Cole Ott

Ah, beer fest season: that magical time of year when beer lovers put aside their need to drink out of style-appropriate glassware and instead hoist sticky plastic cups into the air. These fans will soon gather to stand in long lines while complaining about standing in long lines. They also get to drink a ton of great beer.

Festivals can be as frustrating as they are fantastic, but you can ensure yourself a great time with this handy guide to making the best of each and every festival you hit this summer.

Choose your friends wisely

Look, Chad’s great and all. But Chad’s also the dude who insists on ordering pitchers of double IPAs, and is always telling the story about the time he almost met Mila Kunis after he’s had a couple rounds. And you can bet your Blu-ray of Jupiter Rising that Chad’s going to make his wish list based solely on the highest-octane beers he can get his hands on. And then he’s going to spend the whole day -- and by the whole day, I mean the two hours he lasts before he goes to the bar -- yelling about how Friends with Benefits is better than No Strings Attached. Being joined at the hip with this kind of person will leave you with a sour taste in your mouth. And not the kind you get from sour beers. Because Chad refuses to wait in line for those.

Arrive early to avoid the lines

Don’t let brunch-enthusiasts lead you astray: Lines suck. Nobody wants to stand in a long line with an empty mug for a 4oz beer, only to queue up again right after. Arriving at the fest early means most the crowds have yet to form (probably because most people are busy waiting for brunch).

credits:"Michael W. May / Flickr" width:450 align:right

Stay hydrated at all costs

Try to drink one glass of water per full glass of beer, which will keep you energized and ready for action. Sure, it’ll mean more trips to the Honey Bucket -- but that’s a small price to pay to avoid a follow-up morning of misery. As an added bonus, packing your own water means you can actually rinse your cup more frequently.

Find the shortest lines

The longest lines at the fest are usually for two types of beers: whales of the whitest caliber, and popular, widely available beers that people believe will taste different than they did at the bar yesterday. Find a smaller line, and you might find something unexpected or experimental. If you do, get a full pour to sip upon as you wait in a longer line. And if it’s gross? Hey, at least you didn’t wait very long to find out.

Take breaks from the heat

If you’re not standing in line in the sun, you’re standing in line under a tent that locks in heat and stank with the ruthless efficiency of a sweatsuit in a sauna. Not only is this gross, it’s also going to dehydrate and exhaust you. And hasten the ripening of your own pungent aroma. Find some shade and recoup. (And maybe also apply some deodorant -- your cabbie will thank you later.)

credits:"Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau / Flickr" width:450 align:right

Make friends with the people pouring your favorite beer

Like flight attendants, volunteers at a beer fest aren’t always accustomed to being treated like, you know, human beings. Being polite goes a long way. Chances are, they’ll remember you and your humanity when you return. And maybe they’ll be a bit more generous with their pours.

Eat, you silly billy

To paraphrase an old proverb, a man cannot live on a stale pretzel necklace alone. And considering most festivals are often jam-packed with great food carts, there’s no excuse for eating a liquid lunch.

Consider the full pint

If you see a huge line queued up for something you really want to try, chances are you’re going to be standing there for a while. Which is why you should consider cashing in extra tokens for a full mug before you join the fray.

Plus, eventually your palate will eventually face fatigue, and you’ll be sick of standing there getting bumped into by a million people. That’s when you single out the best beer you’ve had all day, acquire a full pour, and retire to the sidelines to watch the chaos unfold.

Strike a balance between bombs and sessions

Remember Chad? Don’t be like Chad. Big beers are great and all, but only in moderation. If you’re in line for a Russian Stout, make your next move seeking out a lower ABV pilsner. And then a water. Haven’t you been paying attention?

Relax

You’re at a beer festival. You’re going to get bumped into by other people. You’re going to get sweaty and tired and will probably do the wave or something. But you’re also drinking a bunch of great beer with like-minded people (and Chad). If you show up with a crappy attitude and spend the whole time complaining, you’re going to be more bitter than the dankest IPA at the festival. Lighten up and have fun...or go to a beer bar and free up some space in the line. Those whales aren’t going to drink themselves.

credits:"Lee Royal / Flickr"