Central Oregon’s largest beer festival, the Bend Brewfest, is here again and you should be planning to attend. It runs Thursday through Saturday, August 14 through 16, noon to 11pm all three days. Admission is free, though to drink beer you’ll need to purchase the tasting package of a mug and 5 tasting tokens for $15. Tokens are worth $1 apiece, good for a 4-ounce sample pour or for 4 tokens you can fill your mug. Additional tokens can be purchased in blocks of 5.

Bend Brewfest

I love beer festivals, and as I’ve attended a good number over the years I’ve figured out a few things to make the most out of the Brewfest.

Go early.

My favorite times to attend beer festivals in general are early in the day—when they open, if possible—on the first days of the fest. These will be the times with the least amount of people and the best chance of trying nearly any of the beers in case any potentially sell out. Less people means shorter lines and available seating.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

This is the drum I bang on constantly when it comes to beer events: hydration! Believe me, you need to stay hydrated: it’s hot, you’re doing a lot of walking, and you’re drinking a lot of beer. If you have an opportunity for water, take it! Rinse water won’t hurt you (otherwise it wouldn’t be used for rinsing mugs in the first place!), so do what I do: every time you’re able to rinse your mug, drink that water instead of pouring it out. Purchase bottled water from the food vendors.

Avoid driving to the Brewfest.

If you can help it, don’t drive to the Fest: not just for potential (and very bad) driving-under-the-influence dangers, but to avoid the inevitable traffic and parking issues as well. There are plenty of alternate means of transportation to get to and from the Brewfest: cabs, the GETIT shuttle, bicycling and walking, and Sober Dudes. Or have a designated driver. It’s easier, less stressful, and will save you money. And never, ever drive after you’ve been sampling beers all day.

Plan your drinking attack.

I always make a list of “must-try” beers so I know what to look for—and with the list on the Brewfest site that’s searchable by style, color, alcohol percentage, and IBUs, you can easily find every beer you want to try. Even better, the printed guide contains the locations of each brewery! So make your list, keep it with you, and spend a few minutes figuring out where they are when you arrive—and plan your attack accordingly.

The Brewtality Tent and X-Tap are awesome.

When you’re not hitting up your must-try beers, check the Brewtality Tent, which houses the X-Tap, as often as you can. This tent will not only be pouring specialty beers (rarities, one-offs, experimental beers, new creations, and so on) on the X-Tap, but will have the folks behind the beers on hand as well to talk about them. You can find the X-Tap schedule here.

Be patient with people.

There will be a lot of people at the Brewfest and yes, it will get crowded and yes, there will be the inevitable idiot/jerk who will rub people the wrong way and who shouldn’t be there. However, most people attending—particularly the ones there early in the day—are perfectly nice and friendly and are there to have a good time just like you, and are having to deal with the big crowds just like you. Start up friendly conversations in line, say “excuse me” if you bump into anyone (you will), share your table if you have one, and do your very very best to not be the idiot/jerk yourself who really shouldn’t be there.

On a related note: be really nice to the volunteers pouring the beer, they are doing you a big favor by doing so! And remember as volunteers they don’t represent the brewery or the beer they are assigned to pour, and they just as likely won’t know much about it or about the other beers pouring. (That’s what the Brewtality Tent is for—brewers and brewery reps will be on hand there if you want to talk shop.)

Go back for full mug pours of beers you like.

Sure, you can be “stingy” with tokens in an effort to sample as many beers as possible, but if you find a beer that you really like, don’t be shy about going back for a full pour—it will only cost you 4 tokens and as the Brewfest gets busier, the lines will only get longer (especially for the popular beers). As you spend more and more time waiting in lines, the full mug is a better value on the waiting vs. drinking scale. Plus if the beer sells out, you’ll at least have had a full pour rather than just a sample and wishing for more.

Things to bring or remember:

  • Cash: Everything is cash-only, no cards. (There are ATMs on site.)
  • ID: You have to get show your ID to get in, no exceptions. If you have kids, they can come in but you will have to sign a waiver.
  • Notebook and pen/pencil, if you are into taking notes.
  • Camera.
  • Sunscreen. Also consider hat and sunglasses.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
  • Comfortable walking shoes.

And of course, the most important thing is to have fun! After all, it’s a festival!

~Jon Abernathy, www.thebrewsite.com