Making the Best of the Fest: Whether You’re a First-Timer or Veteran Guzzler, These Tips Can Help You Get the Most Out of the San Antonio Beer Festival

click to enlarge Making the Best of the Fest: Whether You’re a First-Timer or Veteran Guzzler, These Tips Can Help You Get the Most Out of the San Antonio Beer Festival
Joseph Espino
Even if you’ve been to beer tasting events before, the San Antonio Beer Festival can be intimidating. You’ll be surrounded by 400-plus beers from more than 100 breweries, not to mention thousands of thirsty beer fanatics.

Fortunately, we were able to touch base with some SABF regulars who helped us compile a list of dos and don’ts that will help you pack the most fun into your trip to South Texas’ premiere beer event. Prost!

DO show up early (or on time)
Waiting in lines is overrated. Arrive early and you have a chance to scout the grounds, talk to brewers, ask questions and sample beers to your heart’s content. It’s a good way to get a jump on snacks and find the best spot to sit and unwind between drinks. Not to mention, some brewers may run low on popular styles late in the day.

DON’T think you have to drink all the beer yourself
The festival will offer everything from porters and stouts to pilsners and saisons, so pick judiciously and pace yourself. Attendees will also find wine, ciders, live music, local vendors and plenty of food options on-site if you need to take a break from the suds. You don’t necessarily need a pretzel necklace to keep up the pace, but we will never turn down a great pretzel with cheese. Keep an eye out for food truck options onsite.

DO mix it up
We all have our favorite local beers, but with more than 100 breweries represented, this is the time to venture outside of your comfort zone. Try a new brewer. Try a new style. Pick out five unfamiliar beers that interest you or simply wander around the grounds and explore before you commit. This is a beer festival, not a marriage.

DON’T be intimidated
You don’t have to pretend to understand the difference between alcohol by volume percentages or how many International Bitterness Units a beer rates to enjoy the festival. Visit with brewers and fellow beer lovers and make connections — ask about their favorite beers so far, the stories behind brewery names and what makes a particular style stand apart. Even if you don’t know the difference between a porter and pale ale, you belong here and you’re here to learn, right?

DO dump beer
Let’s be real: there’s no way you can sample everything. Start with lighter beers and work your way up to more complex brews. We won’t judge you if you decide to skip a stand or dump a beer that you don’t like. Or, even better, ask for just half a glassful if you’re unsure whether something is likely to appeal to your taste buds.

DON’T skip the hydration stations
SABF is a long game, so don’t forget to drink water. Try to keep a 1:1 ratio or at least stop by the water stations every couple of beers to help you recharge and rehydrate. There should also be water so you can rinse out your cup between beers and keep your palate ready for your next sample. Your future self will thank you for being so thoughtful.

DO pause before you drink
There’s nothing worse than warm beer, but overly chilled beer (and mugs) can also leave you with a boring or less-than-stellar drinking experience. Think about holding onto that chilly glass for a few minutes, so you can actually taste what you’re drinking.

DON’T pre-game
You’re literally here to drink, so it doesn’t make sense to burn extra money at the bar beforehand or to get too tipsy to enjoy the experience. You’ll be awash in drinking options onsite. That said, plan ahead while you can and select a designated driver or just skip the driving — and parking — game altogether and split a rideshare with friends.

DO designate meeting places
Before getting too deep into the festival, break out that map and settle on your go-to meeting places in event you get separated from your group. You can also decide where you’ll meet and chill if you need a break. It’s best to designate meeting times and locations before you arrive, so plan accordingly.

DON’T stare at your phone
Phones can help you connect with new friends, figure out the best brew and food pairings or capture great photos for the ’gram, but put the phone away while you’re walking around and sampling new brews. You may miss the opportunity to try something new or get the lowdown from one of the brewers. Try to stay in the moment and just enjoy the fest.

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