This Saturday, September 22, the 3rd annual Top of the Hops Festival descends upon the Ntelos Wireless Pavilion, and beer lovers like yours truly rejoice! Dozens of fantastic craft beers from all over the world will be available for tasting, and forecasts show temps in the mid-70s and clear skies. All signs point to a fantastic sunny and beer-soaked day in the ‘Ville. But don’t go without a game plan.
If you’ve been before, you’ve seen the less mindful of the crowd stumbling out and looking a little rough around the edges. Rule #1: Don’t be that guy. Nobody will be impressed with any intoxication that you’ve accomplished in 3 hours of craft beer sampling. Have fun, taste great beer, and keep your dignity.
Now that you know what not to do, here’s what you do. Rule #2: Drink what you are most interested in first. You can pace yourself like a pro, but be sure to taste what you’re most stoked about early on. Not only is there the possibility that your favorite beer will run dry, but also the most crucial thing to consider is that your palette will burn out. It’s not a matter of if, but when. So take the time, look through the guide, seek out your targets, and execute.
Rule #3: Eat. Before, during, and after. Take in a solid late breakfast or lunch before the festival; you don’t want to find yourself surprised by the beer samples or sudden hunger. There are also plenty of great food vendors at the event to keep you full throughout the event. I don’t think you’ll need any encouragement to have dinner afterward.
Rule #4: Go from light to heavy. While adhering to rule #2, you don’t really want to seek out barleywines, Russian Imperial Stouts, Belgian quads and the like if you expect to appreciate that cider, wheat beer, or Lager soon after. Also, starting with the big beers results in staring in disbelief at your watch when you realize it’s only 5:30.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly: Rule #5: Go by cab or hoof it. Unless you’re with one of the walking angels willing to purchase a DD ticket and drink soda throughout the event, plan to ditch the whip for the day. Even with appropriate pacing, samples add up and you want to be sure to make the smart move.
Two pieces of advice that aren’t necessarily rules: attend the educational events, and get outside of your comfort zone. The educational sessions are a great opportunity to find out about your favorite styles and brewing techniques, and the amount of effort you put into learning about beer is proportionate to the degree of your enjoyment of beer. As for the comfort zone, get out there and try some beers you haven’t even heard of. Avoid stuff you’ve had by the six-pack. You’ve paid for the variety, and you’ll be rewarded by expanding your horizons.
Meanwhile, at Champion Brewing Company, we are receiving our tanks from California this week! This means we’ll be brewing just across the tracks from the Pavilion in a matter of weeks. I can’t wait to get cracking, and I can’t wait to see everyone at the festival this Saturday. Cheers!