My unwise decision to get the flu the day before last year’s Bend Brewfest put an unfortunate halt to my plans to attend this beertastic event every year since its inception.
But I’m making up for it in 2015, starting with the Bend Brewfest kickoff at noon on Thursday, August 13, at the Les Schwab Amphitheater and ending with one last delicious sip as things shut down at 8 p.m. on Sunday, August 16.
Since I’ve been around the Brewfest block a time or two, I have a few tips that can help make your experience the best it can possibly be. Here are 10 things you need to know about Bend Brewfest 2015.
Hang on to that mug!
If you’re planning to sample beer at Bend Brewfest, you’ll need to purchase a souvenir tasting mug for $15. Your mug is good for all four days of the event, so guard that bad boy with your life.
Also, don’t try sneaking in last year’s mug. They’ll catch you and they won’t be amused.
Your tasting mug comes with five tokens, which can be swapped for four ounces of beer each. A full 12-ounce pour requires four tokens, but I don’t advise that. The whole point of this event is to try lots of different beers, so don’t fill up on one.
Need more tokens? They’re $1 apiece, sold in packs of five, and if you find yourself with a few extras at the end, don’t fret! They’re good from one year to the next, and I promise you’ll smile when you find one in your sweatshirt pocket in December. They did change from the old wooden nickels to new bright yellow plastic ones this year, but you can still swap those out at the token tent.
Make a plan and stick with it.
At the entry gate or in recent issues of The Bend Bulletin, you’ll find a handy, printed Bend Brewfest guide. This is your Bible, and you need to sit down with a few sober moments and a couple trusty highlighters to really study it.
With more than 70 breweries, cideries, meaderies, and even a winery, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to taste everything. Brightly mark your top choices, including the dates and times of anything on X-Tap that really tickles your fancy. Then consult the map in your guide so you know exactly where to find them.
With your top picks clearly marked, flag a few b-team brews you also want to try. If you can, save those ones for after your first snack break (more on that later) or for another day.
Also, keep in mind that while Brewfest staff work tirelessly to get the guide right, last-minute substitutions from breweries do sometimes happen. Just go with the flow and know there will be no shortage of tasty beer to try.
The weather is likely to be warm for most of the 2015 Bend Brewfest, but temps can cool rapidly at night. Wear short sleeves and shorts/skirt, but bring a sweatshirt for evening. Stick with sandals or sneakers, ladies—this is not the event to trot out those five-inch stilettos. You’ll be on your feet for hours walking on grass that’s damp with spilled beer, so choose your footwear wisely.
Don’t forget to wear something with pockets or carry a small, casual purse to hold those beer tokens. I have a special cross-body bag I got at Clutch Handbag Boutique that’s the perfect size to hold my Hydro Flask, cash, ID, beer tokens, phone, glasses, lip balm, and a light sweatshirt. If you don’t have something similar, visit Clutch in Downtown Bend to find your own. A purse makes an awesome Bend souvenir, plus it’s handy for future events!
Though you can use a card for admission and at the merchandise tent, most food vendors require cash. There’s an ATM on-site, but you’ll pay hefty fees. Better to hit your own bank’s ATM before heading to the venue.
Watch the clock.
Taps shut down at 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 8 p.m. on Sunday and they DO NOT MESS AROUND with this. Cutoff times are a legal issue, and it doesn’t matter if you’re next in line for that fab beer you’ve been thinking about all night. Do yourself a favor and set an alarm on your phone so you’ve got plenty of time to grab that last brew before your time’s up.
Enjoy your extra day this year.
Traditionally, Bend Brewfest is a three-day affair spanning Thursday through Sunday. But because the beer gods love us very, very much, they added an extra day this year.
Since readmission is permitted on any of the days, this means you can slow down and pace yourself a bit. Decide beforehand to focus on specific breweries or styles on certain days so you don’t confuse your palate by leaping back and forth between Porters and sours and IPAs and ciders.
Don’t drink on an empty stomach.
If you arrive at the venue and start guzzling beer with an empty belly, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be flat on your back within an hour.
Luckily, there are tons of great food vendors at Bend Brewfest, so finding good grub to soak up the suds isn’t a problem. Split some pizza with a pal, or grab a falafel or a tamale. The idea is to line your belly with some nice, dense carbs to absorb alcohol and keep you upright.
But don’t gorge yourself completely, since you want to save room for beer. Once you’ve sipped a few, head back to the food trailers and grab a snack. The best food vendors in the area all show up for this, and there will be plenty of tasty offerings to keep you fueled for your next round of drinking.
Moderation, guys—pace yourselves.
Arrange a sober ride.
Pop quiz: If you were a cop who wanted to keep Bend’s neighborhoods safe from drunk drivers, where would you hang out the weekend of Bend Brewfest?
Beyond the risk of arrest, you really don’t want to kill your vacation buzz by killing yourself or someone else. Seriously, guys—don’t screw around with this. Bookmark this page and have it handy for when it’s time to call a cab. You can also walk or elect a sober pal to do the driving. Just don’t drink and drive, OK? Pinky swear?
Water’s good for more than paddling.
I know it’s hard to fathom drinking anything besides beer or cider at the Brewfest, but you’ll be hating life in the morning if you don’t remember to drink plenty of water throughout the evening.
You’ll find plenty of water stations throughout the venue. Once you’ve downed a brew sample or two, locate one of these stations, fill your tasting mug with water, and chug that thing down. Repeat after every few samples. If you’d prefer to keep your water vessel separate from your beer one, hit the merch tent to buy a souvenir, double-walled bottle from fiftyfifty. Then swill some more water.
Trust me, you’ll thank yourself in the morning.
Leave the dogs at home (and only bring the kids before 7 p.m.)
Can’t find a sitter? Believe it or not, Bend Brewfest is kid-friendly (at least before 7 p.m.) While I personally prefer to leave the young’uns at home and enjoy the event as a grownup, plenty of folks enjoy taking in the scene with their well-behaved offspring in tow. Prior to 7 p.m., there’s a pretty mellow vibe to the whole event, and you’ll see plenty of other parents with kids. Just don’t let them zip around like crazed maniacs knocking beer out of strangers’ hands. That’s bad beer karma.
If you’re a parent to four-legged kids, Fido will need to sit this one out. For the safety of the beasts, dogs are not allowed at the 2015 Bend Brewfest. If you need some ideas for doggie daycare for a night, go here.