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DRAFT’s 30 rules for beer festivals

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GABF 2015Festiquette: [fest-i-ket] (n) the rules indicating the proper and polite way to behave at beer festivals

  1. Eat breakfast. You remember all that stuff you learned in high school about how alcohol affects you more on an empty stomach? Still applies.
  2. Employ the 10-second rule when talking to the people pouring. A quick question about the beer or brewery is fine; diving into a yarn about your epiphany beer is not.
  3. Say thank you to volunteers. Handing out beer to drunkards when you can’t enjoy any yourself ain’t easy.
  4. Don’t ask for a bigger pour.
  5. Do ask for smaller pours. If tasting the maximum number of beers is what you’re after, a few ounces of each brew should do it.
  6. Don’t try to game the system. In most states, the fine for volunteers or breweries that fail to collect a ticket or stamp for every pour is harsh—“thousands of dollars” harsh.
  7. Regarding special tappings: Get your pour and MOVE ON. Don’t try to sneak a second pour.
  8. Do your time in the line. Sending a buddy off for more beers while you wait is fine, but holding a spot for someone who hasn’t waited at all (or worse, an entire group on non-waiters) is poor form.
  9. Be a good line man: Don’t annoy everyone around you by bragging about all the specialty one-off beers you’ve tasted in your life.
  10. Do be adventurous. Head to booths with short or no lines and try some beers you’ve never heard of; you just might find a new favorite.
  11. Don’t pour out a beer or talk about how much you dislike it while in earshot of the brewer.
  12. Have your decision made before you reach the front of the line. Now is the time for pouring and drinking, not waffling.
  13. Don’t block traffic setting up the perfect Instagram shot.
  14. Don’t pre-game the beer fest. Starting with a buzz is only going to get you plastered. On that note…
  15. Don’t get plastered.
  16. Do consider a pretzel necklace if you’re unsure of the festival’s food options. Drink a beer, munch a pretzel, drink some water, repeat.
  17. Don’t pee on random surfaces. Even if there’s a line for the bathrooms.
  18. Don’t drink beer just by ABV.
  19. Don’t get in a fight. If beer festivals make you angry, you’re doing them wrong.
  20. Don’t break up. Things may look better in the sober light of morning, and besides, no one wants to see this while they’re trying to have fun.
  21. Don’t cry. No one wants to see this either.
  22. Wear sunscreen and sensible shoes. Pack extra sunscreen in your bag, and leave the flimsy flip-flops or spiked heels at home.
  23. Show your beer pride, not hate. If you’ve got a favorite beer slogan or brewery shirt, now’s the time to wear it.
  24. Bring water if you can, or fill an empty bottle when you’re there.
  25. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get the pour you want; take whatever is being offered and be grateful. It’s lame to roll your eyes or sigh like there’s not any good beer to be had.
  26. Don’t forge tickets. You’ll get found out, plus you’re stealing a spot from someone who paid.
  27. Don’t try to scam your way into VIP. (Also, don’t lie and say you own DRAFT Magazine to get into VIP. This has been tried, and it does not work.)
  28. Leave the kids at home. Leave your dog at home, too, unless it’s a service animal. Debate us all you want on this, but unless it’s explicitly family-friendly, a festival will be full of colorful language and sloshing beer. Toddlers and terriers get underfoot too easily.
  29. Don’t obsessively rate beers online during the fest. Be in the moment, and at the least, save your notes for later and try to find the beer another time.
  30. Do take a cab, call a ride home or take public transit. With the proliferation of ride-sharing apps today, there’s no excuse for driving under the influence.

Which festival behavior can’t brewers stand?

“I don’t mind, ‘I wish you’d brought…’ or ‘Why didn’t you bring…?’ but ‘You should have brought…’ is annoying,” says Augie Carton of New Jersey’s Carton Brewing.

“The big thing I see come up from belligerent people during the last quarter of a festival is, ‘I want your sign!’ or ‘Give me that tap handle!’” Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione says. No brewer enjoys having to defend his equipment from klepto beer geeks.


What other commandments or tips do you have for attending beer festivals? Tell us what we missed in the comments.



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  • Jeff Wala says:

    Don’t stand upwind or inside a group of people tasting craft beer and let your side stream smoke drift into them.

    • Bob says:

      Or more to the point, don’t smoke at all at a beer festival. It’s probably illegal under tents because of fire codes, and just plain rude anywhere else within range of other people. If your addiction compels you to smoke, step out of the festival grounds for your smoke and re-enter when you are done. Also, no one likes having to pick up your filthy butts off the grass during cleanup!

      • Paul Miller says:

        Not to mention smoking (along with drinking too many IPAs) will blow your palette. Don’t blow your palette right off the bat. Work your way up to the high IBUs and imperial thisses and thats.

  • Paul Miller says:

    Oh, and *use an app*!
    If there is an app available, like the one for the upcoming Great Taste of the Midwest with its 1400+ beers, you can plan a strategy so you can try the beer styles you love most first, then branch off into other styles. The GT app has a handy to-do list with a map with pins on it so you can find exactly which beers to hit first. And you can take notes so you remember those beers later.

  • Allen says:

    Thank you. Can you make that mandatory reading for all attendees.
    #31. Don’t relive childhood memories with a buddy you have not seen in years. Make a date for later and let him enjoy the beers he is there to tryout.

  • Todd Onsa says:

    Suggested Tweak to #11 – You’ll “last” much longer – and get to taste more beers – at a festival if you DO DUMP beers you don’t like. Bad beer still counts toward your BAC! Don’t dump it right in front of the brewer, but by all means, dump it! Not usually an issue at GABF, as vast majority of people pouring are volunteers not brewery people.

  • John says:

    DON’T at the end of the fest run around to any random brewery and exclaim “I don’t care, give me whatever you got” … just cause you aren’t hammered enough.

  • Marcia says:

    Get your pour, say thank you and move away from the table. Do not talk about the beer with your friends, do not wait for all of your group to get a pour, and discuss said pours at the table. Get your pour, move away from the line. Please. Thanks you!

  • Jess says:

    Bring your ID and be patient and polite to the gate volunteers. That job is the worst. We both want you to get in, so please make it easy for us to do that!

  • Ridge says:

    To the brewer’s, I hate it when I walk up for a sample, only to be told “we ran out of that.” Bring enough so that doesn’t happen, especially if it is something new and popular that you know will be a hit with the tasters.

  • Rick says:

    Once saw a woman who was pregnant at GABF sampling the wares. Thought that was odd as well as extremely irresponsible.

  • From a brewers point of view, I also enjoy “That’s not too bad” because, yeah, that’s what we strive for, just bad enough but not “too bad”! “I’ll have your IPA” We’ve never made an IPA and never will, and my favorites.., “What’s your favorite”, or .”I’ll have whichever one’s the lightest” to which I always reply…”They all weigh the same”. It’s ok not to be familiar with every brewery. They all post signs about what they’re pouring. They are there for you to read and not just shade.

  • Lee says:

    Eh not a fan of number 29. I can guarantee that my putting a rating in Untappd off to the side while chatting with my wife and or friends is less obtrusive or quicker than trying to write something down on paper.

  • Chad says:

    Don’t go hungover!!!!

  • OldSchool says:

    Do rinse your tasting glass frequently.

    Corollary to #16–Take a break. Get another pour of that beer you liked, sit down, and enjoy the live music/people watching. Grab some water or a snack before heading out to taste more beers.

    How about a couple for festival organizers:
    a) Don’t sell more tickets than the festival space can handle. If people are lined up everywhere 6-7 deep waiting for their pours, you have probably oversold.
    b) Do have enough restrooms/porta johns. Nothing is worse than wasting your time waiting in the bathroom line.
    c) Do make sure the gate volunteers are properly trained to ensure a smooth flow of patrons.

    And a couple for participating breweries:
    a) Do bring enough beer. You don’t look good if you run out after an hour.
    b) Show up when you’re supposed to. An empty table is wasted space.

  • Blake says:

    Don’t go to a beer festival and complain about how much better the other beer festivals you’ve been to are. A beer festival takes an enormous amount of time, preparation and people to pull off. We get it, you’ve been to all the best out of State beer fests, but just remember that every State has different alcohol laws. Some might be free pour, some might need to do a ticket or token system. The beer festival has laws it needs to follow to even have a festival. Don’t complain that you have to buy tickets to get beers, be happy that you even have a Beer festival in your town to go to

  • Randy Tenvoorde says:

    Gotta disagree with #11. Many brewers, especially small ones, go to these events with the idea of getting feedback directly from their potential customers. If you don’t like it, let them know why you don’t. You don’t have to be a jerk about it and many brewers will take note. If enough people give negative feedback, it may save them a ton of time and money in the future.

  • Michael Saunders says:

    I agree with 12. I like when brewers display large signs above the crowd advertising what beers they have available. That way you have plenty of time to choose what to sample before you get to the front.

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