The 2014 Savannah Craft Brew Fest marks the seventh year of the festival. During those last seven years, craft beer has grown exponentially, both in the quantity of breweries in the country as well as the number of different styles being produced.
Like the industry as a whole, the Savannah Craft Brew Fest has similarly grown in size. If you’re attending the festival for the first time or the first time in a while, you could easily be overwhelmed by the scope of the event.
To help you prep for the big day, here is a cheat sheet of things to keep in mind and to make the most of your festival experience.
Take the Ferry
Get there early and take the ferry. While there is parking available at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center, getting in and out of the parking lot and across the bridge can be a nightmare. While waiting in line for the ferry isn’t much fun, at least you’re outside and can converse with fellow Brew Fest patrons. The ferry picks up behind City Hall on River Street and drops off conveniently at the back door of the Convention Center.
Make a Tasting Plan
Sorry, but the festival is so large you probably can’t taste everything. Plan ahead with your festival map to determine if there are specific breweries you want to visit. Some vendors are inside, some are outside. Use this to your advantage. The air-conditioned exhibition hall is a welcome respite from the blazing summer sun.
Log Your Beers
Use a smartphone app like Untappd or a pocket-sized notebook to make notes about the beers you’ve tried throughout the day. There’s nothing worse than having an amazing beer at a festival only to draw a blank on its name when trying to find it in a store. While long-winded descriptions are great, also use a quick visual guide like a star rating or ten point scale to quickly recall your favorites.
Rinse Before Repeating
Always rinse out your glass before getting a fresh pour. The lingering residue in your glass can influence your next tasting, so be sure it’s as clean as possible before getting a fill-up. You’ll see coolers and water jugs next to most of the vendors with pour-out buckets below the tables to dump the water from your freshly-swirled vessel.
Hydrate and Snack
Water is available throughout the festival. Pick up a bottle and frequently refill it at water fountains or grab a new one. Be sure to put those bottles in recycling when you’re done. Yes, you can taste great beer and save the environment at the same time.
Food is available for purchase at the concession stand inside. While outside food and drinks are not allowed, the one caveat is you can bring your own “pretzel necklace.” A phenomenon strictly relegated to beer festivals, pretzel necklaces are created when patrons lace dozens of pretzels on a string and wear it around their necks. With a pretzel necklace, you always have a salty palate cleanser between beers and something additional on your stomach.
Depending on the intensity of your quest for rare beers, VIP tickets may be a worthwhile upgrade. For a few dollars more, you get early access and the ability to visit a separate tasting section with limited-release bottles. VIP Tickets have sold out in advance of the festival in previous years and may not be a day-of upgrade option, so plan ahead. Last year saw limited release bottled beers from Founders and Westbrook as well as one-off casks from Southbound and Terrapin. A priority entrance upgrade minus the VIP tasting area perk is also available for those who want an extra hour of access to the main beer selection. This may also be worth the money as several breweries were out of beer before the end of last year’s event.
Bring a Designated Driver Along
If you’re there for the entire day of the festival, four hours is a very long time to drink in the hot sun. Designated driver tickets are available for only $10. Put together a small group to carpool and chip in to cover the cost of entry for the amazing friend who volunteers for this duty. No, they can’t drink beer; but all the soda and water they can drink is covered in their admission price.