How to beer festival…over a week, not just a session

It's beer festival season. Huzzah.

We went to Good Beer Week in Australia in May. It culminated in the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (GABS). Auckland Beer Week has not long finished. And, Road to Beervana is soon to hit Wellington.

A key feature of the above mentioned beer festivals is that events run over a week or more. And, they all go out with a bang with the main attraction – GABS and Beervana – happening on the final weekend. This means you have to save time, money and liver functionality all the way through to the end of your festival-ing. It can be hard. But, never fear. We’re here with some tips and tricks. We’ve done the hard yards for you; eating and drinking ourselves into states of semi-exhaustion and liver failure (more than a few time) before learning some semblance of self-control.

How do you do it?

Well, we think it’s best to only book one formal event per day. There’s always such great temptation to book lunch and dinner, or dinner and a specialty tasting. If you don’t, you get FOMO, right? Lunch and dinner degustations? Sure! Dinner and a beer and whiskey matching? I’m in!

In our experience, doing two events per day can leave you feeling too full. And, almost always hurried (trying getting across Auckland in any sort of peak hour). You might not enjoy your evening event if haven’t managed to digest your lunch yet. If you stop drinking in between events you’ll get sleepy; if you don’t you’re likely to be quite social by dinner time. Trying to do anything after dinner is risky. Pretty much every evening event we’ve ever been to runs late (and some of them later, and later as the venue struggles to keep up – more on this below).

Doing two events per day also means you won’t have time to go to the free events and tap takeovers. These are almost always worth it – and you often get something for your zero dollars.

A free 45 minute session at Beer Deluxe put on by the Good Beer Week team this year came with four barrel aged beers from Firestone Walker and Boatrocker. The Firestone Walker’s were rare and imported. They were delicious. And, it is a lazy beer bar that doesn’t put on an amazing tap list or run a tap takeover during festival week.

In Melbourne, during Good Beer Week you have the adventure of the Pint of Origin pubs where you can joyfully talk of going for a PoO. It’s a great way to get to some of the city’s best beer bars and venues. On your Road to Beervana, there’s no doubt places like Hashigo Zake, Goldings Free Dive, Malthouse and Husk will be worth a few hours visit. Everyone will be putting in efforts to showcase their venues and their great beers. You’ll miss this if you’re busy at paid events all the time.

When considering what to book, our advice is don’t fixate on the feature events. They’re often expensive due to imported celebrities and beers. Our experience has us finding are that they generally cost more than they’re worth, and the venues often push the boundaries further than they’re capable of. Two of this year’s feature events at Good Beer Week got poor review for seating (crammed) and food (average). Both went on a very long time. One with the final dish hitting tables around 11:15pm. And, we’ve also been to a feature event where the serving sizes of beer was 60mls. You can barely get a decent sniff out of a glass so small.

While lots of eating should go on during festival weeks – Melbourne, Auckland and Wellington all have some great food – we’d still recommend you eat HUGE and heathy breakfasts! We sound like our mothers but, they really do set you up for the day. A big brekkie means that you can start drinking earlier (11am is OK during festival week, you know) and you can take your time to lunch. You can snack around bars and breweries and save yourself for dinner.

It’s not only a good brekkie that can help your survival over a festival week. We’re all for trying to build good gut bacteria, and keeping them strong. There’s lots of credible, emerging science on the importance of good gut bacteria on overall health and well-being. One piece of science that appealed to us is referenced in the fascinating, The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat by Tim Spector. Professor (Dr) Spector informs us that having healthy and diverse microbiome and bacteria can help reduce the length and severity of a hangover! Yup, you read it correctly…There’s no real way to prevent or cure a hangover, except not to drink. But, good microbiome and bacteria can help you recover by helping burn through all the nasty bits of alcohol that make you feel sick.

There’s a trick to using good gut bacteria to help you out; you need to build it up and build it early. You can’t decide halfway, through a session, to eat a tub of yoghurt. And, the kimchi on your bao bun from a food stand won’t help you if you’ve already started drinking. You need to eat at least a cup of yoghurt a day for a month, regularly eat fermented foods or start drinking kombucha. And, do it before you start drinking.

Whatever choices you make, make sure you’re out there, having fun and drinking good beer.