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Sunday School: Beer & Wine Festivals

The following is a part of a guest series authored by Lauren Gutshall on discovering new wines and beers.

Summer is the time for beer and wine festivals. It seems that every weekend you can find one within easy driving distance. In mid-June we had the Harrisburg Brewers Fest downtown; the following weekend was the annual Winefest at Split Rock Resort in the Poconos. Those two events may be over, but there’s still time to catch great beer festivals and wine events in the area.

Lauren and Tierney at last year's Dauphin County Wine & Music Festival.

Lauren and Tierney at last year’s Dauphin County Wine & Music Festival.

There are so many reasons to love beer and wine festivals: it’s hard to not have a good time, the booze flows freely and you have an opportunity to try new things without any commitment.

photo 1I have attended festivals as both a server and as a participant, and I am a firm believer in the need for some simple rules of event etiquette. After years of working and attending festivals, I have also learned how to maximize my time to get the most out of the event.

  1. Choose the right festival for you. Our favorite fest is Beer, Bourbon & BBQ, a traveling festival that Nate and I have gone to for three years now in Timonium, Maryland. In addition to a large selection of breweries, Beer, Bourbon & BBQ boasts a huge variety of distilleries, including small batch options and a rare bourbon table.

  1. If you’re serious about a festival, don’t go to the session you know will be sold out. If it’s a beer fest, get tickets to the early session; if it’s a two-day wine festival, go on Sunday. You won’t have to stand in long lines to get a sample, and you won’t have to fight crowds at your favorite tent.

  1. If there is a VIP session, spend the extra money and go for it. When we do Beer, Bourbon & BBQ, we always do the special session — there’s a better chance of getting the stuff you really want to try.

  1. Check out the seminars. Last time we went to a seminar, it included a sample of Chimay’s Speciale Cent Cinquante and a vertical tasting of Flying Dog’s Horn Dog barley wine from 2012 and 2013.

  1. When you’re at a festival, be courteous. Stand in line, get your drink and move away from the table. It’s rude to those behind you if you linger, and you can always get back in line while you finish your beer or wine.

  1. Take advantage of the opportunity to try new things. Festivals are the perfect place to try things you’ve never tasted before with no commitment.

  1. Remember that festival glasses tend to be small for a reason. You are there to sample beer and wine, not guzzle down full glasses.  Do not ask the friendly person serving you to fill your glass to the top.

  1. At a wine festival, if you find something you really like, buy it. Don’t assume that you will come back for it later. At most wine festivals, you can check whatever you purchase and pick it up at the end of the day. Or you can buy a bottle to drink while you listen to music or have a picnic.

Festivals are a great way to spend an afternoon with friends or family. They are lively, energetic events so grab a glass and have fun. Cheers.

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