Tips for the Durham World Beer Festival

The premise behind Beer Fest is simple: buy a ticket, get a tasting glass (with a 2 oz marker), and go from booth to booth sampling beers from all around the world while enjoying music from local bands. What’s fun about the festival is many of the breweries will test out potential new brews or bring in some seasonals, so there’s quite the variety of things to try.

Since the Durham festival is tomorrow (and the Raleigh one about half a year away), I figured I’d throw up some observations from my experience last year 🙂

Bring your own snack — pretzel necklaces! So I don’t think they’ll actually let you bring in your own food, but pretzel necklaces are A-OK. Last year I bought a bag of Rold Gold Pretzels, some cheap gift ribbon, and made about a dozen simple necklaces. The perfect pairing for beer, just nibble one off, and you can’t drop it since you’re wearing it.

I kept my extras in a ziploc bag in my purse, and handed them out to friends I saw at the park. Some people went ALL OUT on the pretzel necklace front. Newsflash, you’re probably drunk, so it doesn’t matter. But if you want, attaching Slim Jims, cheese, multiple sizes of pretzels, even making headbands (I know, right?) is fine — I saw it all.

Print your tickets at home. Last year they couldn’t read our electronic tickets off our phones… So we had to hightail it to the Mellow Mushroom across the street and beg the manager to let us print off our tickets. Eight million props for the generous people at Mellow Mushroom! Who knows what the system will be like this year, but better safe than sorry!

Scope it out beforehand if you’re serious. They print a Beer Guide with all the breweries, so download the PDF and plan your course of action if there are specific things you want to taste. Last year I was able to enjoy some of my favorite Californian brews (sigh!), which was nostalgic and wonderful for me, especially since I didn’t drink much (see next point).

Have a designated driver. I mean, does this even need an explanation? Last year I was my group’s DD and it was fantastic, albeit expensive (e.g. to buy a ticket and not really use it for drinking). I enjoyed a few tastes at the beginning of the evening and then just enjoyed bumping into people and just enjoying the general fun. So figure out your situation, get a cab, get a hotel, whatever you need. There are cops all around (I mean, come on, easy pickings, right?), so better safe than sorry.

Dress right. This seemed to be quite the social event for the professional grad schools at Duke (and to a lesser extent, UNC). I swear, I bumped into more people than I thought I knew… That being said, many photos will be taken. Also, it’s half outdoors at the Durham Athletic Park (home of the Bulls), so dress to be comfortable!

Figure out your timing. If you are super serious about testing new beers and want to make sure you get the special brews before anyone else does (and before they might sell out), buy an afternoon ticket. If you’re there more for fun, evening should work just fine. If you like pain, buy both. We heard horror stories about breweries running out of beer in previous years, but honestly last year there was still more than enough to keep our party sloshy even through the end of the second session. We might have missed out on some limited editions, but I don’t think our group minded.

Also, it’s kind of late for it now, but the event does sometimes sell out, so get your tickets early if you want to lock it down.

Save that glass! The little two ounce marker is surprisingly handy for cooking and mixing drinks, I reach for it about once a week. 🙂

Bring cash. There are a few random booths to buy things at — not a lot, mind you, but enough that you might want to leave with, say, a leopard print hat, a delicious bottle of hot sauce, or a turkey leg. There are carnival-style food trucks and some booths even sell merchandise (I’m looking at you, PBR – thanks for the headbands last year!). So bring some dough just in case you see something that catches your eye!

So hopefully that helped you a bit! I had a great time last year with my friends, even as a designated driver. Enjoy the festival!


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