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Winter Beer Festival Survival Guide

It’s that time again – our favorite Saturday of the winter! This weekend, dozens of breweries and thousands of beer lovers will crowd into Fifth-Third Ballpark in Comstock Park for the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival.

Download the Winter Beer Festival 2014 Beer List now!

2014 promises to be bigger and better than ever before – more breweries, more beer, and more people. This means an even more fun experience – but only if you’re well prepared.

As veterans of Winter Beer Festival, we wanted to pass along the wisdom we’ve gained over the last few years to help you have the most awesome time possible!

  1. Make a Pretzelace before you go – And you don’t have to stick to just pretzels! We’ve improved our pretzelaces over the years. We loop mini-doughnuts, candy, meats and cheeses onto ours, and snack throughout the festival. We also add breathmints – it sounds crazy, but it’s a good way to freshen your palate between beers!
  2. Dress Warmly – This seems like a no-brainer, right? You’re outside, in a parking lot, in February. But when we say warm, we mean warm. Break out the snowpants, the layers, and don’t forget hats and gloves and boots. You’re going to be outside for a long time, and just because it starts off sunny and 38, doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. Comfy boots are a must – walking on the cement can tire out your feet!
  3. Eat breakfast/lunch before you head out – It’s a long day with a lot of drinking, so starting out on a full stomach is essential to making it through the day in one piece. Get a solid meal in you so you can go the distance!
  4. Bring cash – The festival has great food options from local vendors, but most of them only take cash. Same deal with cabs to and from the festival – it’s easier for everyone if you just bring cash with you.
  5. Plan on everything taking longer – Waiting in the line to get into the festival, finding a cab to get from your hotel to the festival, parking if you’re driving yourself – all of these things are going to take longer than you think they will. Stay calm, and remember that the festival goes on for hours – you have plenty of drinking time!65569_10151326306126219_852554637_n
  6. Make New Friends – Winter Beer Festival is a great place to meet fellow beer lovers. Everyone is there for the same reason – to have a great time and drink some beer. So talk to strangers while you’re waiting in line, get tips from them on other beers to try, and just have fun.
  7. Stay hydrated – One of the most important tips we have. Take frequent water breaks between the beer drinking. It’ll make your day more pleasant, let you drink more, and definitely help with that hangover on Sunday!
  8. Plan ahead – Download the Winter Beer Festival 2014 Beer List and study it. Make a list of your 6 or 8 must-try beers, and make sure you get to them. Take note of some others that you’d love to try, and do your best to get to those. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so having a plan (including knowing the special tapping times) can help you be sure you try the really special beers.
  9. Go with the flow – This is the part 2 to the tip above. Don’t get so hung up on trying every fancy bourbon-barrel aged beer that you miss the rest. Go into beer fest with an open mind – this is an excellent opportunity to try new breweries and beer styles that you wouldn’t normally get to try, so take advantage of it. Make a commitment to try at least 5 new things, and stick to it. If you’re walking by a table that has a short line, stop by and try what they have to offer. This is how we discovered some of our favorite beer!
  10. Pace yourself – This was the hardest one for us at our first festival. With hundreds of great beers to try, we got all wild-eyed and ran around as though we’ve never drank before. Bad plan. Take your time and enjoy each beer – don’t knock them back. Each beer at the festival took a lot of work to produce, and deserves your attention while drinking it.
  11. Plan on a line for the bathroom – and a long one. Don’t wait until it’s an emergency – get in that line when you have to go.
  12. Keep it together enough to enjoy the evening – Just because the festival ends, that doesn’t mean the party has to. Grab a shower and a nap, and head out on Saturday night to enjoy the nightlife. We like to grab dinner at one of downtown Grand Rapids many restaurants (our fave is San Chez Bistro) and hit up another bar. If you keep your head on relatively straight during the festival, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the evening, too! (Though one half of Drink Michigan has had a historically difficult time with this, we’re hoping she makes it out this year!)
  13. Have a designated driver – Whether it’s a friend that you decide upon before, the shuttle service, or a cab driver, make sure you have your transportation plan worked out in advance. There is nothing awesome about injuring yourself or someone else, or going to jail, because you didn’t take the time to plan ahead.  There are always a line of cabs outside the festival waiting to take you back to your hotel just in case – take advantage of them. This is how we get to/from the hotel to the festival every year, and it just makes our day so much easier. Don’t have cab fare? Come find us in our Drink Michigan sweatshirts. Seriously, we’ll help you out.
  14. Brunch – There’s nothing better post-beer fest than brunch. Plan ahead, though, because area restaurants get crazy busy. We’re big fans of six.one.six at the JW Marriott (our hotel of choice when we’re in Grand Rapids) and Sundance (BLT Bloody Mary’s – holla!).

Feel like we missed something? Add it in the comments!

We’re so excited to see all of you on Saturday at the festival. We’ll be rocking our black Drink Michigan sweatshirts, so if you see us around, please stop and say hi – we want to meet you!

About Trisha

Trisha is a marketing professional with craft beer, red wine, and bourbon obsessions. She's also the co-founder of Drink Michigan.
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=12106943 Kevin Romeo

    Great list here. We at Rhino Media will be there shooting for the Michigan Beer Film, so be ready to share why you love Michigan Beer with us!

    • tverma29

      Awesome @facebook-12106943:disqus - we’ll keep an eye out for you!

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