Wine and beer festivals are great: attendees get to sample a variety of drinks, local breweries and wineries can market themselves, food trucks and local restaurants get in on the action, and raffles add a bit of excitement. It’s also quite easy to indulge too much and end up with a bad hang-over with little to no memory of your favorite samples. Just a bit of preparation and intention allows you to walk away from a wine or beer festival with a list of new favorite drinks and knowledge of the wineries and breweries.
Before the Festival:
1. Check Out the Layout
You’ll definitely want to do this if the festival offers a limited number of tokens per attendee to avoid using all your tokens before reaching a drink you really want to taste. For festivals with unlimited samples, keep in mind those samples do eventually run out when the drinks do, so secure your sample by visiting early in the day.
When looking at the map consider the breweries or wineries you haven’t tried yet, after all, this is the time to taste something new. Opt for a marking system of varying levels such as “definitely visit” and “maybe if the line’s not too long.”
2. Pack Accordingly.
Bring some sunscreen, a pen and small notebook or use a notebook app on your phone (we’ll discuss this later), and bottle of water. The festival will have water, most likely in the form of table dispensers. A personal bottle will help you keep track of how much you’ve actually drunk and will hold more water than those tiny water cups.
3. Hydrate and Eat
Be sure to drink plenty of water and eat a healthy, hearty meal prior to the festival. Avoid anything too heavy such as fried foods, but try to eat something more substantial that just a salad. If you feel great walking into the festival, it’ll be easy to hold on to that feeling.
At the Festival:
1. Enjoy your tastings!
Savor each sip. Try to pick up the flavors and aromas mentioned in the descriptions. Using your notebook (actual or virtual) keep track of your favorites. You can even snap pictures of the beer and wine names and makers for faster reference.
2. Engage with the brewers and wine makers.
Ask questions. Most people are passionate about their work, especially if they are working a festival where the intent is to spread knowledge. Don’t hesitate to ask anything and everything about their drinks, especially any special varieties like a coffee porter or the climate at the vineyard needed to produce a certain wine.
3. Hydrate and Eat
Drink a bit of water between every sample, with a full glass of water every 2-3 samples. It’ll help cleanse your palate and keep you hydrated. A lot of festivals offer pretzels necklaces or crackers to munch on, these are great to help balance the alcohol, but really aren’t needed if you keep spacing out your samples with conversation and water. However, plan to have a meal from the participating food trucks and restaurants. Some may have sample platters while others may only offer full meals, either way they’re bound to be a lot tastier than pretzels and crackers.
After the Festival:
1. Go out and Explore!
Support the winemakers and brewers by purchasing your favorite drinks. Go a step further and visit the wineries and breweries, especially if they are within a driving distance. Seeing the actual production of a product helps boost our appreciation for it.
Wine and beer festivals are great for interaction, trying new drinks and foods, and just having a great time. There’s also something to be said about walking away from a festival with a list of new favorites and a deeper appreciation for the winemakers and brewers. Get the most out of your next festival by focusing on the products instead of just the drinking.