won’t be distracted at the beer festival and you won’t forget what you had. Then, the next day when you’re nursing your hangover and $35 food delivery you can take care of business with the ratings.

Must Haves for Beer Festivals

Many people go to their first beer festival totally unprepared and not too sure about what to expect.  Other people go to beer festivals frequently, but don’t pace themselves or come unprepared.

Either way after reading this, you will know all the must-haves of a beer festival and be 100% prepared to have a great time!

Water Bottle Covered in Brewery Stickers

Ah, water, one of the core elements and also your best friend at a beer festival.  Water is great to make sure you don’t end up getting wasted, which happens fast with several to a dozen tastings of high-alcohol craft beer!  Water will also be useful for a quick rinse of your tasting glass when you switch from something like a Sour to a Porter.

My favorite water bottle is this one from Vapur.  It’s super compact, cheap and comes in a ton of colors. I use it regularly for traveling and I also bring it to all beer festivals.  

Many beer festivals have water stations with tiny cups, but this is reusable and saves you time for the important stuff, like craft beer!  Plus, mine is covered in stickers from some of my favorite places. It’s a great way to represent where you’re from and what you like.

Beer Necklace to Cleanse the Palate  

One of the most overlooked beer festival must-haves is the snack necklace. There might be a more technical term for this, but I think snack necklace works well too. So here’s what you need for your beer festival snack necklace:

  • Ribbon or string cut to your desired length/appetite size.
  • Pretzels, an assortment of sizes
  • Mini Slim-Jims
  • Cheese sticks (better be cheddar!)
  • Combos Fun-sized Snickers  

I don’t think I need to go into detail about how to make a necklace with the above materials. Just string it on in an pattern or way you see fit, tie it in a knot, and toss it on!  I’ll stress again the importance of pacing yourself and making sure the only thing in your stomach isn’t just high-alcohol craft beer.

We’ve all had too much drink or mornings that made us swear off all alcohol, but with snacks and water you will easily offset this!!  Also, these snacks maybe, possibly, can be used to bribe the volunteers to not mark your card or take a ticket for the tasting, but you didn’t hear it from me!

Click play above to watch a recap of my first ever Great American Beer Fest!

A Watch to Keep Track of Special Keg Tappings

So one of the most exciting parts of a beer festival is the special kegs that breweries bring with them to the event. Many of these limited craft beers have been brewed especially for the event and the anticipation to have a taste is high!

Most times, they stagger the tapping of the special kegs so everyone can try some and there’s not an overflow of people at one time. It’s hard reaching for your phone with a beer in hand, so a cool watch is the best way to keep track of time!  

Don’t Overlook the Importance of Hand Sanitizer  

It can get gross at a beer festival. With all the beer being sloshed around or spilling, you’ll be sticky-hands-free if you just carry a little bottle of hand sanitizer with you. Also, there are usually just port-a-potties at beer festivals, and even then things can get weird and gross.

Finally, if you think you don’t need it, chances are there will be someone else who does. And when they do, you’ll be a hero!

A Safe Ride Home

What’s cheaper, a $20/$30 rideshare or a 10K DUI bill?  Get a DD (many beer festivals allow DD’s to get in free) or get a ride share. Just don’t drive yourself home. There’s no need to risk it with all the great and easy options.

Most beer festivals run specials with the city or taxi and rideshare companies, so make sure to research that beforehand.  If you’re in Austin, here are some great resources of the current and best ride shares.

“What Are the Best Beer Festivals Near Me?”

I’m glad you asked! Below are some of my favorites and ones I’ve either attended or been dying to. Whether you’re in Austin, or in Japan, I’ve got a beer festival for you.

Beer Festivals in Texas

texas craft brewers festival
  • Big Texas Beer Fest Dallas | March
  • Wild Wild Brewfest Katy | April
  • Destination Brew Fest Driftwood | June (New this year!!)
  • Salado Springs Beer Fest Salado | June
  • Brewmasters Craft Beer Festival Galveston | Labor Day Weekend
  • Texas Craft Brewers Fest Austin | September
  • San Antonio Beer Festival San Antonio | October
  • Jester King Funk n’ Sour Fest Austin | October
  • Wurstfest New Braunfels | November

Best Beer Festivals in the United States

Great American Beer Festival

Pictured above: Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado

  • Savor Washington, D.C. | May
  • Extreme Beer Fest Boston, Massachusetts | May
  • Dark Lord Day Munster, Indiana | May
  • Oregon Brewers Festival Portland, Oregon | July
  • The Great Taste of the Midwest Madison, Wisconsin | August
  • Virginia Craft Brewers Fest Charlottesville, Virginia | August
  • Great American Beer Festival Denver, Colorado | October
  • Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beers Chicago, Illinois |  November

The World’s Best Beer Festivals

  • Tour de Geuze Belgium | Once every two years in May. Next time should be 2021.
  • Great Australasian Beer Spectapular Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, and Auckland, Australia | Late April-June
  • Beerfes Tokyo Tokyo, Japan | June
  • Qingdao International Beer Festival Qingdao, China | August
  • Oktoberfest Munich, Germany | September 21 – October 6
  • Pilsner Fest Plzeň, Czech Republic | October
big texas beer festival

LPT: bring a few inflatable beach balls to keep the crowd smiling while they wait to be let it!

For more reading on beer festivals and specific guides, check out these other blog posts I’ve shared:

  • Lessons Learned at My First Great American Beer Festival Click Here
  • Big Texas Beer Fest Recap Click Here
  • Taste the State’s Best Beers at the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest Click Here
  • Your Guide to the Texas Craft Brewers Festival Click Here

Did I miss any Beer Festival must-haves? Or wanna share your favorite beer fest hack? I wanna hear, comment below!

Found this guide helpful? Pin these to Pinterest to save for later!

5 Comments

  • Christine November 11, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Love to see a sister doing something so cool 🙂 Great blog!
    TLAM
    Christine

  • Emily November 17, 2016 at 5:15 am

    While I have never been to a beer festival, I feel extremely prepared! Thank you so much for sharing all your great tips! 🙂 That Snack Necklace is genius!! Do you think I could wear it everyday?! 😉

    • Caitlin Johnson November 17, 2016 at 8:24 am

      That is such a wonderful idea! You should definitely wear it daily, maybe it’ll become a hot new fall fashion trend! 😉

  • Liz Davila June 27, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    My husband and I have attended The Hop Jam in Tulsa, Ok twice and it has been AMAZING! It is hosted by Hanson (yes, that band from the 90’s… they make beer too!) and it is well-organized and it offers a great variety of beers/breweries. We were super happy to find some Texan breweries out there. I think it should be included in your list too.

  • Christina September 7, 2019 at 10:48 am

    I love that part about the snack necklace!! Funny and also so true! Lol!!

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    I’m Caitlin, an Austin-based blogger sharing adventures, stories, and interviews from your favorite breweries and drinks. Join me!

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