I’m in Denver for the annual Great American Beer Festival, the largest beer festival in the country. More than 800 breweries are here pouring more than 4,000 beers—and that’s just inside the festival itself. Outside of the three-day event, there are countless tap takeovers, brunches, happy hours, special beer releases, etc. that all add up to multiple days of wall-to-wall beer drinking.
How do the beer professionals do it, and not end up in drunken puddles on the floor? I asked a few for their time-tested tips.
Radlers are a German style that originated in Europe with cyclists who wanted to drink all day but not falling off their bikes, so they’d pour lemonade into their lighter lagers. A lot of breweries have Steigl Radler (ABV: 2.5 percent) in their breweries specifically for the brewers to be able to drink all day so they don’t get in trouble. —Ted Risk, Wibby Brewing, Longmont, Colorado
First off, always have a full beer, because otherwise someone will always try to offer you more. But if you always have a half-full beer, no one will offer you another one, and it reduces the peer pressure to drink. The rest is just eat, drink water, take breaks during the day. —Andrew Shelton, Hi Sign Brewing, Austin
If I have an ounce of beer, I have an ounce of water next. I keep it balanced between the water and beer. And I took a nice power nap just now. —Moh Saade, The Tank Brewing, Miami
I had a pocket full of Tums; I just ate my last one. Amongst my employees, they’re a hot commodity. They go fast. —Mitch Ermatinger, Speciation Artisan Ales, Comstock Park, Michigan
Other than practice, the method to our madness is usually start with all the clean ales and all of your lagers before hitting hops and eventually getting into whatever else. Hops will wreck your palate fast, so that’s why we almost always start with a lager first. That first lager almost doesn’t even count. It’s basically water. —Adam Hickernell, Wolf’s Ridge Brewing, Columbus, Ohio
There’s no way I could drink for two to three days. I was thinking: How much beer is there here if tried just one ounce of every single one? It worked out to 250 pints, so in three days, that’s not possible. Lagers and water, that’s my tip.—Adam Robbings, Reuben’s Brews, Seattle
Coming as a brewer, this is work. It’s basically a show to introduce people to your beer, so you have to gauge how much fun you want to have versus how much do you want to promote your beer. This year I’ve been drinking a lot of blondes and kölsches. Every brewery we’ve stopped in this week, we’ve tried to get 10-ounce pours. A 10-ounce pour of a 5-percent beer, you can drink that all day. —Kevin Cary, Begyle Brewing, Chicago
You want to know the truth? I don’t drink all that much. I think it’s important to bond with people, but it doesn’t have to be through beer. I work in essentially an industrial plant around chemicals and enough potential energy to kill you, and at the end of the day, I’ll have a beer or two, but I stay careful. —Peter Kily, Monday Night Brewing, Atlanta