Top Ten Things We’d Rather Not See at Beer Festivals

We go to a lot of beer festivals, possibly more than is healthy. It’s pretty hard to go more than a month or two without a festival popping up somewhere. A well-run festival is a lot of fun. It seems that when we compare notes at the end of a festival, however, certain things seem to happen over and over. Every blog seems to be required to do a list of ten things, and we considered doing “The Top Ten Beer Lists That Really Bore Us” but we thought that might be a little meta. So, instead we talked about it and polled our contributors to come up with this list of things we’d rather not see at beer festivals.

Do you have others? Leave a comment!

#10. People showing up drunk.
Why on earth would you come to a beer festival already drunk? There’s a good chance it’ll happen while you’re there, which is why good designated driver programs and close-by hotels are hallmarks of a well-run festival (e.g see Cincy Winter Beerfest). It doesn’t seem to matter, though. We’ve seen bachelor parties. We’ve see bachelorette parties. We’ve seen people projectile vomiting while waiting in line to get in. (They didn’t, by the way.) We’ve become weary of the the line “you’re doing it wrong,” but in this one case it seems very appropriate.

#9. People stopping randomly and without warning, then being astonished when someone runs into them.
This one comes under the heading of “News flash! There are other people on the planet besides you!” Because people (reasonably) attend beer festivals in groups, it’s not unusual to see herds of people migrating around a festival location. Traffic patterns emerge. Paths get beaten. Or they do, anyway, until Captain Clueless and his Merry Band of Slugs decides that this choke-point between two popular booths is JUST the place to stop and check their phone. Maybe to take a picture of all the people who were walking behind them and are now getting crushed because you came to a full stop in the middle of the traffic lane. Here’s a hint: if you’re walking, there’s a good chance there’s someone behind you doing the same thing and won’t stop when you do. Move out of the flow of traffic before you stop to have a chat.

#8. Booths that have nothing to do with beer or the festival.
Just because someone is willing to write a check to participate in your festival, it doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea to have them there. They won’t get much traffic and people will just stare at them the longer the night goes on.

#7. Brewers and Brewery Reps who won’t interact (or just disappear).
We’ve made a lot of great contacts with brewery folks over the years at festivals. It’s safe to say that most brewers and brewery reps take the promotional part of being at a beer festival seriously. What can be pretty annoying, though, is wanting to talk to someone from the brewery but you can’t get their attention because they’ve huddled together at the back of the booth and are talking among themselves. Granted, you can’t be “on stage” all the time (and brewing appeals to introverts), but that human touch is supposed to be what distinguishes craft beer from MegaBrewingCo. Make an effort.

#6. Lack of water for rinsing glasses and hydration.
Water is the second most important liquid at a beer festival. People need to drink it, and people need to rinse their glasses between samples. It’s not uncommon for there to be empty pitchers sitting out, but sometimes they get pressed into service as dump bucket instead of holding water. We’ve also seen situations where there was supposed to be water, but there weren’t any arrangements made to get the water refilled. We rejoice when we see iced bottles or cans of water readily available.

#5. People who know (or were told) nothing about the beer they are serving.
This is a tough one because a lot of festivals are staffed by volunteers who are either working for free beer at breaks or tips for an organization. They may not know much about beer (or the ones they’re assigned to pour). On the other hand, somewhere on the list of reasons people say they hold beer festivals is to help educate people about beer. There’s not much education going on if the person pouring the beer is surprised it gets foamy on top. You also have festivals required by venue rules to use some particular set of “professional” bartenders. Some try to pick up a bit, most don’t. If you can’t be there yourself, help out the people who’ll be pouring the beers by providing some kind of cheat sheet.

Top Ten Beer Festivals#4. No listing of available beers.
Some beer festival advertising would be more accurate if it simply said “We know what beers are going to be there but we won’t tell you.” There may (or may not) be a list of participating breweries. That list may (or may not) include what beers will be poured. There may (or may not) be a sign at each booth, but that sign will be written in ballpoint pen by a child and hung on the edge of the table that has a line in front of it slightly smaller than the population of Albania. You finally make it to the front of the line to find that the chalkboard tap handle has nothing on it but a pale smear of green eraser marks. You ask the sole person pouring beer what the tap is and they respond, “yellow.”

#3. (tie) “Strollers” and “Unattended toddlers running around screaming”
There are family restaurants. There are family fun centers. Family arcades, church services, petting zoos and ice cream stands.

There are no family beer festivals.

(Before you get the torches and pitchforks out, there are events held outdoors that have a music or food component at least as important as the beer part. That’s not the kind of event we’re talking about. We’re talking about events that are about the beer first and foremost.)

It sucks that it’s hard to find affordable childcare whenever you need it, but it’s not the problem of everyone else attending either. Bring your underaged kid to a beer festival and you will be judged harshly by pretty much everyone else there. You’d think it wouldn’t even be a question, but at least two festivals we’re aware of have found it necessary to explicitly ban strollers.

At. A. Beer. Festival.

We’ve seen infants in Snuglis or Baby Bjorns before and, other than the confusion and noise, we’ve never given that much thought. The kids are usually asleep. They’re being carried. There’s the risk of the child being hit by projectile vomiting from an attendee, but they’re in a better position than most to retaliate in kind. It wouldn’t be the choice we’d make, but it’s not for us to say.

Oh, and to make sure it’s clear this is really about the parents and not the kids, we don’t think mobility scooters have any place at a beer festivals either. Besides the issue with crowding at indoor events, it’s ultimately an act of drinking and driving. It hurts to get hit by one of those things.

#2. Clustering at a booth.
It’s not a bar, people. Give them your ticket (if necessary), thank the person who poured the beer and go away. Don’t down it like the first shot after working third-shift at the local mill and hand the taster back for a refill. That’s just not the way it works.

#1 “Irritating Dude-bros Tossing Back White Rajah With A Soul-Crushing Bitter-Beer-Face-Grimace While Macking On Poor Unsuspecting Ladies.”

That’s verbatim from Jason (Pud’n). No further explanation needed.

Did we miss one? Disagree with any of these? Leave your comments!


Past Due Beer Review: Sebago Bonfire Rye

Well… I’m writing again, which I suppose is a start. It took months of prodding, some beer and an unreasonable amount of patience on Tom and Carla’s behalf, but I picked up the computer.

So onto the beer!

Bonfire Rye by Sebago Brewing Co.

Sebago Bonfire Rye

Sebago Brewing is based out of Gorham, Maine so this is really more of a beer tease unless you summer in New England.

First impressions are a deep copper color that was pouring clear until I hit a bit of sediment in the bottom of the bottle. It has a nice tan head with small bubbles that linger. There was also a big whiff of hops that I wasn’t expecting from a beer named “Bonfire” although in hindsight the words, “Rye Ale Stoked With Hops” on the front of the bottle probably should have had some bearing on my expectations.

It has a crisp rye aroma that is packed with citrusy hops and a hint of caramel. Hmmm…  smells light and refreshing but still not quite getting “Bonfire” branding.


Big rye flavor, nice and dry, with a big citrus hop profile and a punch of roasted malt (Oh there you are Bonfire!). Usually when I’m sitting around a bonfire I’m holding a glass of a nice stout, maybe a porter, a winter warmer, or an old ale but usually the malt is the main player and the hops are often left out in the cold. The touch roasted malt plays well with the hops and give this hoppy rye beer a nice Autumnal twist.

HOMEBREWING SIDEBAR: This beer actually reminds me a lot of a beer I brewed. It was an aggressively hopped ale which was supposed to be pale but the couple ounces of chocolate malt I tossed in at the last minute turned it into a roasty American brown ale.

Over all, it’s a great beer and a good excuse (not that you really need one) to bring the hops fireside.

If it sounds good and you aren’t planning a trip to Maine anytime soon, hit up your local beer store and grab some American style brown ales to try and see if you can find some fire friendly hops.



Tasting Notes: Cincinnati Beer Week 2012 Barleywine Ale

I was privileged enough to make it down to the tapping of the 2012 Collaboration Barleywine at Rock Bottom Brewery ( ) and just wanted to share a few quick tasting notes I jotted down in between all of the great beer conversations I was having with the local brewers.

The appearance is ruby red with a light tan head. It has a strong hop nose with floral and citrus components.

There is a lot of ripe citrus flavor up front followed by some caramel and dark sugar. It’s slightly warming and you can tell the alcohol is high but the malt and strong hop flavors mask it nicely.

It’s not what I would normally think of when I hear the term Barleywine (I think I heard the term Barley IPA thrown out) but a great beer none the less. Take these notes with a grain of salt because it was a pretty green beer and could probably use a little age on it. When the hops mellow just a bit this will be a really excellent beer. I can’t wait to try it again.


-Jared Whalen



DIY Beer (Marathon) Dinner

This past weekend my fiancé and I were fortunate enough to be invited to a beer dinner by our neighbor.  Or maybe I should say a beer marathon.  Come to think of it, it was just like the Flying Pig… only no running, more pig, and a ton of great beer.

Either way, it was a really great concept that I wanted to share.  The dinner was a potluck of sorts where each person invited made dishes and brought beer pairings with those dishes.  If you are a beer and/or food enthusiast, I urge you to hold one of these events.  You will learn a ton about pairing food and beer, eat a delicious meal, get to try new beers, and have a blast along the way.

Luckily for us, our neighbor is an award-winning brewer and his soon to be wife an equally fantastic cook, so I knew we would be in for a real treat.  They did not disappoint. None of us knew what each other were bringing, so the menu was kind of all over the place, but that was part of the fun.  Obviously, with this many pairings, the beer pours have to be fairly small.  Below was the order of courses we ended up with.

1)    Liefman’s Goudenband with truffle pâté and assorted cheeses

2)    Maibock (homebrew) with potato, onion, and cheese pierogi

3)    Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale with curried chicken salad

4)    Tart Cherry Wheat (homebrew) with pickled cherries and serrano ham wrapped smoked shrimp

5)    Dogfish Head Bitches Brew with smoked trout dip

6)    De Glazen Toren Erpe-Mere with paprika butter shrimp

7)    Imperial IPA (homebrew) with toasted French spent grain brewers bread, meatball and mozzerella

8)    Amber Ale (homebrew) with tequila flank steak tacos, guacamole, queso fresco, and smoked serrano pepper

9)    Belgian Tripel (homebrew) with spinach, phyllo, feta and pine nut pastry


10) Hitachino Nest Beer with orange chocolate truffle (truffles from the Truffle Tree)

11) Celebrator Doppelbock with chai tea truffle

12) Leffe Blonde with dark chocolate truffle

13) Left Hand Milk Stout with mocha truffle

14) Russian River Consecration

My favorites were the first, third, fourth, eighth and eleventh courses.  The fattiness of the pate complimented the sour beer great in course one.  The IPA played perfectly with the Indian spices in the chicken salad, and the nuts complimented the fresh hops well in course three.  Course four had spicy pickled cherries that paired with the tart cherries in the beer perfectly.  The guacamole and grilled steak in course eight went extremely well with the maltiness of the amber.  The eleventh course worked because the chai tea truffle had some bitterness to contract the sweetness of the doppelbock.

This was the first beer dinner I have attended, and I learned a lot about what works best in the pairings.  My mind is already racing about potential pairings for the next beer dinner.  Obviously, the format can be a little less over the top than this dinner, but no matter how you set it up, I guarantee it will be fun!