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!


17 Replies to “Top Ten Things We’d Rather Not See at Beer Festivals”

  1. I’d add “People who decide to show everyone see their genitals and/or behind.” I’m sure there are other mediums where it is acceptable for people who feel the need to express themselves in this manner. A beer festival is not it. Trust me, no matter how attractive you think you may be, there is nothing good about you trying to clumsily expose yourself as you fall over on the floor. Intentially exposing your genitalia will not get you entry into any decent beer festival and WILL get you kicked out.

  2. AGREED, wholeheartedly,and with vigor. I also don’t particularly like seeing persons whos sole intent is to get smashing drunk and act aggressively, that is unacceptable behavior anywhere in my oppinion, and it tends to give the beer community at large a bad rep.If you want to get drunk and act a fool stay home, maybe it’s OK there.

  3. Too many are “oversold”, We shouldn’t have to wait on lines for 40 minutes for a taste after paying $40 to $60.!

  4. #8 = yes! We’re always busy with our beer shirts, but looking over at the poor lady selling yarn or candles or purses going “what the heck??”

  5. I agree with Mike about long lines. I would add – running out of beer – nothing like standing in line to find out the beer you want to taste is out. Or perusing the list to find the one you want to taste to get there and find they ran out. Also – too many of the same types of beer. Part of the fun for me is to try something I wouldn’t normally buy/drink. Variety is good!

  6. Thankfully here in the Atlanta area, the beer festivals are very good about making sure people are aware that it’s a 21 and over event and to leave their kids (As well as the dogs, some people think that since some of these festivals are held in parks that they should bring their dog with them.).

    The most recent beer festival I went to never put a list of beers or a map of where the various breweries were up on their site (Usually they have it up the night before the event.). The same festival used to be really bad in regards to “clustering” at their previous location, but several years ago they moved the festival to a nearby park and the crowding is not as bad.

    Most of the beer festivals here do a bad job in regards to what the people pouring know about what they’re pouring. Some of these festivals solicit volunteers and the extent of their training is how much beer to put in the cups (which usually goes out the window immediately). Even worse is that many of them show up 15-20 minutes before doors open so that when the doors open, there are tables not even ready to pour.

    I hate moseyers in general and the only ones worse than the ones at beer festivals are the ones in Vegas…..

    One of the reasons why I will always opt for a VIP ticket (if the option is offered) is so I can enjoy the festival before it gets too crowded and then when it gets crowded in the main area, I duck into the VIP area.

    Here the local breweries are usually pretty good about having reps at the festival

  7. One that annoys me is when the music from the live band is cranked up so loud that it’s difficult for anyone to carry on a conversation.

  8. #11- paying $40-60 to get in, only to receive 5 – 4 oz samples and then having to PAY $5 for more samples. Give me xx amount of tickets with my admission price and let me decide how many of them I use. Case in point- Cincy Winter Beerfest! I paid my $30 and got my 30 tickets- let me decide if i use all of them. (Mostly it’s an issue of “can I use all of these before closing time?”)

    Thanks for this post- I needed this laugh!

  9. I respond with trepidation that my comments will be construed as the pot calling the keg black but I shall.

    #10 – It’s amazing but true. Maybe they just psyched themselves up too much for the event, lol.
    #9 – I did a spit take on this one. So funny and so true.
    #4-8 – I think these mostly come down to experience, and are they improving each year…or choosing to cut corners. We know we didn’t do the best with these as we “grew up” (with our beer lists for example), but we strived to and now have phone apps and accurate maps etc.. Sometimes its the organizers…sometimes its the Distributors fault in getting available product lists the week of festivals.

    I’d like to add my own 2 pet peeves as #11 & #12 from the Event producer’s perspective:

    Things We Would Rather Not See At A Beerfest:

    #11 DRINK TICKET PATRIOTS: People that complain incessantly (in Ohio) online before and after events about having to “deal with” tickets (and proudly report that they were “left with tons of tickets when the event was over”). Learn that it’s The law stupid (especially if you are doing “a review” of the event)…. that there has to a “meaningful transaction” with every taste….not our choice, but it’s the law. The idea is for you to have enough tickets so that you’ll try that oddball beer or brewery you have never heard of or would have never plopped down $9.99 on to try something funky and creative. They’re also intended to keep you from not just drinking your ” old reliables” because you don’t want to waste a ticket on something different. You can’t advertise or host unlimited sampling as in other states. Believe me…I’d much rather not purchase 15,000 ticket cards and kill a tree. I’m getting old and the Damn things are heavy and make a mess! Pennsylvania, as wacky as some of its alcohol laws are, at least gets this right – open unlimited sampling – and we have less mess and no increase in problems or drunkenness.

    #12 RARE BEER BITCHING: We buy every special keg we can get our hands on. No I couldn’t get that Russian River Pliny…..that rare Gueze or quadruple bourbon filtered spruce quintuplet IPA. Most people don’t seem to realize that Event Organizers are hamstrung by the Law. If a Brewery and/or specific beer is not available (as in registered and distributed in Ohio) we can’t buy it and give it to you. Sad but true. There may be some movement on this shortly, but that has always been the case. We do get a decent number of rare or at least difficult to find beers at our festivals, but you have to also consider what is in the Brewery’s best interest. Do I give Cincy Winter Beerfest four Half Barrels of Zombie Dust, or do I give them two and have 6 sixtels to host 6 big events at some loyal bars around the area over the next few weeks? The idea for them at a festival is to show you what they can do and get you to want to seek them out in the future…. not guarantee you a night with access to their most select beers. That’s what their Beer Dinners and other intimate events are for.

    Thanks Tom & Carla….no need for therapy now… it seems I found a place to vent! 🙂

  10. I agree with almost all of these except the mobility scooters. Handicapped people aren’t allowed to attend these festivals? That’s harsh and unfair.

    1. A fair question. Substitute a wheelchair for a scooter and the problem goes away. It’s the “being propelled by a motor” part that’s the problem. A motorized wheelchair is a tougher call, but a standard one won’t cause a problem. They’re much more maneuverable than a stroller.

  11. Not one for crowds, I only used to go to one beer festival: Fremont Oktoberfest in Seattle. I learned to show up at opening time, about noon on Saturday. Kid in a candy store, I was, glibly rolling my bicycle inside, tokens in pocket, booth guide in hand and the world my beery oyster. Long about 6:00 it was about time to leave as the loud, rowdy masses began to fill my wonderland.

  12. It’s an amusing an insightful list. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to be able to decode #1. Can anyone translate that into standard English for me please?

  13. Everyone that participates in the beer festival business at every level would have something to complain about, I am certain. I supply beer to a lot of festivals and can tell you that the organizers and participants put a lot of work in to making things go smoothly and still it doesn’t always work that way.Some put in more work than others.

    I can also tell you that every year we have more people wanting to hold beer festivals and all of them expect the rarest of the rare beers, all want brewery reps etc It is becoming very difficult and breweries are learning to work with those who do it right. We are lucky enough to have good organizers here in Cincy.

    As for pourers knowing what they are sampling, please provide a solution, we’d welcome it.
    As for standing in line for a lengthy period of time? Your choice, but with so many beers available I’d go on a treasure hunt.My suggestion would be to have realistic expectations of your festival experience and you won’t be let down, and afterwards, if you do have a gripe please send it along.We all have an interest in making festivals a more wothwhile experience.

  14. I have been a volunteer pourer at three events. One of those I was assigned to a booth of a brewery I had never heard of and they had no rep’s in attendance. Seems the Distributor was using the event to introduce a new beer to the area and the guy who set up the kegs and coldboxes was the driver of the “Bud Truck” I looked like a fool but could do nothing about it. I tasted the product, pronounced it garbage and gave reccomendations to other booths.

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