Attending the American Craft Beer Fest
June 3, 2011 7:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to the American Craft Beer Fest tomorrow, and given the massive scale of the event (more than 100 brewers, 5,000 attendees per session) I'm looking for advice on how to best enjoy the experience.

I'm particularly concerned that with an event this huge, I'll end up spending most of my time standing in line. Should I try to prioritize the things I want to try? Does it make sense to get there early and get in line outside the venue? If I want to try more than one beer from a particular booth, does that require a separate trip through the line?

Any other general advice from those who've been to this event or something similar is much appreciated.
posted by Horace Rumpole to Food & Drink (10 answers total)
 
I went a couple of years ago and the longest line was to get into the event space. I don't recall having any problems hanging out right by a booth, tasting each kind of beer, and chatting with the folks manning the booths. I'd probably recommend getting there before the doors open. And bring some peanuts or something, the food offerings when I went were pretty weak.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:27 AM on June 3, 2011


From the smaller events I've been to, I think its best to have a good idea of what styles of beers you want to try ahead of time. Check the ratings so you can try new beers that are highly regarded. A good rule of thumb I use for myself is to plan the day starting with low ABV% light body beers and work up to the higher ABV% and thicker body (light to dark...high abv tripels -> high abv imperial stouts, etc). Stouts are often the finisher ales for me, much like a sweet dessert.
posted by samsara at 7:43 AM on June 3, 2011


Sounds awesome!

1. drink beer!
2. bring a big water bottle
3. get your beer and get in the next line. You can drink your beer while waiting for the next one.
4. If you want to have multiple beers from one booth, try to make friends with the servers. If they like you, they'll find ways to treat you well like letting you sneak to the front of the line.
5. Next year, volunteer.

Hm tickets still available for Sunday...
posted by jander03 at 7:44 AM on June 3, 2011


Stuff picked up from years of going to and working at these sorts of events:

If you have certain beers you know you want to try, definitely prioritize them and stand in line. The big popular booths will get a line, but the reps are all now old hat at these events and they'll move pretty quickly.

You can get multiple beers from a single booth, but if there are people waiting behind you, it's kind of a faux pas. If there's no line and the brewer wants to chat, no worries.

If you are getting two beers for you and a friend at a crowded booth, make sure the friend is within visible wave distance. Not only do you not want to look greedy, if the inspector is on the prowl the brewer can get in trouble for overserving.

Keep an eye out for water/rinse stations and take frequent advantage of them.

If you see a line for the bathroom that's only a few people deep, get into it. Come the end of the show, you can lose a lot of time waiting to pee.

If you don't like a beer, there's no shame in dumping it. You might want to dump it away from the brewer that just poured it for you if you're nice.

People will take anything that isn't nailed down. If you see some swag you want, don't expect it to still be there at the end of the show. That said, depending on the session you're at, you can get a bunch of stuff at the end of the show that the brewers/reps don't want to lug home. I got like 3 cases of Allagash one year. Oof.

Keep an eye out for incoming kegs. Dollies pity no toes.

If you find a favorite, go back to it. I see Notch will be there. They specialize in session beers. Consider making them a good place to get your walking around beer so you don't end up smashed too fast.

Bring some food with you if you like, but a decent meal beforehand is better. Peanuts always make beer taste weird to me. A soft pretzel, though...
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:50 AM on June 3, 2011


Hm tickets still available for Sunday...

There's no Sunday session, but there are still tickets for tonight and the late session tomorrow.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:51 AM on June 3, 2011


If you don't like a beer, there's no shame in dumping it. You might want to dump it away from the brewer that just poured it for you if you're nice.

Yes. Dump more than you think you should, actually, because if you don't you'll regret it by the end. Tasting portions add up faster than you'd think.
posted by something something at 7:57 AM on June 3, 2011


I went a couple of years ago and the longest line was to get into the event space. I don't recall having any problems hanging out right by a booth, tasting each kind of beer, and chatting with the folks manning the booths.

Agreed! When I went last year, the three things I brought with me to have on hand were:

1) little pad of paper and pen, so I could remember which beers I loved and would seek out in the future (beer names were accompanied by a few tasting notes that started off "Oaky, with a hint of smoke and an underlying flavor of molasses; rich and velvety mouthfeel" and ended up being "OH DANG THIS ONE IS GOOD LIKE I DRANK A BEER MMMMM TASTY")

2) a small sleeve of Saltine crackers, both for clearing the palate and absorbing a bit of alcohol

3) a big water-bottle

Tasting portions add up faster than you'd think.

HA HA YES THEY SURE DO
posted by Greg Nog at 8:03 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some friends of mine made pretzel necklaces (string up a bunch of rolled gold dry pretzels; hang from neck) for attending GABF last year. Apparently it's a "thing." But it seemed like a pretty good idea to me.

Get one of these tasting notebooks to keep track of your favorites. (Don't bother rating or writing about your least favorites -- that would take too long). Bring a pen or pencil and just star your tops in the program so you can go back if you like or find it in a shop later.
posted by amanda at 8:07 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is something you need to plan in advance, but go with someone. Someone who doesn't have a communicable disease. Then you easily get two samples for the waiting time of one.

Eat a light meal beforehand. There's something magical about ACBF where you don't realize you're drunk until you've left.

The two times I went, the most crowded booths were for Dogfish Head and Stone, so I'd go there first. If there's a line, it's polite to step aside to drink your sample and then get back in line if you want a second one. If Dogfish Head has Sah'tea and you haven't tried it yet, make sure you try some. Unless you don't like chai. Then you definitely don't want to try it.

The best booths are the ones that are less crowded, because you get to chat with people and they can give you samples based on what sort of beer you already like. This is how I've found local breweries with beers I really like.

Also, go to the panel/seminar thing if you can. One year they had Garrett Oliver and "awesome" doesn't even cover how great it was. Also, he brought this super-limited beer that was to die for.

Finally, I've discovered that Sav Mor in Somerville has lots of beer from obscure local brewers, so if you taste something you like, you might be able to find it there. Just be sure to check the date on the bottle before buying.
posted by giraffe at 8:56 AM on June 3, 2011


This is something you need to plan in advance, but go with someone. Someone who doesn't have a communicable disease.

Cleverly, I planned in advance to be married to DiscourseMarker, and she is going with me. If she has any communicable diseases, I will probably end up with them one way or another, so I'm not too worried about it.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:59 AM on June 3, 2011


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