As number of craft brewers across the country has grown, so have the number of beer fests. These events offer an awesome opportunity to try countless samples from tons of brewers in one place. But how do you know which ones to check out and which to skip? Here’s how to spot a bad beer fest.
7 Signs To Spot A Bad Beer Fest
There’s nothing worse than looking forward to an awesome beer event, only to be let down and feel like you wasted your money. You can avoid the bad beer fest by watching out for these seven red flags.
1) Discounted Tickets
With the growth of craft beer comes many opportunities for others to profit from the amazing community brewers have built. Sadly, there are plenty of those out there that know nothing about running a beer fest and simply see it as a way to make money.
Discounted tickets are a good sign that something is up. This is especially true if the fest is offering tickets on Groupon, LivingSocial, or similar sites right from the start.
Beer fests should be about giving attendees the opportunity to try great brews but discounted tickets are a sign that those running the event are more interested in packing people in and making a profit. Avoid those that look to lure you in with a discount.
2) Check The Program
Take a look at the program to see if a beer fest will be badass or bust. Festival websites often have programs from previous years, which include a list of brewers and what they brought along.
Check out what brewers brought in the past. If it’s just year-round offerings, that can be a sign of the quality of the festival. Year-round beers are great (and something we often overlook when hunting for the best of a fest) but you may not want to drop the money on attending an event with tons of taps you can get at your local beer bar any time.
With the proliferation of for-profit festivals popping up, many brewers have left it to their distributors to bring the beer. Generally this can be seen when there are only 1-2 beers from a brand in attendance.
3) Look For Longevity
While we aren’t saying that first year fests can’t be a success, look for those with a record of awesome events.
There are TONS of logistics that go into pulling off a great beer fest. Making everything work together in the first year can be hard. Festivals with a couple years under their belt are far more likely to workout the bumps most experience at first and will likely lead to a better experience for those in attendance.
Some festivals are put on by those that run of number of other great events. If a new fest is run by one of these, chances are you can be assured that they know how to pull off a great event, even the first year. Just be sure to check their track record before you buy.
4) Ask Around
Internet forums, social media, and other resources devoted to beer are filled with folks that have gone to many an event. They’re happy to share their experiences.
Generally this is the best way to learn what an event is like from the view of those attending. Just be aware that no single experience should be the definitive attend or don’t for a fest. Some may not have attending many other events (and thus may not have much to compare their experience to). Others may not know how to operate or act at such events. Everyone has different expectations of what a beer fest should be.
Gather a good amount of feedback from others before making your decision. The more you have to work with, the better call you can make about attending.
5) Check With The Experts
In addition to asking around, check with the experts that attend beer fests frequently. There are no shortage of blogs and other internet resources with write-ups around beer events.
Find a trusted source to share their experience. Many sites will give you an inside look at which events to attend, what to expect, and how to get the most of your time there.
These folks became trusted resources from attending many events. Most would also be happy to share their insight if you simply reach out and ask.
6) Seek The Stamp Of Approval
Many beer festivals are run by well known beer organizations, like your local brewers guild. These events focus on sharing great beer, rather than making a buck.
Brewers guilds promote the product made by their members and use festivals to introduce attendees to all their awesome offerings.
While these events still need to break even or even turn a little profit for future promotion, they usually exist to enlighten those in attendance. Their payoff comes when someone samples a beer at the festival and loves it enough to seek it outside the event. The price a brewery pays to give away a free sample at a fest, pays off by creating a new customer.
This was the general reasoning behind early festivals and a great sign you’ll see brewers bring their best to a beer fest.
7) Look For Local Attendance
With the number of festivals increasing each year, brewers and distributors are being stretched thin. There are only so many events that they can attend each year.
At this point, many have to pick and choose which to go to, and which to pass on. If your favorite local brewers aren’t there, that can be a good sign you may want to opt out of it too. While they can only go to a limited number of events each weekend, brewers are great gauges of which to attend and which to avoid. The guys working at the breweries want to have a great time too, and they know which fests at the best.
Lack of local support can be a sign that a fest may not have much to offer.
The Best Fests
There are no shortage of beer events at this point. Where there use to be only a handful each year, there are now festivals almost every weekend in many cities. Knowing how to spot a bad beer fest can save you money, time, and frustration.
By knowing the warning signs of a shitty beer fest, you can optimize your festival-going experience and increase the satisfaction in your sampling.
Like the beers they hold, beer glassware comes in all shapes and sizes. From snifters to tulips, there’s a glass for nearly every style. But what’s the best way to clean beer glasses? I recommend the KUWAN Bottle Cleaning Brush.
Clean Beer Glasses
Beer clean glassware is key. Not only does it insure that the beer inside is free from off-flavors buildup might impart, but perfect presentation adds to the drinking experience too.
I picked up the KUWAN Bottle Cleaning Brush after struggling to clean some of the nooks and crannies present in glasses like the Spiegelau IPA glass. Traditional brushes just couldn’t reach into the bottom and forcing paper towels in there never returned great results.
The soft, flexible KUWAN brush is perfect for any size and shaped glass. You can easily bend it any way you like, and it holds the shape wonderfully. The soft padding won’t scratch your precious glass but it does thoroughly clean the surfaces inside. The foam absorbs some liquid but doesn’t become super saturated to the point of making a mess.
When you’re done, a quick squeeze of the foam is all it takes to wring out the water. Rinse your glass thoroughly and you’re set to go.
Better Cleaned Glassware
Everyone wants their glasses to look the best. By using a KUWAN Bottle Cleaning Brush, you can be sure you’ve got beer clean glassware every time. For less than $10, you get a sturdy brush that can be shaped to any glassware in your collection.
The white building that houses Mikkeller & Friends is just a block off the main strip in Reykjavík. It can be a bit hard to find, as there’s just a box marked ‘General Bulletins’ which includes the menus for what’s inside.
Up the small set of stairs and you enter the pizza place and cocktail bar on the second level. The pizza place has no name. DILL Restaurant is also in the building.
There’s a small bar as you enter, along with a couple small tables. Into the main dining room you’ll find another handful of tables in the candle lit space. It’s not large but nice and intimate.
The decor feels like you’re in the living room of an Icelandic grandmother. It’s welcoming but a bit kitschy.
Their pizza options were creative. You’re bound to find something tasty (provided you’re a normal person who loves pizza).
We ordered a pie and a couple beers, then chatted while we waited for our food. The other guests enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, keeping the conversations to fine dining levels, more so than pizza parlor standards.
The beer list was small but nice. Who cares that it doesn’t offer a ton of choices, you’ll get those when you head upstairs.
Pizzas were tasty but our main mission wasn’t food, so we headed upstairs to Mikkeller & Friends.
The Main Attraction
Mikkeller & Friends features a small bar that seats about seven. There are a couple small tables in the bar area and a few larger groups tables in the room attached to the bar.
It’s a dimly lit space with candles providing most of the light at night. The walls are covered in interesting artwork and the chairs are brightly colored. An attic space that feels cozy, laid back, and intimate. The perfect spot to spend the night with a few great beers and conversation.
Mikkeller locations are known for awesome beer lists and the Reykjavík location is no different. Sadly, during out visit we found 8 of the 20 taps featured Stone Berlin re-brews of nationally available Stone USA beers back home. Their lineup for the week after included was the world’s largest tap takeover of Omnipollo, which would have been much more fun.
Despite the Stone selection, we were able to find plenty of fun offerings to enjoy. More than enough great stuff to keep us interested throughout the night.
In addition to the taps, they offered a small selection of bottles. This included the highly coveted Westy 12, at around $68 per bottle. They sell them frequently to American tourists and told us of a recent visitor who had enjoyed 4 bottles of the brew during his night.
The bar staff were friendly and happy to chat. They showed great knowledge and love for the beer they served, bringing a fun energy to the laid back feel of the bar. They also knew when to step back from a conversation and allow the patrons some personal time with their travel companions.
After a wonderful night out, the stairs up to Mikkeller & Friends bar may become a little challenging for some, but it’s well worth the risk for the fun time you’ll find inside.
Mikkeller & Friends offers one of the best beer selections in Iceland. A welcoming bar, great staff, and tasty pizza downstairs.
Want to get 2-for-1 beverage specials at some of the best bars, restaurants, distilleries, and breweries around town? The Passport Program has you covered.
Slide up to the bar, order the drink shown on that establishments passport page and you’ll get two drinks for the price of one. The $20 passport will more than pay for itself after just a couple visits to participating locations.
Currently available in 9 cities around the US, they’ll help you explore the city and enjoy great drinks along the way. They found the best boozing cities around the country and curated a great selection of drinking establishments in each.
The Minneapolis Passport
The drinking options in the Minneapolis booklet are top notch. A great mix of hot new spots with some of the trendiest new cocktails in town, and well-known names that have a history of great offerings.
They’re all around the city, so you won’t get burnt out in any one area. The table of contents breaks things down by neighborhood, so planning a little bar crawl is easy too.
Hai Hai, Tattersall Distillery, Dalton & Wade, Hi-Lo Diner, St. Genevive, and many more fill the Minneapolis passport pages. 36 spots in all, plus 4 bonus locations on the St. Paul side. There’s no shortage of awesome spots to grab a drink deal. They not only picked places with great drinks but also spots that make for great scenery, an awesome date spot, or nice night out.
For those looking for a great way to explore the drinking scene in their city, The Passport Program is the perfect pass to grab a great beverage at an awesome discount.
If you want to get 2-for-1 discounts around town, grab your passport from The Passport program now. Booklets are limited, so when they sell out you’ll have to wait until next season for your chance to save big at some of the best places around town. Get yours now and we’ll meet at the bar for happy hour soon.
Waking up to thunder and rain on Saturday morning didn’t look great for the beer fest that afternoon, but like the change in the weather, Mixed Culture 2018 was awesome.
Mixed Culture 2018 Sour Beer Fest
For the second year of the Mixed Culture beer fest, Fair State Coop moved it to their NE taproom and brought in a bunch of amazing brewers to add to the action. While the of first year featured beers exclusively from Fair State, this year brought in some of the best sour brewers from in-state and out too.
The setup was sweet. Outside, 4 tents pouring 3-4 breweries each, plus food, ice cream, and live screen printing of custom Mixed Culture shirts. Spinning music was DJ Christy Costello and Danielle Morris keeping the crowd moving.
Inside, Fair State loaded the tap list with sour offerings for you to enjoy as much as you liked. Nothing like sitting at the bar and ordering away without having to pay.
The breweries in attendance brought plenty of mixed culture experience and an awesome lineup of wild action:
Earth Rider Brewery
Fair State Brewing Cooperative
Fonta Flora Brewery
Fun Factory Geuzeria
Forager Brewing Company
Half Acre Beer Company
Jester King Brewery
Live Oak Brewing Company
Sociable Cider Werks
Suarez Family Brewery
Surly Brewing Company
Whiner Beer Company
A couple brewers were local but many aren’t even available in Minnesota. The one day fest was an amazing opportunity to try beers Minnesotans (or even those local to these brewers) can’t enjoy everyday.
The offerings were really awesome. So many mixed culture, sour, and wild beers from many of the best. With or without fruit. Fermented in stainless or barrels. There were tons to choose from.
In addition to countless sour and wild brews, a number of breweries brought pilsners to cleanse the palate. Live Oak Pilz has long been one of my favorite examples of the style, and Fair State is right up there when it comes to clean drinking, perfect pilsner action. Having both side by side was killer, especially as the humidity increased as the day went on.
Half Acre Battle of Trenton, a barrel-aged Kentucky Common wylde ale steeped in peach tea and fresh mint was a favorite of many. Fair State Sun & Rain, a pale sour aged in whiskey barrels that held spontaneous cider was delicious drinking. Forager Brewing wins the award for the strangest mashup with Methode PushPop, a coconut hefeweizen with peanuts and bananas. Tons of others delighted and pushed the boundaries of beer.
There were tons of taps while still remaining a reasonable amount so you could hit them all if you like. With so many awesome items on offer, it was very tempting to stay for the second session in order to partake in even more.
The Mixed Culture 2018 beer festival hit it out of the park. Fantastic brewery and beer list, great event layout, no lines, and lots of wild beer loving.
Be sure to click through the pictures above to see more shots from the event.
If you love mixed culture action, I highly recommend attending this event in the future.
I’ve been drinking craft beer for over a decade. In that time there’s been a ton of change in the industry. One thing that has remained constant, the best breweries always have the trendiest beer.
The Trendiest Beer
When asked to rate the best breweries out there (craft beer drinkers own ratings rather than those of other brewers or industry experts), it’s clear that the current beer trends hold huge weight in their response. The answer you’ll get from most is that the best breweries are also those making whatever the current trend in craft beer is.
When IPAs were the big thing, those brewing West-coast hop bombs were consistently the breweries people rated the highest. There may have been a couple Midwest and East-coast brewers thrown in there, but it was always those brewing hop-forward beers.
Imperial stouts became the hip new thing and so did any brewery known for making them. The bigger the beer, the more likely someone was to name them one of the best breweries out there.
Barrel-aging was the next trend in craft beer and with it, the brewers making them were named to the list of the best by the general drinker.
As sours and NE-style IPAs have grown to be the current hype-styles, we see the same accolades on any brewery offering them.
Few Other Factor Matter
While it makes sense that people pay attention to those offering the currently trendy styles, it’s interesting to see that range of offerings, quality/consistency, and other factors play little role in how the general craft beer drinker rates the best breweries. It doesn’t matter if a brewer has produces a wide range of well established and award winning beers, if they aren’t offering the current in thing, they’re not considered the best.
Distribution doesn’t seem to matter much either. A brewery that only sells product from their taproom is actually more likely to be named a best brewery, due to the limited availability of their beers. Rarely will a national brand ever be seen as one of the best. It’s hard to be hyped when you’re readily available.
It’s also interesting to see how quickly things change as consumer tastes move on to the next big thing. A brewery may be the talk of the town one day, only to be largely forgotten months later as the next new style emerges. The loyalty craft beer fans show can be quickly forgotten, as the crew goes chasing the new hype.
On To The Next Thing
As with everything in the beer industry, change is a constant. What’s trendy today isn’t tomorrow. New styles appear and then we move on to the next.
There’s nothing wrong with liking the hot new thing or brewery making it. But I’d consider if a brewery is truly the best for making a single beer or even a few. Does being the hot thing today really make you the very best? A rookie just drafted to the pros is now better than Michael Jordan with a career of accomplishments? That I’m not so sure about.
For more than 45 years, First Avenue has played a headlining role in the Minneapolis music scene. Since 2005, Surly Brewing has been a star of the Minnesota brewing scene. It only seems right that these two icons came together to create +1 Golden Ale, a beer that tastes better loud.
+1 Golden Ale
Music and beer go hand in hand. Surly Brewing and First Avenue collaborated to create a beer that goes great at any show, no matter who’s playing.
When you’re drinking at the venue, you want something that’s flavorful but will also let you make it until the encore. This beer has a subtle hop flavor with low bitterness, easy going malt body, and low enough ABV (5.1%) to let you rock all night. It won’t melt your face, even if the music does. Indoors or out, winter or summer, it’s a style that drinks easily and offers just the right balance of flavor, while not overdoing it if you crush more than a few.
These awesome looking cans sport the same black with white lettering that the outside of the iconic First Avenue building does. But just like the building, while the outside looks great, it’s what’s playing inside that you came for.
Grab A +1
When you head to hear a favorite band, you want to drink something that’s awesome and goes all night, just like the music. Grab a Surly Brewing +1 Golden Ale and raise it high, as you hope the night doesn’t end. It’s easy drinking, no matter what style of music you pair it with.
Now you’ll be asking the bartender (in addition to the door guy), “Can I get a +1 please?” And remember, this one tastes better loud.
Are you looking to become a beer snob (I don’t care for the term, please don’t call yourself that)? If that’s your goal in life, you’ll want to check out this guide to your new life of snobbery. Have a look at Stuff Every Beer Snob Should Know.
Learning Stuff Every Beer Snob Should Know
How do you achieve beer snob status? Stuff Every Beer Snob Should Know by Ellen Goldstein is a guide to beer basics, with an unfortunate title.
After laying a groundwork of beer basics, we drink up some knowledge on glassware, tasting, scoring, off-flavors, and other items involved in drinking our favorite beverage.
Beer becomes life with a guide to food pairings, selecting the right beer, hosting a tasting, descriptors, and festival basics.
While it’s not overly in-depth, it’s a good guide for beginners. It reads quick and easy, covering a large range of topics in order to get you started fast. It’s certainly too basic for most that have been drinking craft beer for some time, but it’s perfect for those just introducing friends to the beverage, or getting started in craft beer themselves.
Drink Up Knowledge
The only way to become more knowledgeable is by learning. This book covers a great range of beer topics every fan should understand and does so in a simple and quick manner. While it’s not the largest reference on the topic, it’s sure to help get beginners up speed so that they don’t feel intimidated around seasoned craft beer fans.
The original IPAs were created to weather the long journey to India, but there’s much more to the story than that quick history. In IPA: A Legend In Our Time, author Roger Protz gives a detailed look at how the style first began, the evolution, and much more.
With the history lesson taking up the first third of the book, we then move into profiles of commercial IPAs for the remaining 2/3 of the book. These profiles are arranged by country of origin and include a short description, history, and tasting notes on each brew.
While they’re interesting at first, and may be useful for those looking for brewing inspiration, the beer profiles wear thin after the +20th page of them. With nearly 200 pages of beer profiles, you’re likely to find yourself (as I did) taking a pass on most of them.
It would have been much more interesting to have investigated the current climate for IPA in each nation, rather than just beer profiles native to those lands.
Hopped Up History
Though the beer profiles quickly became boring, the history and level of detail explored in IPA: A Legend In Our Time made for an interesting read. If you’re a hop-lover, it’s sure to be worth the time to learn more about the origins of our favorite beer style.
From all 50 states to Sasquatch, deer, unicorns, and jackalopes too, they offer countless designs.
Each opener is made by hand and cut using a CNC plasma cutter. Then it’s hand ground to take off the rough edges and make the opener look great.
Created by husband and wife team Brandon and Erin Spangler, they’ve combined the creative talent of their metal shop and pottery studio in the family barn in rural Georgia. They draw inspiration from the great outdoors and nature around them, putting it into the imaginative metal offerings.
An interesting, unique bottle opener is just one more way we show our personality and BE Creations & Designs has a lot of ways to show that personal style. Through creative, cool, industrial designs, they’ve got something that will speak to every beer drinker in some way.