As beer becomes more popular and varied than ever, beer festivals, tastings, gatherings, and other events have become increasingly popular, too.

It’s a natural progression. Discovering a new, hard-to-find beer has basically become a hobby for thousands of people. A new brewery opening will draw crowds of hundreds looking to taste the latest thing. A smartphone app called “Untapped” has been created specifically so people can keep track of the beer they’ve had, and share their thoughts with friends.

I’m one of those people with Untapped (I’m at over 250 unique beers at the moment, though friends of mine are at 500-plus), notebooks, and thirst for new beer. Saying that makes me feel a bit snobbish, but at least I come by it honestly.

This also means I’ve been to plenty of beer-based festivals, of varying sizes. Sometimes a beer event will feature a few dozen local breweries in a relaxed atmosphere. Others will bring in brewers from across the world, drawing thousands of people. Over my attendance at a bunch of events, I’ve come up with a few ideas of how to make sure you get the most out of a festival you attend.

Moderation is key: It probably goes without saying, but moderation, as in all things, is especially important when you’re at a beer event.

If you really wanted to, you could rush in, slam back the 4 oz. tasters, and pass out on the ground in a pool of your own regret in 15 minutes. Typically, there are dozens and dozens of different beers, and at the start of the event, there are usually plenty of brewers with no lines at their booths. This may tempt you to try as much as you can as quickly as you can.

That’s an amazingly stupid thing to do. It’s almost impressively stupid, like a dog trying to carry a 10-foot stick through a three-foot gap for hours.

You may think the idea of an adult drinking that much too quickly is improbable, but I have seen people get sloppy in no time at all. I’ve seen a trail of broken glasses leading away from an event because attendees couldn’t control themselves to the point of even holding on to their commemorative merchandise.

Take your time. These things last for hours. You don’t need to worry about running out of beer. Brewers have ridden this horse before, and know what to expect.

Get food early: Most of the time people imbibe alcoholic drinks with a meal, or after one, so they get used to how their body handles alcohol with food in their stomach. When you don’t eat, things happen a lot quicker than you might expect. If you’re going to drink, you’ve got to eat.

Eating before the event is a good idea. Or, if you’re at the event, getting to food early is also a good idea. Many events will have a food stand or truck of some sort. At the start, most people head right for the beer, leaving the food lines shorter. But once those people have a few beers and get hungry, you can practically sense the mood shift as the stampede to get in line begins.

It can happen in the span of a few minutes. One second you think hmm … I’m peckish, and the next there’s a 40-minute wait to get your shawarma (true story).

If you hit the food up first, you won’t have to wait in those lines. Plus, when everyone else heads for food, you won’t have to wait in lines as long for your beer. Win-win. Speaking of lines …

A line doesn’t mean it’s special: I see it at almost every beer event. Things start, and inexplicably one brewer will immediately get a giant line.

Now sometimes this line may be justified. Some brewers only bring a limited amount because of their size, or the distance they had to travel to attend, and it’s a desirable beer that’s worth getting. If you did research and know what you’re waiting for, by all means queue up.

Typically, I’ve found that’s not the case. People see a long line, think oh, that must be special, and get in line, too. Next thing you know, you’ve got 30 people waiting in a long line, with maybe two people who know why they’re even waiting there.

It’s easy to fall into the trap. I did it at the first events I attended. But after awhile I started asking people, “Hey, what are you waiting for?”

You’d be surprised how many would say, “I don’t know, but there’s a line!”

Lines don’t mean the beer is going to be life changing, it just means there’s a line. There’s probably plenty of other brewers, with no lines at all, just waiting to pour you a beer and chat about why they do what they do. Go say hi.

Sometimes the line is justified, but a shorter line means more time to talk to the brewers about what they do. Staff photo by Chris Chase

Hydrate: This one is straightforward and with easy directions. Drink water.

Any event worth its salt is going to have plenty of water in large receptacles spread everywhere. When you finish a beer, rinse out your glass and fill it with a bit of water. Do it. Drink water.

It seems simple, but it really is important. I could go into the science about it, but at the end of the day all you need to know is: Drink water.

Seriously, drink water.

It’s okay to toss beer out: Look I get it, discarding beer can be hard.

But sometimes, you come across a beer that you don’t enjoy all that much. Sure, you could finish it, but it’s not your favorite. If so, use one of the buckets that are likely placed around the event grounds to dump out the beer.

I know, I know, blasphemy and all that. But the event might have 150 beers on tap. If you’re getting a 4 oz. pour, that’s 600 ounces to try them all. Or over four-and-a-half gallons. Of beer.

Even if they only have 50 varieties, that’s still well over a gallon. Do you really think you’re going to fit that much of any liquid in your stomach? Let alone that much beer?

No. You’re not going to. So save some of that precious space for a beer you really enjoy.

It’s okay. Not everyone likes every kind of beer. Personally, I’ve never had a barleywine I like. Or any grapefruit-based beer (they always end up tasting like soap to me). I know people that hate IPAs, but love sour ales.

Life is short, stomachs aren’t that big. Pour it out.

Have a safe way home: This one seems like a no-brainer, but I felt it was important to emphasize it. Make sure you know how you’re getting home.

Get a taxi, a sober friend, take public transit, whatever. But don’t drive home after drinking.

Some of these tips are more important than others, obviously, but they’re a good list of things to know and look out for heading into a beer event. Festivals can be fun, with lots of like-minded people all enjoying some delicious beverages.

If you like beer, and you’ve never been to a beer event, I recommend lining up a safe way home, and giving it a try.

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