Summer beer festivals are on the horizon. Enjoying a fun, safe experience involves more than drinking beer and snacking on a pretzel necklace.
Festival attendees, organizers and brewers offer practical tips on the do’s and don’ts.
Foremost, designate a driver to ensure safety for all after the festival. Download ride-hailing apps, such as Uber or zTrip, on a mobile phone.
Prepare for the weather, rain or shine. Wear shoes that can withstand beer spillage. Eat and drink enough water (equivalent to beer consumed) throughout the event to avoid inebriation, dehydration and sickness.
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Bring proper identification such a Missouri state ID or driver’s license, military ID, passport or passport card. “The ID must be in good shape with no peeling plastic, cuts or holes,” said Randyl Danner, beer/beverage director of McCoy’s and The Foundry. “It cannot be expired. Student IDs, work IDs, and conceal and carry licenses do not work.”
Ask specific questions: Don’t ask the person at the tap, “What’s your favorite?”
“My palate is different than your palate,” says Rafi Chaudry, co-owner of Torn Label Brewing Co. “Tell me what beers and flavors you like. I have a much better chance at pouring you something you’ll really enjoy that way.”
Sample several beers over successive visits and find what you like. “If a list is available beforehand, read it and have a general idea of what you want to try,” says craft beer fan Sarah Sheckells. “Talk to people in line and see what they’ve liked so far and try it.”
“If available, subscribe to Untappd and get (app) notifications of new beers at the festival,” festgoer Shannon Roth says. “Add beers you want to try to your wish list so you don’t forget.”
If there’s a long line at a booth, festgoer Jay Norris says, “Know what beer you want, if possible, before you get to the server.” In short lines, veteran festival attendee Bob Plagens likes to “talk to the brewery reps about beers I’m not familiar with. It often changes what I had planned to try.”
Don’t linger at the booth. Get your pour and move along. There are lots of thirsty people in line behind you.
Don’t feel obligated to drink the entire sample. Use the dump bucket for unwanted beer. “If something isn’t to your liking, dump it and move on,” Plagens says. “There’s plenty to sample.”
Pace yourself. Festivalgoer Taylor Jones suggests, “Do take it slow. Not completely filling your glass is OK. You get to try more that way. Do try new styles.” In fact, servers typically pour a few sample ounces rather than a full beer. Drinking full beers leads to a full belly and other consequences.
“Many people get excited, sample too quickly and aren’t able to last the duration of the festival,” Randyl Danner says.
Don’t ask for a “top-off,” especially for limited-release or rare beers. Regarding these beers, festgoer Ozan Kumru says, “Don’t complain about how long the wait is for a particular beer or how it ran out quickly.”
Boulevard Brewing Co. ambassador brewer Jeremy Danner provided key points. “Know (and accept) that it’s not possible to taste every single beer you want to try. Prioritize beers you absolutely need to taste and hit those tables early in the festival,” he says. “Often, breweries have folks directly involved in the production of their beers at the table. Some folks are volunteers, who know about beer in general but may not be experts on that particular brewery’s beers.”
Be kind to others. Festgoer Travis Stoner reminds, “Please, thank you, excuse me, pardon and sorry are words that go a long way at festivals.”
Polite feedback is helpful to professional brewers and homebrewers. “Homebrewers don’t get paid money,” says Jones. “They get paid in exposure and feedback. Most of the time, they want honest feedback. “Give critical feedback so brewers can improve their craft,” festgoer Devin Glaser adds.
Don’t get too snooty though. “At the end of the day, it’s just beer. Nobody needs the snob or the critic,” says Matt Moore, co-owner of Martin City Brewing Co. “Breweries try to put their best foot forward and have given a lot to serve you their best product.”
Be social. “Don’t be afraid to start conversations with fellow attendees,” says festivalgoer Lauren Hembree. “You share at least one common interest, so there may be more.”
As the festival draws to a close, don’t drink to get inebriated. Some brewers provide more generous pours in order to not return half-empty kegs to the brewery. For attendees, drinking responsibly means knowing when to limit consumption.
Finally, don’t ask for pours once the festival has ended. Legally, breweries cannot keep serving. “The festival organizers selected a set time for the fest,” Boulevard’s Danner says. “Brewery folks are ready to break down and enjoy a beer themselves once the festival ends.”
Pete Dulin is a Kansas City-based food and beverage writer who specializes in beer. His most recent book, “Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland,” was published by Arcadia Publishing in 2016.
Upcoming beer festivals
June 3, Get Ripped Beer Fest, The Big Rip Brewing Co., bigripbrewing.com
June 16-17, Boulevardia, Stockyards District, West Bottoms, boulevardia.com
June 24, KC Nanobrew Festival, Berkley Riverfront Park, kcnanobrews.com