Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Good Beer Week Survival Guide (Version 1.0)


The imminent Good Beer Week festival is very exciting for craft beer lovers/geeks, as it should be for anyone who enjoys beer. The diverse range of world renowned beers available at our finger tips over the next week will be unlike anything Australia has ever experienced before.

There can be a temptation to jump in face first and overload yourself with the sensory explosion of beerness. For newbies to the good/craft beer scene there’s also the trap of discovering so much beer at once without the foresight to manage the sensory overload. Hence, whichever level you’re at, and whether you’re heading to one event or twenty, it’s important to plan your involvement in such a festival to avoid the opposite of a good week.

The obvious concern here is that alcohol will affect you. This does not have to be a bad thing. Enjoying beer should not automatically induce negative connotations. Nonetheless, it is important to ensure your own health and safety by not allowing connecting factors to turn your alcohol influenced state into something bad. Alcohol combined with things such as driving a vehicle, lack of food/water/sleep, frustration, becoming stranded, excess or mixing beer with other alcohol/drugs is what turns good times bad.

I offer this survival guide to help you plan and prepare to avoid the nasty combinations that so often give beer a bad name (...I can't offer any solution for Carlton Draught though).

There are countless beer festival survival guides readily available online, which have helped me compile this post. As has beer (thanks beer!). However, first and foremost I have drawn on my own experience of last year’s inaugural Good Beer Week and my hometown knowledge of Melbourne. Take it or leave it, these words are just my hints and thoughts on how to approach Good Beer Week in what I consider to be a sensible manner.

(Maybe next year this GBW survival guide will be an actual published zine, with space to focus more on the positives, like I had intended to do 9 months ago. For now, it's a very late single blog post...)


The sure-fire way to get the best out of Good Beer Week is to know what it's all about. The primary mission of this festival is:
  • to promote and encourage the appreciation of Good Beer to a wider audience
  • to educate the public about Good Beer
  • to increase the market for Good Beer
  • to support local and regional producers of Good Beer and promote their products and venues to a wider audience.

If you attend Good Beer Week in the spirit and support of this mission, you are sure to discover the joy of sharing good beer with the very good people of craft beer. The most memorable moments of a beer festival often arise from the interactions with the people who make the incredible and delicious brews.

Read more about the background of Good Beer Week at: http://craftypint.com/news/post/one-week-to-go/


Carry and drink water, everywhere and always.

Drink lots of water! Not only will drinking water regularly help cleanse your palate between trying different beers full of crazy flavours, it will replace the fluids that your body rapidly loses through the consumption of beer.

Naturally, you should always drink water regularly throughout the day. However, never consider beer a water substitute.

Alcohol can and will dehydrate you. Water is the best free and easy way to mitigate any headache or body shock from dehydration. To enhance dehydration recovery (and a good hangover prevention method) drink a sports water that is high in electrolytes. I use MIZONE. Avoid sports drinks that are high in added sugar.

Make good use of the water supplied by venues. Sip water between sipping beer.

500-600mL bottles of water are readily available at the supermarkets for about 80c these days, so buy one or several, keep it in your bag and never find yourself wanting for water.*

Most importantly, when you stop drinking for the day, don’t stop drinking water!

Just as important, do not rely on only drinking a large amount of water at the end of the drinking session. This is not as effective if you haven't consumed any water throughout the day.

*Important note: Some venues will have entry conditions that restrict you from entering with bottles, such as GABS. So, it's a goo idea to first check if carrying in a water bottle will be a problem.


Plan your travel, especially how to get home (or to wherever you are staying)!

1. Driving

Drinkers, don't do it.

Completely avoid using a car unless you have a truly dedicated designated driver. Good Beer Week events have a habit of tempting even those with only a passing interest in beer into experiencing the full extent of tastings on offer. This risk is amplified by the fact that a large portion of craft beers tend to be very potent, with a higher percentage of alcohol than mainstream beer.

At every event I attended last year I actually ended up consuming more beer than I thought would be involved in each event, essentially because there was so much generosity following from the good vibes.

If someone has nominated themselves as a driver for the event, they should make any drinking plans known and accountable to those they are responsible for. If you must drive, always aim to drink LESS that what you know is acceptable to keep you under the legal 0.05 limit. Give yourself a clear cut-off time to stop drinking, allowing at least 60 minutes before driving (depending on how much you have consumed). If you do not know how much beer puts you over the limit, don't risk finding out on the drive home.

Quiz time!
Q: What's the best way to stay until 0.05?
A: Don't drink at all.

In short, do not rely on your ability to abstain from breaching the 0.05 limit if you wish to participate fully in good beer week events.

If you are attending a Good Beer Week event for the beer, then lock in a plan for either having someone pick you up, using public transport or catching a taxi.

2. Public Transport

Know the timetable...and have a back-up!

Sorry, but Melbourne's public transport sucks...mostly. If your preference is for efficient, reliable and speedy transport…be prepared to be disappointed or disrupted in Melbourne. Although we have reasonably extensive system of trains, trams and buses, the services are a regular sore point for local commuters. The trains are the most problematic and the midweek running times of all services are limited at night.

Pre-plan any public transport trips via the Public Transport Victoria (formally MetLink) website at: http://ptv.vic.gov.au/

(PTV has a very handy new iPhone app available for the apple lovers.)

Familiarise yourself with our new public transport ticketing system - myki - which has limited where and how you buy a ticket for trains/trams/buses.

One very good thing about Melbourne public transport is the NightRider bus service. Available on Saturday and Sunday mornings from midnight, the buses depart from the city every half hour.

Always have a firm plan for how you will get home. On top of that, always have a back-up plan, which I suggest is a credit card and a taxi.

Whilst taxi's seem to have something for a bad reputation around here (and hence are currently subject to a State Inquiry), I have never had a problem with using Melbourne’s taxis. Just don't be a fool and travel with friends where possible.

I recommend smartphone users utilise the following Melbourne Taxi apps:
The 13Cabs app allows you to book a taxi, estimate the fare and even track your journey and record the taxi and driver details to avoid any rip-offs.

It's not fun being drunk, tired and stranded. So avoid this by knowing exactly how you will get home.


Know where and when to find easy food.

Like public transport, pre-plan your food, especially if food is not part of the Good Beer Week event. It is important to balance beer consumption with food, which gives you energy and stimulates your brain.

One tricky part about Melbourne is that many of the good post-drinking eating places we crave are hidden. You need to know where to find nutritious food. Otherwise, you'll end up eating far too much McDonalds, KFC and Subway. Not a good thing! Variety is the key here.

Make sure your week includes plenty of lean protein, vegetables and fruit...and expect an over consumption of carbs via bread based food. Don’t miss meals. If you don't stick to your normal eating pattern as much as possible, your body will try to adjust, which usually leads to feeling unwell. Drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea.

At home, have a good supply of fresh bread and vegemite. Can't beat vegemite and toast as a hangover cure! Well, that's what works for me. If you have a personal hangover cure that works well for you, stock up on supplies of it.


You'll learn and remember more with a scribbles to revisit!

Take notes to remember your good beer experiences. Notes then allow you to share and rediscover beer conversations in your own time. It's a key part of learning about good beer and understanding how your palate develops.

I recommend that any beer geek should have a Beer Journal of some variety. A ready made option is the 33 Beers notebook, available in Australia through Innspire.

And then there's Untappd for smartphone users. This beer check-in App is an easy way to keep track of your beer consumption history. It allows you to register each beer you drink, add your location, rate the beer out of 5 stars and write some short notes about it. There's also social media features that allows you to share beers and see who is drinking what/where.

Super Important Note: Drunk people and social media addicts are NOT zombies. Zombies are not real...you've just been watching too much Walking Dead. During Good Beer Week you must resist any urge to destroy the brain or remove the heads of people.


Good beer is slow beer. Its enjoyment extends to the whole environment around you.

There are many aspects to drinking and enjoying good beer. Where big brewers mass produce bland lagers that are purely for refreshment and multiple consumption (so they can make more money by selling more), good beer is about the craft...the art and science...of brewing a flavoursome and balanced beer.

Take the slow food approach and consider the beer in the whole environment, rather than just throwing it down.

Consider the appearance, depth, complexity and drinkability of the beer. Does the flavour linger nicely in your mouth? Does it have character? Is it unique? Could you drink several in a session or is one enough? Does it need chocolate or cheese to compliment it?

Think about how the beer suits the time and place or the food it is being paired with. If the beer doesn't work for the particular time and place you are in, consider what type of environment that beer might be good for.

As an extreme example, I am still happy to drink XXXX (not craft beer) in the right time and place...which is on a very hot day in regional Queensland at a classic old pub where there's nothing better to do. Any other time and place and I'll struggle to drink XXXX.

No one likes super critical people who bring down the mood. If you don't like something about a beer and the brewer is there, ask them why the beer is made that way...and maybe it will be something that your palate will learn to identify as a trait of good beer in future. Judge the beer on it's merits as a unique beer and it's potential to add to the experience of your surrounds...food, whether, location, people, time of day and so on.

Like so many things in life, beer comes down to personal choice. Whilst a certain brew may not be your pint of beer, someone may love it to bits.


Build strength and resistance.

My personal advice is…don’t detox or go completely dry in the lead up to Good Beer Week. The beer will hit you too fast too quick if you have denied your system alcohol for an extended period of time. Any resulting hangover will be amplified.

Like any endurance event you need to train. During the week before the race you should taper, cut back your training a little but still keep yourself active with light sessions as well as rest days. The same applies for those heading to multiple beer events throughout the festival. During this week you should still allow yourself a beer or three each day, but don’t drink to drunkenness. An alcohol free day in the next few days is a good idea.

Save any detoxing or commitment to a sustained period of alcohol free days/weeks for after Good Beer Week.

Good Beer Week...it's a balancing act.


Know your pace and limits, stick to them.

We all know what drinking too much too fast will lead to an early end to your good times and possibly result in many regrets.

Many Good Beer Week events do move fast because there is much to get through in a short time. Good beer is not a fast thing though, so don't force anything down just to keep up.

Listen to your body. If you feel like you have reached your limit, don't try to keep drinking because you're probably well over your limit already. Focus on drinking water and eating food plus keep your mind active with conversation.

You don't need to have EVERY beer at Good Beer Week! Yes, I'm looking at you, beer snobs who are going to attempt all 60 beers at one GABS session! Many of the beers and many similar events will be available in the future, so don't make the mistake of thinking that this will be your only opportunity to experience something so you have to do/try everything now. This complication may result in totally unnecessary stress! Do a little recon research about which beers will be bottled and available post GABS and Good Beer Week.

There will be other opportunities...because we are only at the start of a good beer dynasty...


Bring it!

To steal the tag-line of Australian Brews News...beer is a conversation. Everyone has a different opinion of beer, so talk it up and discover the diversity in beer.

If last year is anything to go by, those attending multiple events are likely to see familiar faces popping up at the same events. Get to know these people!

Oh, and very finally...beware of this man...who likes to touch beer...

This crafty character is responsible for stealing your life away for a week and soaking it in so much good beer. Muu-muus for all!

So...now...tell me how you will survive Good Beer Week? And...
...have fun! Cheers!

Oh hai. I have moved - please visit the new blog at http://beerbarband.com/

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