Craft Beer Fest Survival – Thirsty Giraffe style

There seems to be an opportunity to go to a craft beer fest every weekend lately. The Thirsty Giraffe attends at least 4 – 5 events a year including next weekend’s Michigan Winter Beer Fest hosted by the Michigan Brewers Guild in Grand Rapids. These festivals are such a fantastic way to try beers and breweries you might otherwise not have access to or a chance to try some special beers that aren’t readily available. In honor of what I personally feel is Michigan’s best craft beer fest, here are a few tips for how to survive and hopefully not end the day sprawled out on the ground.

The Beer List

Everyone has a different strategy on how they will tackle the beer selection at a fest. For smaller events, I like to be surprised and not know what’s coming until I am there. But for big events like next weekend downloading the list, studying the “must try” beers and coming up with a plan to get them is part of the fun.

“Let’s see, Bell’s Batch 9000 is being tapped at noon in Tent D, Founders CBS at one in Tent A and Witches Hat Night Fury is on at two in Tent E.”

Can’t say we don’t get our exercise crisscrossing the event for beer! The Brewers Guild has partnered with the app Beer Fest List the last few years to provide all the info you need right on your phone. Now if only they could figure out a way to keep me from being distracted and actually get to those beers I checked off as must haves.

Pretzel Necklaces

Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m a pretzel necklace fan. My first couple of years going to the Winter Beer Fest, I didn’t quite understand the point Didn’t they get messy? Do you really need a snack? Will someone try to eat off your chest? Answers:

  1. Not really.
  2. HELL YES!
  3. Gross, but true. Some people without their own snacks will try to eat you but they probably need it more than you need your dignity at that point.

I finally gave in a couple of years ago and made necklaces consisting not only of pretzels but also Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, string cheese, and cookies and now I can’t imagine a fest without one. I’ve seen them with beef jerky, Funyuns, and packaged cheese and crackers. Some necklaces are painstakingly strung individually on a string and others are simply plastic tubs of peanut butter filled pretzels with a duct tape neck holder, see above. The possibilities are endless! And when you are ready for a treat to help soak up some of the beer, it’s right there! Genius!

Drink, Share, or Dump

With many beer fests boasting hundreds of beers available for tasting, there is no way you will get to them all, nor should you. But a good way to get to try a reasonable amount without the need for extra tasting tickets is to share with others. I’m not saying there aren’t some beers that you will want every last drop of the 2 oz pour (hello, BBA Plead the 5th) but most you can take a sip or two of and then pass along so you can try some more. (Yes, share tasting cups, there’s alcohol in it to kill any cooties you are concerned about.) And then there are the beers that you take a sip of and don’t really want more of nor does anyone else. (I’m looking at you, Ghost Pepper IPA.)

Repeat after me: you don’t have to finish every sample!

Amazing right? But please, please, please, if you are going to dump and can’t make an intelligent comment beyond “Ew”, walk away from the brewery it is from before dumping and keep your opinions out of earshot.

I Got Styles For Miles

Most breweries are going to bring their mainstay beers that they are well-known for but some like to use the opportunity to experiment with smaller batches of brews that you might never see again. My favorite brewery, Greenbush, is notorious for this, from bringing 31 “flavors” of ice cream beer to a massive amount of barrel aged beers. This is your chance to try that beer style you’ve always wondered about but never could pull the trigger on ordering, see above about not having to finish it. If you aren’t sure what something is, talk to the people behind the johnny box! Most will be eager to describe their beer to you and help you pick something to sample. (Caveat: Trying to strike up a convo with Brewer Bob while there’s a line of 20 people behind you, not cool.)

Hell No, Don’t Skip The H2O

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Most beer fests will provide water spots throughout the fest grounds that you can fill your tasting glass with from time to time. Also, check to see if they will let you bring in your own bottle to keep filled and by your side.

My advice: Aim to keep to a ratio of every 3 samples, drink a full cup of water.

And eat something too! Beer fests have food trucks for a reason, plan to bring some money for a late afternoon snack, the pretzel necklace can only get you so far. (I highly recommend the pasties at Winter Beer Fest!)


Finally, my bonus tip exclusively for this weekend’s fest, dress accordingly! I’ve experienced everything from sunny and 40 to snow and single digit temps at this fest but as long as you plan ahead and layer appropriately, you are going to be fine! Just make sure the layers are organized in a way that you can still use a porta-potty without falling over. Speaking from experience, it’s quite unfortunate when you really gotta go but can’t get out of the snow bibs!


Do you have any tips I didn’t cover? Leave them in the comments section below. Look for The Thirsty Giraffe on Saturday at #MIWBF17 and say hello! Cheers!

8 thoughts on “Craft Beer Fest Survival – Thirsty Giraffe style

  1. This is very good. I have not attended a winter beerfest like Next weeks but if I did this would be a helpful survival guide. Good learning.

  2. Another good tip. Always have a DD lined up to get you home. If attending with a group a party bus is a great way to travel.

  3. Wear insulated waterproof boots. “Water resistant” should not apply. Nothing puts a damper on beer fest like cold wet feet. Stay cozy my friends.

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