Beer Festivals – What Makes them ?

Posted on October 10, 2012


Given that is Beer Festival Month globally why not a post on what I like with beer festivals. We have had Oktoberfest occur in Munich in September and finishing last week, and we have GABF happening in Denver this weekend. I am going over to Europe and will attend a festival outside Brussels on the 20th. Bierfesten is very happy. 

It was a good article that made me re-think about beer festivals that I have been to, and what actually worked and what hasn’t. I have written numerous articles outlining the good, bad and ugly, but it was an interesting post by Beer Buddha that got me re-thinking about what I loved and hated with festivals. He made a statement that although a festival may have 60 beers on offer there may only be 12 that you want to drink.

It all started for me when I went to a festival in Syracuse New York, followed by the Vermont Brewers festival that got me hooked on the beer festival scene, but more importantly got me hooked into beer. Before those events I thought Munich Octoberfest was “THE” festival that one had to get to. Now I wouldn’t go there if you paid me. Though I do love German Pilsner, I do not want to be surrounded by Litre Steins of drunken tourists.

So what makes up a Good Festival, here my top 10 of what I think


  1. Interesting and Limited Beers – You do not pay money to enter an event with beers you can buy normally from that pub or one down the road. If the brewers have not put their good stuff on, do not enter.Time of Year – In Winter you obviously want Dark beers, or Barley wines that are supposed to warm you up, and in Summer its the time of year for IPA’s and Hefeweizen. Timing had a big play in the event, where Halloween Pumpkin beer could be theme.
  2.  Location – I have been to events in bars, outdoor parks, warehouses, offices, convention centers  closed off streets, and beside lakes and snow capped mountains. This is what they all ‘ambiance’ guys and it does make a difference in how the organizers choose the location. The festival in Vermont on the lake is very unique, where as the GABF in a big convention hall is Large and Crowded with lots of WOOHOOs. There is a festival in Seattle held in this large park out in Redmond that is always fun as people are relaxed, have blankets to sit on and I have always enjoyed that one. Portland Holiday Festival is held in a tent outside in Portland,which is often raining and cold, but warm inside with lots of great beer.
  3.  The Attendees– The most annoying locations are those that targeted towards University Crowds to attend to make the numbers, as opposed to beer newbies and nerds who intermingle. It is always refreshing to see newbies taste beers and see something in it that you haven’t in years. Meeting new beer friends at events is one of the key fun parts. I avoid the macro festivals with tons of College kids and where there is a Blow Up Corona Jumping castle are not the ones I like to attend. 
  4.  Unlimited Sampling – I prefer the events where the samples are free after paid entry, but some states prohibit these kinds events due to license laws. The pulling apart tickets at events is the worst part, when really the brewers don’t care, but have to participate based on the organizers and liquor laws.
  5. Water Breaks – There should be FREE water at festivals where its paid attendance. Many festivals have water coolers and some even off free water bottles. I’m down on festivals that charge more for water than beer tickets.

Posted in: Festivals