Beer festivals: What you need to know

Man stands in a field holding a drink. There is a crowd of people behind him. It’s a beautiful summer day.

Summer’s almost here, and it’s time to start planning your beer festival circuit. Here’s how to have the best and safest time possible during the greatest season of the year

Yay, summer! As champions of beer, we know everyone’s fave beverage is an all-season one, but we also appreciate that there’s something extra special about enjoying this carbonated refresher in the summer months.

And with summer comes a schedule jam-packed with beer festivals. To maximize your summer fun and make the most of each beer-loving event, we’ve put together some tips. Consider it your guide to having what we would call “the best summer ever.” Here’s how to tackle any beer festival circuit like a pro.

What to bring

Of course, you need to be 19 or older to attend a beer festival in the province of Ontario, so bring your government-issued ID to show at the gate. Comfy shoes are a must and will make all-day walking and standing much more enjoyable. (Your blister-free feet will thank you for choosing sneakers.)

Bring your tickets (whether digital or physical), sunscreen, a hat and a light sweatshirt for cooler evenings, because Ontario summers can be cheeky like that.

What to leave at home

You might be surprised to learn that you can’t bring your own water bottle, but it’s generally advised to leave that at home, anyway. Many events offer free water inside, and you can usually use your sampling cup to grab some H20 at any time.

It’s true that pets are the cutest. But, they’re usually not allowed at beer festivals, so leave Fido at home. And people under 19 definitely can’t come — sorry, these types of events are not family friendly. (Unless your family is grown and likes to hang. And, in that case, we love that for you.)

Also, leave oversized bags, totes and purses at home or in the car. You definitely won’t want to schlep those around.

Expert tips to maximize your experience

Here’s what to consider, so you and your friends have the best time.

  1. Have a plan. Before you head out, take a look at the map and get familiar with what vendors will be there. That way, you can decide what you consider must-sees and organize your day. You and your pals may have different brewer boxes to tick, so if you choose to split up, make sure you have a meeting spot and time arranged in advance. Our vote goes to convening at the Beer Store booth. We’re not a regular booth. We’re a cool booth.
  2. Remember to eat. Not trying to sound patronizing, promise, but we highly recommend you have a good meal before you come, so you don’t arrive hangry. This will also help you avoid overconsumption and feeling sick. Of course, leave some room for the delicious food you can buy from vendors while at the festival. And keep in mind that, when it comes to sampling food and drink, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Splitting food items with friends is a great way to try more things.
  3. Drink lots of water. Stay hydrated throughout the day, especially if it’s a scorcher. Most festivals offer free water inside, since you can’t bring your own water bottle.
  4. Suss out where the washrooms are. This is you and your bladder’s opportunity to work smart, not hard. Keep in mind there may be lineups, so account for that as soon as you feel the urge.
  5. Arrive early. Our move is to arrive early to avoid waiting in lines at the main entrance or at vendor and brewer stalls. Same goes for any performances: Arrive early to get a good spot. If it’s been a minute since you’ve attended a concert, look up the etiquette online to ensure the best experience for you and everyone around you.

How to sample beers

Pace yourself, grasshopper. A 1:1 ratio of water to beer is a great way to make sure you’re staying hydrated and not overconsuming. Allow the delicious smells wafting from vendor food to overcome you and dig in, so your stomach isn’t sloshing. The amount of choices might be overwhelming, but you mapped out where you wanted to go, right? You don’t have to try everything that’s available, so if you see something you didn’t get to try, take note of the brewer and snag it from the Beer Store the next time you’re shopping for suds.

We all have different palates, and it’s totally okay to dump out anything you don’t like. It’s fun to discover something new, but if you’re not feeling adventurous, stick to the types and styles of beer you know and like. A lighter beer is a good starting point as you work your way up to heartier and more robust (darkest and strongest) suds, like India pale ales and stouts. This move also prepares your palate. Think of it like an appetizer, main course and dessert in terms of light to heavy or rich.

Click to shop stouts.

Also, you’ll want to optimize matching your food with your drink. These articles will give you a basis for pairing brews with bites.

Questions for brewers

There’s no need to be shy! Brewers love what they do and want to talk about it with you. Try these questions to get the conversation rolling with brewers.

  1. Where and how is your beer brewed?
  2. What food pairs best with the beer?
  3. What makes your beer unique?
  4. What’s your best beer for [insert season here]?
  5. What’s your favourite type of beer?
  6. What’s the first beer your brewery produced?
  7. What’s your bestselling beer?
  8. What is it about brewing that you love?

Read more: How to talk about beer like a pro

Don’t forget to stay safe

The MO of a beer festival is safety first, then teamwork. Then beer. Remember these important considerations for any festival you attend.

  1. Make sure your phone is fully charged. You’ll want to take pics, capture memories, post to social media, stay in contact with your friends and book a ride home. If you suffer from a chronic dead battery, maybe it’s time to invest in a solar charger.
  2. Know when last call is. Time flies when you’re having fun, but make the end game part of your overall plan.
  3. Have a meeting spot. This is important if anyone gets separated or phones die. The Beer Store is happy to be your meeting spot, and we’ll do our best to help if anyone gets lost from the group.
  4. Have a plan for getting home. Bring a transit card or cash and know where to grab transit for getting home. Or, have a ride-share app downloaded on your phone ahead of attending.

Found a brewer you like? Here’s how to find it on our shelves

We’re thrilled that you’ve found a new favourite. The Beer Store carries 1,000+ brands; however, there are some brewers we don’t stock. Here’s the thing: We’re an open market that’s accessible to brewers all over the world. If we don’t carry your new fave, you can reach out to the brewer directly (via its socials or website) to let the brewer know you’d like to see that brand at the Beer Store. Also, you’re welcome to let us know, so we can work on making a connection with the brewer. We love great beer, too!

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