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How to Effectively Conquer a Beer Festival

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It's July, and that means beer festival season is in full swing. Northeast Ohio hotspots will host all sorts of great beer events, including this Saturday's Fifth Annual Scene Ale Fest at Tremont's Lincoln Park. Whether attending an event for the first time or returning as craft veteran, every beer drinker can have a better experience with just a bit of foresight. Everyone knows to wear comfortable shoes, bring a folding chair or blanket (when permitted) and be prepared for the weather, but just a little extra preparation can make a huge difference in the day.

Preparation begins the day before. Hydration is key to sustained sampling (especially in the summer heat), so be sure to drink a signifcant amount of water in advance of the event. Everybody is different, but many festivalgoers find success by forgoing alcohol the night before. Others can get away with a few cold ones. Regardless, avoid dehydration and get a good night's sleep. Of course, pre-partying in the morning or afternoon of the event is not advised.

Devise a plan of attack once the beer list is posted. Look at the list and decide what beers are in the "must try" category. These can be new offerings or old favorites; just be realistic and choose about five beers on which to focus. Research the beers online, noting the style and ABV (alcohol by volume) of each. If all of the beers on the list are over eight-percent ABV, spread them out across the entire session and alternate between beer and water. Drink malty and delicate beers before hoppy, bitter styles like India Pale Ale. This will allow the flavors in lighter beers to stand out and ensures a crisp palate throughout the event.

Once inside the festival put the plan into action. Make a quick lap and grab a special first beer. Take note of where other beers of interest are being poured and how the lines are shaping up. Designate a meeting spot to find friends later. Claim a perch to set up that blanket or chair if you plan on kicking back for the majority of the event.

It's illegal for a festival to offer unlimited beer in Ohio so beer tickets are necessary. Each ticket is traded for a sample. Because of that, some festival attendees go to great lengths to avoid handing over tickets. Veterans realize that most events offer more than enough beer and leftover tickets are worthless once the event ends. What's more, tickets can actually help keep a proper perspective and pace, so have one ready for each beer sampled.

The best part of any beer festival is interacting with fellow beer lovers and enjoying the vibe from the crowd. While it's fun to talk with friends, volunteers and brewery representatives, it's also important to be alert and courteous. Oblivious people often stand at the front of the line holding up the thirsty people waiting for beer. Get a pour, ask a quick question, then step aside to allow others to do the same.

Finally, always try something new. Don't feel intimidated if a beer name is difficult to pronounce or a particular style of beer sounds odd. A beer festival is the perfect setting to explore and try new things. After all, samples only cost a ticket and don't require any commitment. Don't be afraid to dump out a beer that isn't enjoyable. (Well, offer it to a friend first.) The entire purpose is to have fun and celebrate all the different styles of beer. When that is accomplished, the festival is guaranteed to be the best one yet.

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