Article: Surviving the Fest of Ales by Kevin Patterson
Written By: Kevin Patterson on 08/29/2013
If you've clicked this link then there's a pretty good chance that you know craft beer has blown up! And what better way to either submerse yourself into the scene than at your local, friendly beer festival? While the thought of a beer festival may conjure mental images of booze soaked co-eds, they are in fact an opportunity to sample a myriad of different beer styles and upcoming trends in small tastings with brewery representatives, distributors and other beer experts standing by to answer questions about what you're tasting. The typical beer festival attendee can range from craft beer aficionados looking to advance their palates to those new to the world of better beers who are dipping their toes for the very first time. Regardless where your knowledge of beer falls, there's something for everyone at a beer festival.
It just so happens that Lexington is privileged to have such a festival scheduled for this weekend! Located at Lexington's Cheapside Parkthis Friday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. The "Lexington Festival of Ales" (and some lagers too) will feature hundreds of unique beers from around the world. The entry fee of $25 gets festival goers 20 beer samples and a collectible tasting glass. It is a great opportunity for people wanting to discover beer styles they might enjoy in an inexpensive, fun way.
So now that your interest is piqued, your ticket is purchased and you are as giddy as an 8-year-old on Christmas Eve, Five-thirty on Friday is coming quickly! And that's all that matters, Right? Well, hold on there Trigger, there are things to consider beforehand to ensure that this festival will be memorable for all the right reasons, and some of it requires days of planning ahead. So, here's your 27-step plan for surviving the 5th Annual Lexington Fest of Ales:
1. Alcohol Tolerance: This will vary greatly based on your common diet, gender, weight, mood, health and drinking activity, so know your own individual tolerance. In pregame planning, you should be giving thought to what your tolerance is and prepare not to exceed it. Surprisingly, light alcohol consumption in the days preceding the festival can help to build slightly more resistance to the effects of alcohol and allow for a mild increase in enjoyment at the festival itself. Keep in mind that this isn't a license to drink all night, every night but it may help for these special events.
2. Dietary Supplements: There are many supplements that assist your body's liver, kidney, heart and lung function, especially in the presence of toxins such as alcohol. Talk with your doctor before hand to find out which supplements may be right for you.
3. Pay it forward: Do yourself a favor and stock up on sports drinks and plan ahead for a well-balanced meal following the festival and the next day. With the common lethargic feelings, it's awfully convenient to phone in that pizza and ignore dehydration. But if you have a meal plan in mind and in the fridge that contains the right amounts of lean protien, complex carbohydrates and "good" fats, then you're more likely to stick to it. Proper nutrition will help you recover faster than a poor or spontaneous diet.
4. Weather: It looks like we've lucked out! If the forecast holds true, then the festival will be climbing down from a high of 92 degrees and into a cooler evening. If you're susceptible to sun burn, you'll need to apply a liberal coat of sunscreen and wear clothing that covers the skin. Even a wide-brim hat will help substantially. The relatively cooler 71-degree sun fall might leave you with a relative chill, so a long sleeve tee might come in handy.
5. Shoes: So, it's Friday and "It's Five O'clock Somewhere" is playing in your mind. That Somewhere is Cheapside Park. You're fresh off work and you're ready to get your tasting on while still in work attire. That's fine ...xcept for the shoes. Because you'll be standing roughly 100 percent of the time, those ole dogs will be a barkin' so feel free to find it fashionable to have supportive sneakers that LexBeerScene recommended.
6. Sleep: A good eight to nine hours of sleep a night leading up to the festival will help you feel rested and ready to go. Studies have shown that tiredness causes the effects of alcohol to register much sooner than in folks with adequate sleep. Any stress to your system can also cause these premature effects. Sleeping helps to relieve many stresses and helps lead to a more enjoyable festival. It's a good idea to let that alarm clock rest on Friday night; You'll need plenty of sleep afterwards as well.
7. Hydration: Drinking plenty of water prior to the festival will put you on good footing. The healthier you are prior to drinking, the more rewarding the event will be for you. Plan on bringing a water bottle that can be refilled. You simply cannot drink enough water to replace that which the alcohol chases out of your system, but hydrating early and often will do your system wonders. Your festival ticket comes with a free bottle of water from BB&T.
8. Pregame meal: So you ate lunch at noon, and now it's 5. That's a long time to go without something in your stomach, especially in pre-drinking preparation. A moderate menu of carbohydrates, protein, fats and perhaps a multivitamin can help to slow the rate of alcohol absorption, line the stomach and help you to control how the alcohol makes you feel. Drinking your dinner is not usually your wisest course of action. These nutrients can lessen the hangover effects as the alcohol exits the system.
9. Flavor impairment: For the sake of getting the most from each flavor of beer, it's a good idea to refrain from smoking, eating highly spicy or salty foods, brushing teeth or chewing gum within a few hours of the festival. All these things dull the sensations of taste and prevent you from enjoying the beers as much as you'd like. Similarly, strong colognes and perfumes will interfere with the aromatic notes of the beers- so leave all that for another day.
10. Tasting Notes: Although you won't want to write a dissertation about each light ester or spicy phenol, you may however want to jot down the name of a beer with a plus or minus sign that indicates whether you liked it or not. In the days following the festival, you'll want to seek out that profound beer for purchase, but may not be able to remember its name, brewer or even its appearance. Pen and paper are your friend.
11. I.D check: Remember to bring your valid I.D. Surprisingly; many fest goers overlook this minor detail, especially the gals who may leave their purses in the car.
12. Cash: Also bring cash for vendors of food and nonalcoholic drinks. At some point you'll realize that this small monetary insurance policy could very well be your saving grace.
13. Purses, bags, and such: Leave bulky items behind. With a combination of drinking patrons and innocent bystanders, this festival draws well over a thousand people. That purse, backpack or skateboard will quickly become more of your anchor than an asset.
14. Get in early: The tickets can be redeemed before the fest and this is a good time to get yourself into beer mode. Whether you are weary about large crowds or you want a one-on-one question and answer session with the beer representatives, the novice fest attendees may be disappointed by the long lines. Your early action earns you some elbow room and individual attention.
15. Snacks: Unlike many festivals, you will have the unique advantage of toting along your own snacks. Whether they are a light cracker for a palate cleanser or a simple carbohydrate-based beer complement, this will help to control the rate of absorption from alcohol. You will likely see the avid beer festers wearing homemade threaded necklaces strung through a row of mini pretzels. This somewhat quirky yet ingenious idea gives the opportunity to snack without the tote mentioned earlier.
16. 20 tokens, small pours: This is the elephant in the room that you have chosen to overlook. The good news is that's plenty of stronger-than-usual for a night of tasting. The bad news is that there are over 200 different varieties to sample (a great problem to have, if you ask me). You need a game plan, my friend. Don't waste your time, ticket or taste buds on beers that you consider less than average just because it's conveniently inside the gate. Find out what's available and where each is located This link will help: http://www.lexbeerscene.com/images/Festival-Layout2013-Whole.jpg It's good to choose a few beers that are tried and true, but be sure to check out new arrivals and a few obscure beers that you would not otherwise purchase in a store or bar. And once you have a plan, stick to it. That's tough to do once the aura of the fest takes hold.
17. Beer reps: Although you may be interested in speaking with a head brewer or a knowledgeable brewery employee about those nuances of taste, he or she may not be available. The majority of volunteers who are pouring will have varying degrees of knowledge about the beers, but may not have all the answers to your questions. Be patient and don't expect a long-winded conversation once the lines stack up. There will be over 50 brewers and beer reps on hand, but they may be mobbed.
18. Stalking tables: The first few minutes of the session will likely allow for a meet-and-greet with those who are pouring, the lines will grow and the opportunities to talk will shorten. Be mindful of those who are waiting impatiently while you wrap up your recital of the Gettysburg Address. If others are waiting, its common courtesy to move from the table and give that riveting rendition to others who care more. Ok, maybe not.
19. Time is valuable: While the more popular brands will inherently carry the longest lines, many lines for other very fine beers can be much shorter. This is not indicative of quality, so your time may be spent much more wisely as a table with a shorter line.
20. Don't drop the cup: Because this festival will have a combination of folks who are drinking and those who aren't, many safeguards are in place to control who's a valid taster and who's not, so you may not get a replacement cup. You'll have to rely on your buddies to drink the beers and describe to you how wonderful they are. Another common necklace involves a small caddy that holds the beer for hands-free enjoyment while keeping the cup secure.
21. Moderation: Eventually the alcohol will take effect and the temptation to "power through" will seem like the new game plan. But know your limits and plan to slow your rate of consumption once you begin to feel inebriated. It's a privilege to enjoy 20 of these beers, not a requirement. The binging that's normally associated with novice beer drinkers causes embarrassment - don't be that guy!
22. Halftime meal: You should plan on an intermission for food and water. Because a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats help to control the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol, a visit to a vendor may lessen the chances that you get that sudden drunk feeling later in the night. Alcohol doesn't just hit you unless you neglect important dietary requirements.
23. What goes in ... Must come out. Now that you have hydrated well before the festival and you remembered to drink plenty of water during the fest, trips to the "port-a-potties" may be frequented as much as beer booths. We are all consuming at the same time, so it reasons that we will meet up at the john. In other words, don't wait until your water is about to break before getting in line.
24. Exit strategy: Ok, it's a quarter 'til 8:15 and you still have a dozen drink tokens left. What to do? It's worth your sanity, health and safety to know your limits and to resist the temptation to get your "money's worth." Your mind, body and conscience will thank you on Saturday morning for skipping those last few drinks. Remember, that this is a pedestrian event in an urban setting. Traffic, sidewalk hazards and hard surfaces have to be negotiated, so safe and sober transportation home or to a local hotel is warranted.
25. Post-game meal: We've talked you into eating a lot today, right? Well, let's talk about it again. When the drinking is behind us, it's time to think ahead to the next day. A well-balanced meal will supply your body the vitamins and nutrients that the alcohol worked so hard to displace. Be sure to drink plenty of water, again- a sports drink is a good idea. You want to have fond memories about the night out at Cheapside Park, not how bad those craft beers made you feel. Proper diet is synonymous with responsible drinking.
26. Safety and welfare: With all-things-alcohol, personal responsibility is the most important trait of an enjoyable night out. The laws of the sidewalk and roadways still apply, so keen observation and adherence to those laws are paramount. Don't drink and drive; there will be many opportunities to hail a cab. And if you need help, please ask an event volunteer or organizer for assistance.
27. The aftermath: Saturday after the festival, it's a good idea to give yourself a break. You've gotten nine hours of quality and uninterrupted sleep. You've skipped the coffee and opted for the sports drink and well-balanced breakfast. Now it's time to work out! Seriously, ff you have a normal exercise routine, you will get some benefits from a 50-percent intensity workout, just enough to get the heart rate up a bit. If you don't have a routine, this is not the time to start one; instead, opt for a medium-paced walk around the block or at the park. Because the alcohol present in your blood stream seeps out, anything that gets the blood flowing can prod the process along. Much of the alcohol that's ingested does exit through the lungs, so the heightened heart rate helps to exercise those lungs with greater efficiency. But be careful, in this dehydrated state, your body can't handle a high-intensity workout. Know your limits and consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Kevin W. Patterson, CBS, BJCP
Resident Beer Guide, Mgr.
The Beer Trappe
Artisnal Ales & Tasting Bar