How to survive your first (or fifty-first) Craft Beer Festival.

The craft beer industry is full of breweries and industry professionals willing to share knowledge and collaborate. It is one of the biggest benefits to the industry. People connect from all over the country in online forums and groups to share ideas and ask for guidance. Recently someone in another state asked advice on necessities were needed for their first craft beer festival. They wanted to prepare since their festival season was about to start in April. And that made me smile. Ohio doesn’t really have a festival season. It pretty much lasts all year with a 7 week vacation over the winter holidays. Weather be damned because, this is Ohio after all. Almost every weekend you can find a craft beer festival or event somewhere in Ohio. The most up to date and thorough Ohio Festival list can be found on The Ohio Beer Blog by Rick Armon. Festivals dates are added and updated all year long. Trust me, you are gonna want to bookmark that link.


Now, pick out a festival and take some notes. These are our top survival tips for your first or fifty-first festival as suggested by some of our favorite festival participants..

1, Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. Don’t forget to drink water before, during, and after the festival. Dehydration is the natural enemy of a craft beer festival fun. While most (not all) will let you take a water bottle, do not bring a glass water bottle. Lots of safety concerns, and they are heavier.

2019 Cleveland Winter Beerfest Map

2019 Cleveland Winter Beerfest Map

2. Develop Your Beer Treasure Map. Most festivals publish a map of the event and a list of the breweries and their beers ahead of time. Print the list and take a few moments to prioritize your top beers to try and your brewery strategy map. Many of the “whale” beers can run out pretty early in the festival so you want to sample those beers first, before venturing off to try everything else.

3. BE A VIP! IF you can afford it, buy the VIP or early admission passes. VIP and early admission tickets often have extra bonuses such as limited edition beers, food samples, and extra swag. VIP and early admissions sessions are usually less crowded and you have more access to the brewery reps and brewers. And what’s not to love about getting in earlier and having extra time to enjoy all the delicious beers.

4. Wear Comfortable Shoes. These events usually have a fair amount of walking and very few seating areas so you will be on your feet for most of the duration. You might also want to dress in layers depending on the venue and season. This is Ohio, and weather can be a little unpredictable.


5. Bring Snacks. Pretzel necklaces, whether simple or elaborate are a great way to help keep your endurance during the event. Sometimes the beer lines and the food truck lines are long and pretzel necklaces can ward of the hunger while you wait. Pretzels also help clear your palette between beer styles.

6. Charge your phone! There are usually limited outlets available and if you normally check in all your beers on Untappd, you don’t want your phone to die. Or if you don’t want to miss anything during the festival, lconsidering checking in all your beers later. You can mark them on your festival beer list or snap a photo of all your sampled beers and the brewery booths to earn a few extra Photo badges too. As a bonus, all those photos you take you can share out on social media. But only if your phone is charged.

7. Take your ID. Whether you are 21 or 75, you will need your ID. Festival licensing requires ID checks for everyone, so even if you are 75, you will need to take it with you. And check that it isn’t expired. What a bummer to be denied entrance because you forgot it or it was expired.


8. Be nice to the people pouring your beer! They are VOLUNTEERS! Ohio law prevents breweries from pouring their own products on someone else’s license, (the festival license) so breweries and festival organizers depend on volunteers to pour those delicious samples for you legally. And truth be told, sometimes it is way harder than it looks to pour 2 ounces of carbonated beverages in to a tiny cup.

9. BRING A DD! Sampling for hours at a festival makes it difficult to determine how much you have really had, so plan ahead buy a responsible friend the DD ticket. Or call for an Uber, either way, you will not want to try and figure out how to get home after and it isn’t worth the risk.

Most importantly…just enjoy the festival. What an amazing opportunity to be surrounded by like minded people, great craft beers, and fun.

Still not sure which festivals to attend first? The list below are just a few you can find some of your favorite Phoenix Brewing Reps.

Cleveland Winter Beerfest-Huntington Convention Center Jan 25 &26

Caffeine Collective-Platform Brewing Cleveland, Jan 26

Columbus Winter Beerfest-Columbus Convention Center Feb 8 & 9

Ogrefest-Brew Kettle Feb 8-17

Stout It Out Loud-Butcher and Brewer in Cleveland Feb 16

Big Brews in Akron-Lock 3 Akron Feb 23

Winter Warmer-Windows on the Water-Cleveland March 9

Pour One Nine-Mansfield Reformatory May 9