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.