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Stop smoking cigars at beer festivals

Why you should leave the stogies at home the next time you go beer-tasting.


Last summer, we came up with our 30 rules for beer festival attendees, a constitution of sorts meant to help our readers—and the people sampling beers alongside them—have the best fest experience possible. We’d now like to make an addendum to that list.

Rule 31: Leave the cigars at home.

The need for this amendment became apparent at the Arizona Strong Beer Festival, held on Saturday at a public park in Phoenix. There didn’t seem to be a single line to a beer tent in which at least one person wasn’t emitting plumes of cigar smoke. Everywhere you went, the pungent aroma was unavoidable.

The smokers could hardly be blamed: It was a beautiful afternoon in Phoenix, 80 degrees with a gentle breeze and even a little cloud cover. Perfect day for a stogie.

But then again, they absolutely could be blamed. A cigar is the sizzling fajita plate of the smoker’s world, a look-at-me product that demands bystanders join in, and cigar-smoking is an inherently communal activity; whether they want to or not, the people around the smoker will be drawn into the experience. Which is an inconsiderate thing to impose on people attempting to drink beer.

See, a beer festival has a purpose—tasting and enjoying beer—and cigars directly oppose that purpose. Smoke is distracting, making it nearly impossible to suss out the citrusy nuances of an IPA or the fruit-and-vanilla of an oak-aged wild ale. There’s a reason Great American Beer Festival judging takes place in a sterile ballroom and not Churchill’s Cigar Bar.

We understand that a number of drinkers enjoy pairing brews with tobacco—we’ve even written about the practice on several occasions. But these ceremonies have a time and place, away from fellow attendees who may not think your Romeo y Julieta Reserve matches up as well with their hefeweizen as it does with your barrel-aged imperial stout. We liken people who light up at beer festivals to people who microwave fish at work: Sure, you’re allowed to do it, but by doing it, you’re creating discomfort for the people around you.

So we ask: If you must smoke on the day of a beer festival, do so in a designated area, far away from the lines. Maybe outside the festival itself. Or, you know, at home. Your fellow beer-lovers will thank you.


Zach Fowle is DRAFT's beer editor. Reach him at zach@draftmag.com.

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  • Bryan says:

    I love cigars. I don’t smoke cigars at beer festivals, food festivals, etc. This is because most people aren’t there to herf. That being said, I’m first in line to beer & cigar festivals, whiskey & cigar festivals, etc.

    Cigar smoking is big and indulgent, unlike cigarette smoking. Thus, it is fitting for cigar smokers to be gentlemanly about it.

  • Felgon says:

    Must be an AZ thing? That shit would never fly in CA.

  • Tim Dennis says:

    I’m in GA and a few of the fests here actually have cigar booths setup where you can buy them there, same for a couple I’ve been to in AL… and most definitely FL.

    I’m OK with cigar smoking at beer fests, but I wouldn’t stand in a line smoking my cigar. It doesn’t bother me if you put us in a certain area and people know that area will have smoking.

  • Jerry McVicker says:

    Hell yes. I can’t stress this enough. I’m actually checking to see if beer festivals allow cigar smoking now. Completely ruins the experience. Besides, who would willingly screw up their taste buds with a cigar to miss out on delicious beer?

  • DD says:

    The author of this article forgets to mention that there is a cigar vendor at the festival. I’ve attended the Strong beer festival for 5 years now. I’ve smoked cigars at each one and have never had one person complain. What has happened is, 30-40 people every year ask if they can buy cigars at the festival. This festival is huge and there is plenty of open space. I’m mindful of where I blow the smoke and it’s never been an issue.

  • Dhuko says:

    Snowflakes at beer festivals. Times are a changing. Ask me to get rid of my Fuente and you’ll have a 13 foot up your little ass snowflake.

  • DeeDee says:

    Get over it.

    Just like you defend small, family-owned breweries, the ENTIRE Premium cigar industry consists of small, Family-owned businesses. I sell cigars at a lot of beer festivals, and I’ve got to say, we sell TONS of cigars!! That pays my bills, keeps me with a job and I won’t apologize for that. The events we go to don’t allow smoking under the beer tent, but we can’t enforce that ourselves. If someone is doing so, you may want to take your complaint to someone who works there,. I’m also willing to bet that very FEW ruin it for everyone. PREMIUM cigar smokers are THE most courteous smokers around. I’ll be working at our shop and eating my lunch or dinner. Do you know that customers actually ask me if it would bother me if they smoked near me??? The bar/restaurant next to my shop has an outdoor patio and smoking is permitted. My customers will not even smoke over there unless nobody is eating. I’m actually willing to bet that if you see someone smoking under the tent, if you asked them politely, they would happily comply.

    Organizers come to US because the demand is so big. People request cigars all the time at these events. Cigars pair well with beer, they don’t screw up your taste buds. If anything, they enhance the flavor of the beer. To think otherwise, you’ve obviously never smoked a quality cigar.

    The cigar industry doesn’t criticize beer, so the same respect could be reciprocated. One one hand, you’re so worried about “dying” from smoke inhalation, while on the other, some beer-drinkers are consuming alcohol, acting like drunken idiots, and maybe even driving afterwards. You can’t get a DUI of tobacco. We support your industry and are facing the same issues that you are. It would be nice if you would try to do the same.

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