The San Antonio Beer Festival is an undertaking. It’s 445-plus beers. It’s more than 6,500 people. It’s two city parks worth of wall-to-wall brews hailing from across the Lone Star State and beyond. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, that tests even the pros. That’s why we’ve gathered some tips from beer lovers, beer writers and beer makers to help you make the best out of your experience this Saturday. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
As with the rest of life, hydration is key. One taster’s glass of water for one taster’s glass of beer pays rich dividends in hangover prevention. Plus, you rinse out most of the last beer’s residue. Your taste buds will thank you.
There are a lot of tents at the San Antonio Beer Fest, some of which are shading beers you have never had. Give them priority on your tasting card. At the least, you can up your Untapped stats; at best, you could stumble on your new favorite style.
A little kindness goes a long way in our fraught age, and some dumb chuds use a little alcohol as an excuse to be jerks. Don’t be like them. Talk to your servers and tell them thank you. It will definitely make for a cooler experience than acting like a total floccboi.
Bet your friends a six-pack that you will find the most glorious pun of a beer name for the day. Recite the names in the most outrageous voice possible until they break down and admit you are a winner.
— Lance Higdon, beer writer
Preserve Your Dignity
If you want to survive a beer festival with your dignity intact, avoid a splitting headache the next morning or an upset tummy, there are common-sense rules to follow:
1. Lay a base. If you don’t eat a hearty meal the morning of the festival, you’re already doomed. Remember to eat throughout the festival as well. Food absorbs alcohol.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. This should go without saying though. Drink plenty of water the day before, the morning of and throughout the festival.
3. Be kind to others. Your fellow festival-goers are trying to have a good time, too, so be aware of your surroundings. Situational awareness is key.
4. Plan ahead. Don’t expect to try every beer or hit every brewery while there. If you do, it’ll just be bad scene for everyone. Plan ahead as to which beers and breweries you want to try and pace yourself.
The festival is a great chance to have fun while enjoying good beer and community. So keep these rules in mind Saturday. Your future self will thank you.
— Jeremy Banas, author of Pearl: A History of San Antonio’s Iconic Beer
Get There Early
Throughout the day you will taste some great beers – just be sure to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
The festival is a fantastic opportunity to try new beers that you otherwise may not have tried before, so take advantage. Arrive early because many breweries will bring out limited edition beers just for the festival and when it’s gone, it’s gone!
Many of the breweries will have their brew staff and brewers there, so ask questions about the beers and gain more brew knowledge. Remember, there is no such thing as a dumb question!
Try to rinse out your glass after you finish each beer so you can taste the beers in their true form.
To stay safe and to avoid worrying about parking, just take ride share.
— Roland Tamez, Busted Sandal Brewing
Drink Lots of Water
Try things from breweries you’ve never heard of.
Please Uber/Lyft/Get Picked Up – don’t drink and drive!
Drink lots of water :D
— Scott Metzger, Freetail Brewing Co.
Do Your Homework
What Scott said.
When I’m preparing for a festival like this, I also take B-complex vitamins and milk thistle supplements to support my liver and kidneys. Scott will probably scoff at this as so much genuflecting and superstition, but it’s also why the Astros won the World Series (as yet unproven).
In addition to hydration, nutrition is important. Partake of the many food trucks in attendance, establish a base.
With the beer list printed in advance, go ahead and note some interesting/new brews on tap — many brewers like to showcase rare beers, and this is your chance to try them all in one spot. Take your time — it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You won’t be able to try every beer at a large festival, so be sure and enjoy the ones you do try.
Rinsing is important, but not necessary between every beer. If you’re cleansing your palate with a lager, you don’t necessarily have to rinse before the next brew. If you are switching from IPA to Imperial Stout, please rinse. And don’t be afraid to drink your own rinse water – as well as more water after that. Stay hydrated. And don’t forget skin protection — sunscreen even if it is an overcast day.
Finally, if you do end up with a hangover, I’m not above a bottle of Pedialyte the next day…
— Jason Davis, Freetail Brewing Co.
An Unexpected Tip
BYOTP. Go down to H-E-B and purchase a pack of their Twice as Soft toilet paper plus To-Go Rolls. I’m obsessed with those toilet paper rolls. I use them for Fiesta too.
Hand sanitizer, hand fan (depending on forecast), poncho (depending on forecast), wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
Also, wear a fanny pack or backpack purse. Who wants to be that girl carrying around a handbag all day?
— Nicole George, brand manager at Glazer’s Beer and Beverage
Look beyond the brewery tents — there are almost always really cool beers being poured at other stations. For instance, at this year’s SA Beer Fest, some of our coolest beers will be poured at the H-E-B tent.
Ask the brewers what you should try — most breweries send knowledgeable beer reps and/or brewers to attend big beer festivals. While they probably won’t be the ones pouring the beer, they will often be at their beer tent. They appreciate it when you ask questions about their beers, so feel free to ask what’s new or what they recommend. Just step off to the side if you’re starting a conversation so the people behind you can order.
Pace yourself. Seek out the new beers that you really want to try first. Your palate will get tired the more samples you try, so realize that your eighth bourbon barrel stout will taste different to you than your first.
Have a back-up plan if your cell phone isn’t getting service. There are lots of people at beer festivals, and they are all trying to meet up with their friends. That can put a strain on cell towers, and sometimes you won’t get good service. Is your call not going through? Try a text message instead.
— Mark McDavid, Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Hydrate! Drink lots of water, and wear comfortable shoes, as the more comfortable you are, the longer you’ll want to stay and get in as much as you can from an experience perspective.
Ask questions. Often times the sales people or brewers or employees are behind the booth and can answer any question you may have about styles, upcoming beers, and what to expect from what you’re drinking. On that note, too, be wary of the line, asking a ton of questions when the line is long is not cool. Often times people can step aside to go further into conversation while someone else tends to the line.
Finally, I always believe that you have to step outside of your comfort zone when trying new beers. Festivals are fun times for breweries to showcase something new, and it’s a good way to try samples of it without any real repercussions if you don’t like it.
— Les Locke, Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery
Stay hydrated! We recommend mixing in at least one 12-ounce glass of water every 4-5 beer samples.
Remember to eat snacks throughout the day.
Pack plenty of sunscreen and a hat if possible.
Wear comfortable walking shoes that are appropriate for any weather, as you never know when it may rain.
— Kyley Pitts, South Texas district manager for Real Ale Brewing Co.
So many restaurants, so little time. Find out the latest San Antonio dining news with our Flavor Friday Newsletter.