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Friday, 30 July 2010

Beer Festival. This Time It's Personal.

A lighthearted look at beer festival warfare.

It’s important to have a game plan. Always. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. There’s a certain charm about the reckless Kamikaze who throws caution to the wind, goes out all guns blazing and just drinks what the hell he or she wants, when the hell he or she wants to. But you’d never do that yourself, there’s too much good beer to miss, too many opportunities that must be taken, you’ve seen that person on the wrong side of 7pm one too many times before.

It’s important to remember that you’re not in this alone. Bottled water and gut-lining food are your wingmen, they’ve got your back, just so long as you remember to keep them with you at all times and use them whenever you can.

Divide the task into more manageable chunks and attack group by group. First you must take on the rarities, those beers that may never cross your path again, they are the prime targets and must be taken down as early as possible. Next up is the difficult to find beers, they aren’t quite rarities, but who knows when you’ll next get the chance to drink them? Typically international in origin they can often be found hiding in bottles, identify and move in for the kill.

At this point you can start to relax, the pressure is off, the difficult work is done. Move on to anything pale, hoppy and lower in strength. Slow and steady wins the race, this is a marathon not a sprint, take your time and stoically work through the task one beer after another.

Now it’s time to sort the men from the boys. You’ve had a good time, you’ve had some great beer, but quitting isn’t an option. Your last hurdle is the dark and strong beer. Throw everything you’ve got at it, join forces with those around you and take them on as a tag team if you must. Do whatever it takes, you’ve got a whole year to regret it if you don’t!


Reluctant Scooper said...

I used to plan; lists devoured before the event, colour-coded hitlists, keeping an eye on cask tilt etc. But then I remembered what I loved most about festivals - just wandering around and happening across a beer. Asking other drinkers what they were enjoying. And getting slowly blotto on eight-percenters before 7pm.

With you on the food, though. Plenty of soakage is required every two hours. The starchier, the better.

Mark Dredge said...

Fantastic - I might have to print this out and put it on the wall!!

I'm with you on the planning and I've got an A4 page with names of beers on it to be ticked off, but I also like the approach of listening to others, taking sips of their beers, and then finding something new - there's nothing like unexpectedly finding a cool new beer. But it's all about the planning to begin!!

maltjerry said...

Very good!
Also important prep: combat gear t-shirt (how best to engage locals), spare pen (bound to lose one), kit bag (not too big, but room for a few bottles and festival glass).

Ed said...

What's on your tick list? I haven't done any preparation so could do with a few pointers.

Adrian Clark said...

After a few festivals where my palate was totally shot by 7.30pm and I could taste nothing but vaguely alcoholic treacle, I spent a couple of years being really focused... like only SW golden ales or West Midlands beer, or whatever. Totally agree on the food... that pork pie stall is my second home at Earl's Court :)

Mark said...

Thanks for the comments guys.

Mark / Scoop: For me, a balance between the two is the way to go. There's some stuff you want to plan so you don't miss out, but you need to keep in mind it's all about the festival experience not just ticking beers off the list. The blog entry was just a bit of fun really.

Jerry: Dead right about the bag. Not only for the stuff you buy, but also for the food and water you bring!

Adrian: Sounds like a thought out strategy ... but I'd never manage to stick to something like that. :P

Ed: My Sunday afternoon “job” is to make a list whilst drinking a cold beer. I’ll put it up as a comment when it’s done.

Mark said...

This is the bottle list I've just put together for GBBF:

Deschutes (USA): Mirror Pond Pale Ale (Bottled) (5% ABV)
Big Sky (USA): Moose Drool Brown Ale (Bottled) (5.1% ABV)
Birrificio Italiano (Italy): Tipopils (Bottled) (5.2% ABV)
Southern Tier (USA): Unearthly Imperial IPA (Bottled) (9.8% ABV
Lagunitas (USA): Hop Stoopid (Bottled) (8% ABV)
Great Divide (USA): 16th Anniversary Wood-Aged Double IPA (Bottled) (10% ABV)
Lagunitas (USA): IPA (Bottled)
Toccalmatto (Italy): Zone Cesarini (Bottled) (6.6% ABV
Mikkeller (Denmark): The American Dream (Bottled) (4.6% ABV)
Hornbeer (Denmark): Black Magic Woman (Bottled) (10% ABV)
Smuttynose (USA): Big A IPA (Bottled) (9.3% ABV)
Ballast Point (USA): Big Eye IPA (Bottled) (7% ABV)

Obviously too many there to get all of them. The bottles I do buy will most likely be from that list though.

Rob Derbyshire said...

My bottle list is:

Ballast Point Big Eye
Birrificio Italiano Tipopils
Deschutes Hop in the Dark
Great Divide 16th Anniversary
Hornbeer Black Magic Woman
Lagunitas Hop Stoopid
Lagunitas Maximus IPA
Sierra Nevada 30 Series 1st Edition
Smuttynose Big A IPA
Southern Tier Pale Ale
Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial IPA

Lots of overlapping. It may turn into the Great British Bun Fight!

Peter O'Connor said...

"you've got a whole year to regret it if you don't!"

...and the morning after to regret it if you do! :P Haha! Great post, I'll be playing the game myself on Wednesday!

JenniferS said...

I'm in San Diego, and saw that Green Flash is going to be at the British Beer Fest- I HIGHLY recommend the Le Freak for your bottle list (if they have it there). Ballast Point Sculpin is also one of my favorites...
Great blog by the way!

Mark said...

Le Freak wasn't there unfortunatley but they did have the IPA and the IIPA. Picked up a bottle of the IPA and we shared a bottle of the IIPA whilst there ... excellent it was too!

I've had Sculpin once before and thought it was excellent. Managed to pick up a bottle of the Big Eye IPA yesterday too. :)

Thanks for the comment.