Beer festival survival guide

By Columbus Alive
From the January 12, 2012 edition

Beer is coming. Columbus Winter Beerfest and Creative Living’s Brew Review are this weekend, and the Columbus AleFest takes place in a couple of weeks.

Sure, it’s fun to drink a bunch of beer, but if you make the most of these opportunities then you’re well on your way to the pantheon of beer geekdom — the greatest of geekdoms.

Columbus Brewing Company Brewmaster Eric Bean and AleFest founder Joe Waizmann offered some tips on conquering beer festivals.

1. Be prepared

Most festivals offer guides, maps and other literature about the beers, the breweries and the general flavor profiles of different styles. Use these to create a plan of attack.

“Do a little bit of quick shopping and see what’s available. Come up with a preliminary plan,” Bean said.

Taking out the first 10 minutes — maybe while sampling that first beer — can make a huge difference.

2. Follow the buzz

If you hear people raving about a certain beer or brewery, give it a shot.

Bean suggests that you visit booths that are manned by a brewer or specialist from the brewery. “If I’m going to take time out to go to an event … I’m going to bring something special,” he said.

3. Drink outside the box

The whole point is to try new stuff or things you can’t find at your local beer stores or bar.

“It’s all about education and exposure, so go outside your comfort zone. There’ll be some casks at AleFest, and I recommend people give those a try,” Waizmann suggested.

“I look for beers I haven’t had or haven’t had in a long time,” Bean said. “It’s a great opportunity because you’re not out 10 bucks for a six pack, you’re out a ticket.”

4. Group ’em

Sample the different styles — stouts, IPAs, etc. — with each other.

“To compare them, it’s a lot easier if you have them back to back,” Bean said. “A good way to attack a festival is to drink a couple of styles instead of being all over the board. It’s going to keep you from having that palette fatigue.”

5. H20 me, ASAP

No, pilsners don’t count — drink water to cleanse your palate and stay hydrated. Also remember to rinse your glass if you reuse it.

6. Be friendly

“This is a sharing culture, and you’ll end up talking with people. Take their advice. People are enthusiastic and want to share their thoughts,” Waizmann said.

7. Take notes

Beer drinking isn’t supposed to be homework, but you’ll thank yourself later. The quantity of samples makes it hard to recall them all, and alcohol generally doesn’t improve memory function. Just a simple check mark or plus or minus will suffice.