7 Tips For Surviving Beer Festivals

It’s beer festival season, formally known as “summer”. Humanity’s greatest accomplishment? Possibly. Here’s how to make sure you make it through.


You need to get through thirty breweries in four hours! Just dive in and start sampling beers, right?

Wrong, friend-o. The fact that beer festivals offer so much means you need to have a more systematic approach. Read the program and take a quick walk around the grounds. Figure out where your must-try brews are located, where food trucks are, where additional tickets can be purchased (maybe do that right away), and where you can find porta-john alley. That’s going to be vital information in your near future.

Eat Something!

You weren’t about to drink on an empty stomach, were you? That’d be a rookie mistake. Optimize your time by scouting out breweries with food in hand—you need something fatty when you’re about to drink, and like many of life’s problems, this one can be solved with a nice smoked meat sandwich from Caplansky’s.

Divide & Conquer!

Make peace with the idea that you’ll be able to try everything being offered—that route results in a broken glass, a rough cab ride home, and a three AM call to an ex about your life choices.

And by your, I mean mine, because I speak from blurry experience. Play favourites. Try what’s exciting, skip what isn’t, and remember you can always return for a spurned brew.

Keep it Classy!

Feel like you need to just dive in and start chuggin’ lugs? Fight the urge. Beer festivals are way more fun and a lot less stuffy than wine tastings, but you’re still there to sample selections, not get ripped.

Pound Water!

Did you pack a water bottle? Smart planning, it’ll ensure you last longer.

Start Talking!

Here’s the easiest way to improve your beer festival experience: talk to the brewers. Aside from schooling you on Advanced Beer-Drinking, they can tell you what’s up next from their brewery, when you can expect your favourite beer back on shelves, and if you’re lucky, they’ll let you know about the super-special-secret keg they’re tapping next.

One more thing: ask ‘em what they think is great at the festival. Craft brewers have each other’s back, so they’re happy to sing the praises of a different brewery who showed up with this chocolate dunkel you just have to try.

Exit Strategy!

Sooner or later, you’re going to need to walk away. You know the signs: the guy getting in someone’s face for talking to his girlfriend. The girl who dropped her glass, shattered it, and fell into a trashcan. That porta-john that’s been locked for ten minutes and accumulated a small but worried crowd in front of it. Don’t be those people.

Bonus Tip: Spend Ten Minutes Talking to Kevin Brauch

This isn’t so much a regular beer festival tip as it is a Session Toronto beer festival tip. Kevin Brauch, the Thirsty Traveller himself and floor reporter for Iron Chef America, teamed up with the Kensington Brewing Company to create a delicious strawberry rhubarb saison. It’s pretty great, and you should get a glass poured by the man himself, who is very tolerant of jackass beer writers.

And as long as I’m giving tips on Session Toronto, check out Spearhead’s Jamaican Fire, Sawdust City’s Always Take the Weatherman’s Ad Weisse, Bell City’s Eureka Cream Ale . . . and all of it. It’s all great. You won’t drink a bad beer here. And don’t skip the cider!

Live in Toronto and have no plans for tonight? Yes you do: you’re heading down to Yonge and Dundas square for the Session Toronto beer festival. It features thirty craft breweries, over a hundred beers, and a selection of “collaboration beers”. What’s a collaboration beer? Breweries paired up with partners (from bands like July talk, to websites like BlogTO, to food trucks like Bacon Nation, to writers like Margaret Atwood . . . the list is huge) to make a one-time, special to this festival beer. Everyone votes on their favourite, and then said favourite gets featured in the LCBO for a year.

Dave Robson is the editor of DailyXY. He spends his time reading books, drinking Scotch, and smoking cigars.
Photo courtesy of Michael Flynn

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